The Miami beer community has lost one of its own. Piero Rodriguez (who preferred to be called simply Piero), one of the founders of MIA Beer Company and a pioneer in the local craft beer industry, died in a car wreck early Sunday morning in Miami, MIA owner Eddie Leon confirms to New Times. Piero was 34 years old.
Details of the crash are scarce. All that is known at this point is the accident occurred in Miami-Dade County around 5 a.m. June 19.
Read the statement posted on MIA Beer Company's Facebook page:
"It is with profound shock and sorrow that we mourn the untimely passing of Piero Rodriguez, an irreplaceable member of M.I.A. and the Florida Craft Beer Family. Our heartfelt condolences go out Piero's family.
We have all been very blessed to know Piero. He was a loving person and free spirit that always made the best of every moment with his infectious smile and positive attitude.
We are still in disbelief that he has left us, but as we gather our strength back we know there are at least two things he would want us to do. First, help his son and family in any way that we can. Second, raise a pint and cheer him to living life to the fullest as he always did. We hope to post soon on ways that you can help."
New Times had interviewed Piero on a regular basis since
Only last Thursday, Piero attended New Times' Best of Miami party at the Rusty Pelican to celebrate MIA's being named Best Brewery.
Friends from across South Florida expressed their shock and grief on Facebook. Those who knew Piero remember him as a sincerely cheerful man and a genuinely nice guy, as well as one who was completely dedicated to his profession as a brewer.
"He was in it from the very beginning with us," Ganoza tells New Times. "Not so long ago, the Miami beer scene was nothing more than good buddies homebrewing together and sharing their beer, discovering together. Piero was a seminal part of the that, and that background fed MIA and what they went on to become."
Within a year, Piero was brought on by Leon to be a part of the MIA team, working alongside fellow brewer Michael
David Rodriguez, owner of Union Craft Beer Bar and Store, recalls first meeting Piero in 2006 when they worked together at Longhorn Steakhouse. This was years before either of them knew anything about craft beer.
Rodriguez remembers being invited several times to Piero's apartment, which was nothing more than a garage he rented in West Kendall. There, Piero introduced Rodriguez to the music of Norwegian punk-rock band Turbonegro.
He describes Piero as a man who embraced the alternative culture that many people associate with the Miami hipster lifestyle before it became a mainstream phenomenon.
Years later, the two reconnected at the annual Hunahpu Day festival in Tampa. Rodriguez became a manager at LoKal in Coconut Grove, where Piero and his brother Ruy became regulars. "They were one of the first homebrew crews we had at LoKal," Rodriguez says. "He was into weird shit before weird was cool."
Nick Armada of CerveTech describes first meeting Piero at a Sam Adams industry panel as early as 2008. "He was different, you know. He was down, but at the same time he didn't give a fuck," says Armada, who last saw Piero at the Craft Brewers Conference in May. "I did consider him my friend."
Joe Reyes, the South Florida representative for Lagunitas Brewing Company, remembers Piero as a dear friend. "He lived his life like a bad-ass," Reyes says. "He was the one calling me a gentleman, but he had way more class than me."
On one occasion in 2013, Reyes arranged a helicopter flight at Tamiami Airport and relinquished his seat on the aircraft so Piero could experience the ride instead. Reyes recalls how Piero wanted to tell his son about the ride so the son could tell everyone how "cool his dad is," Reyes says.
Most of all, Piero always put his family first. He leaves behind his wife, Paloma, and a 9-year-old son, Rebel. The boy was the "love of his life," Leon says.
"Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, and no matter what time, he was always a family man first," said Jose Tejon, a brewer for Gravity Brewlab and a longtime friend of Piero's.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Piero came to realize many of his dreams, Tejon says. He spent several weeks in 2015 traveling throughout Europe and connecting with old friends.
Before his death, Piero witnessed the explosion of Miami's craft beer industry, founded a brewery, saw the participation of his brewery in the largest beer festival in the United States — the Great American Beer Festival — and his brewery was recently voted Best Brewery in Miami by New Times readers.
On a personal level, I came to know Piero four years ago when I began reporting on the Miami beer industry. To describe him as always cheerful is an understatement.
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Piero was as punk rock as they come. In brewing and in life, he consistently pushed boundaries and defied norms. He would never brew without his music and named fermenters after his favorite female punk-rock icons: Debbie, Siouxsie, Pat, and Joan. "I'm not afraid of anything, and I'm open to new ideas," Piero told New Times in 2013.
For Piero, beer was happiness, which is what he wanted to spread with his beer. It was his obsession, but it was a constructive one. In 2013, he told New Times about an idea he had to make a wheat beer with grains of paradise. A short time later, MIA came out with the
"Music makes the beer better," he said. "So does love and happiness."