Chicago (Wicker Park), Illinois:
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
Visited on: Tuesday 19th June 2018
Linda and I had first visited this brew-pub in 2004. Outside nothing had changed but once inside I thought there was something different. Maybe the bar counter being in a different place than I thought it would be. Piece in the name refers to a slice of pizza which is the style of restaurant it is. However the selling point is that it offers New Haven-style pizzas and not the deep crust Chicago kind.
Piece is in the district of Wicker Park. This has had a chequered history. Its residential properties were mostly built after the Great Fire of 1871 and there are many fine mansions in the streets radiating from the small park. After early years of gentrification, it became quite run down following the Second World War.
The pub is located at the lower, more industrial part of the area. It was built as a car garage in the 1920s and performed that function up to its transformation into a restaurant.
Bill Jacobs, along with his brothers, established a chain of bagel shops known as Jacobs Bros. Bagels that operated from 1983 to 1999 until it was taken over. Bill was a native of New Haven, CT and longed for the thin crust pizzas he’d had there. He always thought of selling them in Chicago, home of the deep-crust pizza. During 1997 Bill was talking to Matt Brynildson, who was the brewer at Goose Island.
They discussed the concept of combining the pizza element with an in-house brewery. Matt was pivotal in setting up the brewery and hiring of brewer Jonathan Cutler.
Around 2000 Bill had been trying for about a year to get the finance necessary to set up the business. He then received it via an unusual route.
A friend thought there might be someone in the town of Rockford who might be interested. This turned out to be Rick Nielson, the lead guitarist of Cheap Trick. And sure enough he came on board and Bill was able to open what was only the second brew-pub in Chicago.
At the pub we occupied a couple of high chairs at the long curving bar counter on the right side of the room. All of the furniture is of wood and tall and this more or less filled the rest of the room. There is a beer menu displayed on a blackboard at the far end of the room accompanied by two flat-screen TVs that were showing the World Cup that afternoon.
There were a good variety of beers to be had: Quarters Mostly (7.0%), a west coast pale ale; Flat Iron Stout (4.5%), a session stout; Darlin’ (5.0%), a German Helles lager; Going Out West (6.5%), an American pale ale; Road House (8.0%), a double IPA.
Plus Roland the Headless Assistant Brewer (4.5%), an oatmeal stout; Golden Arm (4.5%), a Kölsch; Camel Toe (9.5%), a double IPA; Moose Knuckle (10.0%), an American Barley Wine; The Weight (6.0%), a classic American pale ale and Top Heavy (5.5%), a German Hefeweizen.
We tried four of them and this what we thought of them: Flat Iron Session Stout was truly a session stout with a medium taste. Quarters Mostly was a very bitter IPA with a bit of fruitiness, very good. Going Out West, is an American pale ale with a peppery bitterness that is more like an American IPA. It had an excellent bitter finish. Road House is a double IPA and has the complex hop taste that is a hallmark of this style. It was well balanced with floral notes and was an extremely fine ale. No wonder this brewery has won so many awards for its beers.
A great pub to visit and you may even fancy one of their renowned pizzas whilst you are there.
Piece Brewery & Pizzeria, 1927 West North Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60622. Tel: 773 772 4422
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 11.00-22.30; Thursday 11.00-23.00;
Friday-Saturday 11.00-00.30; Sunday 11.00-10.00
The best way to get here is to use the CTA Blue line from downtown. This runs through to O’Hare Airport.
Alight at Damen. Go down to street level from the elevated platforms. Turn into North Damen Avenue.
Go north about 100 metres to the six-way road intersection. At the Flatiron Building turn 90 degrees right.
This is West North Avenue. Piece is to be found around 200 metres along on the right.