In the tap room, a final toast to a craft beer pioneer

Miami brewer remembered by friends and family

Hundreds gathered on June 22, 2016 at MIA Beer Co. in Doral to honor Piero Rodriguez, who was killed in a car crash.
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Hundreds gathered on June 22, 2016 at MIA Beer Co. in Doral to honor Piero Rodriguez, who was killed in a car crash.

Over plastic cups of brewed beer, family, friends and members of South Florida’s craft beer community laughed and cried as they remembered Piero Rodriguez, killed in a car crash early Sunday morning after working a late shift at the bar.

“This is him,” said Cesar Vazquez, a friend of the 34-year-old Rodriguez’s, as he gestured toward the scene at the MIA Beer Company in Doral. “Punk rock, people standing with beer, laughing, crying and remembering the good times with him.”

The last time this many people gathered at the brewery it was to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the tap room in February.

“He wants this to be the best meetup ever,” Vazquez said to a friend. “You know he’s here. He’s here.”

The brewery has been closed since Eddie Leon, who founded MIA Beer with Rodriguez, heard the news Sunday morning. Since then, he’s tried to do what Rodriguez would’ve wanted — provide for his family and celebrate his life. His family asked Leon to hold the memorial at the brewery, 10400 NW 33rd St., Unit 150, Doral.

“This is what he would’ve wanted, to be surrounded by friends and family,” said Ruy Rodriguez, remembering his older brother. “Apparently a lot of people loved him. It means a lot.”

People wiped away tears as they signed a poster of a beaming Rodriguez, holding a cup of beer, or wrote messages in a scrapbook. Holding beer that Rodriguez helped brew, they hugged each other, marveling at the number of people that came to remember their friend.

“I didn’t really realize the full impact until I was inundated with condolences from around the world,” Leon said. “He was someone a lot of people loved.”

He said multiple local breweries donated both beer to the memorial and money to a GoFundMe account set up for Rodriguez’s family. There are plans for tap takeovers at other breweries and T-shirt sales to raise money for Rodriguez’s 9-year-old son, Rebel, whom he adored.

Nayra Serrano, who works at the brewery, said Rodriguez’s impact with the beer community won’t be forgotten. “He left a legacy behind that we’re going to uphold,” she said.

The brewery will reopen Thursday.