On the menu at The Garrison Taproom & Billiards: Friendship and flights of craft beers

Community By Erika Pesantes, Reporter Wednesday, February 2, 2022

     It’s a new place, “For Locals, By Locals.” And it’s a slogan the owners of The Garrison Taproom & Billiards pride themselves on. 

     Husband and wife team Alex and Sue Perez opened the bar -- which sells more than 100 brands of craft beer, wine, seltzer, and cider -- on Main Street in early January. 

     The couple are Miami Lakers who love beer and relish sharing it with hometown friends and neighbors for a “Wynwood-type of experience.” 

     “It was a dream to open something on Main Street, which we consider kind of the hub of Miami Lakes, the focal point of Miami Lakes,” Alex Perez said. “We wanted to really introduce a new craft [beer] experience.” 

     The Garrison offers a bottled beverage menu of “basic pilsners to complicated porters and stouts” and a selection of beers on tap that change monthly to help those curious about crafts to try something new. 

     Ordering beer flights is encouraged and served in sets of four, 5-ounce pours.  There are also free “coladita” samples of beverages given in thimble-sized cups of the sort typically used for Cuban coffee. 

     Craft brews cost $6 to $8; domestic and imported beers are $3.50 to $6. 

     As patrons step inside the taproom at 6709 Main St., they will find a welcoming concrete bar with a brick backdrop and curvy, red-cushioned booths.

     A large mural of a guitar, musical notes and the phrase, “Great Minds Drink Alike” adorns one wall. 

     Cheers! And chug-a-lug.

     “Even if you miss something, there’s always going to be something new, and that’s really the kind of reputation we want to get— there’s always something new going on at The Garrison,” Perez said. 

    “You can have a nice, neat experience regardless of what type of beer you like,” he said.

     Perez’s favorite beer is on tap: Honey Love Imperial Cream Ale ($8) by Tarpon River Brewing in Fort Lauderdale.

     He often recommends it when guests ask for something good to gulp down. It’s 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), but it’s sweet and smooth and goes down easy, he said.

     For connoisseurs with more refined palates, the priciest pour is a $19 ale called Chimay Grande Reserve Blue from Belgium. 

     And of course, Miller Lite is always on tap because it’s so popular, Perez said. Other mainstream brands sold are Stella Artois, Heineken and Modelo Especial.

     The taproom doesn’t have a kitchen so the Perezes teamed up with neighbors Pizza Scene and soon, Burger IM, to offer a limited menu of pizza, subs, wings, mozzarella sticks and burgers. Orders are delivered directly to guests’ tables.

     “Right now to open up a shop, open up anything during these uncertain times, is a risk,” said Gloria Rodriguez, co-owner of Pizza Scene. 

“So anything that we can do to help and assist a local small business, we definitely love to be able to get the opportunity to partner with them,” she said.

     Rodriguez has owned the pizza parlor for 16 years. 

     “To see businesses open and alive on Main Street is the best,” she said. “It’s a blessing, definitely.” 

      After sampling the brews and snacking at the Garrison, there’s plenty to do. 

      The venue boasts 14 TV screens, an overhead projector— Perez wants to become a destination for Miami Hurricanes football fans on game days — two pool tables, a jukebox, darts and board games.

     And if that’s not enough, there are theme nights: free salsa dance lessons; trivia; live acoustic music; karaoke and a DJ on Saturdays who spins freestyle, current hits and Latin music. 

     In other words, this is a place to make friends.

     Perez updates customers about upcoming events on Facebook and Instagram (@garrisonmiamilakes). 

     The idea of opening a beer lover’s haven began brewing about a decade ago. Helping a friend open his taproom in South Carolina spurred the couple’s passion for their own business.

     “I actually inspired him to do it and he actually pulled the trigger before I did, and that consequently really pushed me to take the next step,” said Perez, who also works in residential real estate. “I saw it become a reality.” 

     Main Street is not just where Perez and his wife opened a business, it’s where he spent a lot of time while growing up. 

     It’s where he skateboarded, went to the movies, bought cassettes for his Walkman and listened to them while sitting at the blue fountain. 

     To Alex Perez, this corner of Miami Lakes is comforting and a place where memories were made.

     He wants that feeling for his taproom customers, too.

     “It’s still powerful for me while I’m working here … looking outside and reminiscing every time I look at that fountain, I look at that corner, I remember those days fondly. 

     “And I’m really thankful and happy that I was able to open a business in a place that I loved and admired for so long,” he said. 

     “I feel this is the center, this is the heart of Miami Lakes and a lot of people who have lived here for a while have fond memories of what this used to be,” Perez said. 

     “We’re looking to bring that vibe back to this particular area,” he said.