In Chicago’s upscale Wicker Park section in a red brick building on North Avenue, sensational hipster joint PIECE BREWERY & PIZZERIA recently celebrated its eighth anniversary. Modeled after Connecticut’s highly successful Bru Rm. at BAR, this humble post-industrial pub serves as a top-notch pizza place (specializing in thin crust New Haven-styled pizza) and casual sportsbar.
A rounded 20-seat right side bar sits across roomy stool-tabled seating. Multiple TV’s and several guitars (Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen’s part owner) are strewn about the gray and mauve walls while wood lattices and exposed ducts crowd the skylight rafters. Besides having a respectable selection of house beers, there are 20-plus bottles of fine craft beer available.
During July ’14 on a bright Sunday, my entourage grab a table at the raised level next to the front windows. Despite being crowded and busy, our thin crust pepperoni pizza came post-haste alongside the seven beer samplers.
For starters, dry-bodied Golden Arm Kolsch retained a lemon-soured hop fizz and orange-rotted cologne musk that may suit Blue Collar thirsts (though its sulfuric diacetyl murk may turn off a few stragglers).
A better choice was stylishly concise light body, Top Heavy Hefeweizen, a surefire bet with lemon-sugared banana, clove, bubblegum and vanilla sweetness sidling bubbly champagne effervescence and white-peppered orange blossom snips. Similar in approach, Belgian-styled moderation, Swingin’ Single, brought tart banana-clove sweetness to dry black-peppered lemon peel bittering.
Piney juniper hop bitterness mellowed to grapefruit-peeled lemon pit souring for crisply clean Dysfunctionale, a wily American IPA with ancillary honeyed pineapple, mango, navel orange and tangerine tang. For contrast, English-styled IPA, Victoria, maintained a musky lemon-grapefruit frontage, subtle juniper hop briskness, reedy bark-dried astringency and dewy earthen mustiness.
On the dark side, fudgy Roland The Headless Assistant Brewer possessed an approachable mocha theme as roasted chocolate, Columbian coffee, milked espresso, creme brulee, sweet hazelnut and bitter walnut illusions rode above the dry oatmeal base.
Best bet: classic Egyptian Pale Ale, Cameltoe, hid its hefty 9.5% ABV behind tropical IPA fruiting and soft resinous pine hops. Caramel malt sugaring and mild vanilla creaming sweetened its ancillary yellow grapefruit, mandarin orange, tangerine, clementine, pineapple, peach, nectarine and papaya tang as well as candied apple, pear and banana nuances.
While Chicago’s brewpub scene keeps growing exponentially, Piece continues to thrive and build a substantial reputation amongst locals and travelers alike.