New Mexico State New Brew

This undated artist rendering provided by New Mexico State University depicts the proposed packaging for a locally brewed beer that has been officially licensed by the university in Las Cruces, N.M. With Pistol Pete's 1888 Ale, New Mexico State joins a handful of universities across the U.S. that have licensed official beers as they look to boost their brands and raise revenues. Bosque Brewery will unveil the new brew at its taproom in Las Cruces on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (Randle Dominguez/New Mexico State University via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A special recipe designed to appease even the most snobby of craft beer drinkers.

That's how top officials at New Mexico State University and the brew masters they have partnered with describe "Pistol Pete's 1888 Ale," the school's first officially licensed beer.

The beer's name is a play on the school's mascot, not to be confused with LSU and NBA great 'Pistol' Pete Maravich, for which the Tigers' basketball arena in Baton Rouge is named.

To be unveiled at Bosque Brewing Co.'s taproom in Las Cruces on Thursday, the beer pays homage to the Aggies' gun-slinging mascot and recognizes the year the university was founded.

With the special brew, New Mexico State University becomes one of only a handful of colleges in the U.S. to have licensing agreements for branded beers, a move aimed at raising NMSU's profile and generating more revenue at a time when fundraising has become more challenging for higher education institutions nationwide.

"This is a very recent innovation, if you will," said NMSU President Garrey Carruthers, noting that school officials are unsure of how much money it will bring in for Aggie athletics.

Brewed in New Mexico by Bosque Brewing Co., the beer will be available first by draft at taprooms and at university sporting and fundraising events. By early next year, it will be ready for statewide distribution — packaged in special cans that are expected to feature the school's colors and fight song. Designs are awaiting regulatory approval.

It has taken months of planning by university officials and brewers. Names and marketing plans were even vetted by students before officials decided on "Pistol Pete's 88."

"We recruit very heavily in New Mexico so it's just another way of identifying the university," said Carruthers, explaining that great care was used in making the decision to license the beer given that alcohol can be a sensitive issue on college campuses.

Like NMSU, more universities have been turning to alcohol sales at sporting events and the popularity of college-affiliated beers is beginning to take off.

In Louisiana, university leaders embarked on similar branding deals to help fill budget gaps as lawmakers have stripped hundreds of millions of dollars in state financing from their campuses. LSU's officially licensed beer is Tin Roof Brewing Company's Bayou Bengal Lager. The University of Louisiana-Lafayette has a partnership with Bayou Teche Brewing for Ragin' Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale.

Earlier this summer, Tulane partnered with a New Orleans brewer to produce Green Wave Beer, which will be packaged in cans featuring the school's logo. It's expected to be flowing from taps at the stadium in time for the upcoming season opener. Plans also call for distribution in the New Orleans area this fall.

The Louisiana beers did spur some debate among lawmakers in that state, but a proposal to prohibit colleges and universities from authorizing an official alcoholic beverage affiliated with school branding was shelved.

Colorado State has teamed up with Fort Collins-based New Belgium Brewing — known for Fat Tire and many more craft beers — to deliver the official Old Aggie Superior Lager in time for this football season. A portion of the sales will be donated to CSU's fermentation science and technology program, the athletic department and alcohol awareness programs.

At NMSU, officials also see the new beer as a chance to boost interest in the university's agricultural and chemical engineering programs that relate to the burgeoning craft beer industry, one of the state's economic bright spots.

"There are opportunities for employment and education so I think this touches a lot of bases," said NMSU athletics director Mario Moccia.