Piece Brewery & Pizzeria
I find brew pubs like Piece Brewery and Pizzeria to be very elusive. Not actual brewery restaurants — no that’s harmless capitalism. I’m talking about the bastard operations that supply house-crafted beer independently of any wholesale beer manufacturer. It’s the motives that fuel my apprehension. Is the brew pub giving us exclusive beer just so we eat at their restaurant (a couple chains come to mind)? Or is it supplying us food as a means to craft beer in a small local setting? The devil is in the details.
How good is the food? Better yet, how good is the beer? Piece Brewery and Pizzeria answers both those questions successfully and yet remains a slick customer in my mind. There’s no debating this Bucktown timber stud is popular, even locals like Max are touting its flat croutons as the savior to us tasteless thick pie heads. And God knows I want narcissistic blue liners crooning karaoke while I crunch into my sauceless bread plate. But it’s the beer that gives me pause, each established brew exactly what I wanted but nothing more.
Thankfully this article is part of my brewery series and I need not dwell on either the so-called pizza or the patrons who frat up the place. The Tribune recently touted master brewer Jonathan Cutler for his ability to produce textbook examples of specified beer species, the cleanest pale ale, the ideal heffeweizen, and the perfectly crisp kolsch (with plenty of medals in the World Beer Cup to show for it). But I will sound like some spoiled child when I protest, “I don’t want to like everything!” I want to love some beers and I want to scoff at some beers. You know, stick my fat snobby nose in the air and proclaim, “It’s a fine hef but I think they went too far with the overdone citrus notes”. Instead Piece’s hef tastes like a hef, a yummy drinkable hef but no more memorable than the college kids and their parents splitting a chocolate pizza next to me.
Hopefully this is the part of the article where most people call me an elitist idiot. A good restaurant serving even keeled beer brewed to just the correct specifications? What’s not to love? I used to think I was a purist but now I’m not so sure. Of course, I’m speaking towards the notion of risk. We’re living in a golden age for beer and Piece feels like it’s playing it safe. Check out beer advocate’s top 100 beers (the site’s voter based) and what do you find? Explosive Imperial Stouts drenched in alcohol and India Pale Ale’s with enough hops to put Tigger out of business (ironically isn’t Tigger addicted to extract of malt?). Are we beer fanatics so oversaturated with micro-brews that we’ve come to prefer barrel aged, sour meshed, wild yeasted hybrid concoctions over a clean refreshing Kolsch? The Buckerpark masses seem to have no problems with it as they file into Piece with empty growlers and get their pizzas to-go. And who am I to harp on some local pizzeria that wants to serve good simple beer to accompany their food instead of confusing the issue with the whims of overambitious ale nerds?
And truth be told, they do leak out small batches of Tripels, Belgian varieties and anniversary stouts at the bar, but you have to be a repeat patron to try more then one or two at a time. Perhaps its simple inaccessibility that drives my confusion as it’s hard to even get a seat here unless you’re going on a weekday. Most recently I got the Camel Toe IPA and the Flat Iron Stout from the limited edition taps. The Camel Toe had a nice drinkable peppery bitterness that reminded me a lot of Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter, but the Flat Iron was sufficiently lacking in malt. Their strengths clearly lie with the lighter ales and German varieties, a strength that sits well with the masses and takes away nothing from their brewery integrity or prominence.
While Piece doesn’t do much brewing outside the box, they’re doing a great job crafting beers inside the box. And with unorthodox pizza toppings like clams or mashed potatoes who says they have to reinvent the beer wheel as well? At the end of the day if you want locally-produced Chicago beer, then it doesn’t get more local (or in demand) than Piece. And this little brew pub deserves a nod of respect for producing beer on a strictly in-house level, since it’s fairly clear if they supplied wholesale beer the retailers and Chicagoans alike would buy it. A brew pub is only as good as the beer they’re pouring that day and by this criterion Piece is in it for the long haul. Fads will come and go in the beer world but quality representations of classic beer styles are a hard find. Piece sets the bar for anyone who would consider supplying in-house beer at their restaurant, setting a standard for brew pubs all over Chicago.
Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
1927 W. North Avenue
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