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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weekend Watering Hole: Piece Brewery & Pizzeria, Chicago, Ill.

As a regular weekend feature, Lyke2Drink will visit some of the world's great watering holes. This week we find ourselves in Chicago enjoying some great beer and pizza.

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria
1927 W. North Avenue
Chicago, Ill. 60622.

The last thing Chicago really needs is another pizzeria or a place to have a beer -- unless that place is the Piece Brewery & Pizzeria. Piece was founded in 2001 in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. It is a great place to go with friends to watch a game or catch some music, but the pizza and beer is what brings people back.

Piece brings together a passion for two things that have sustained many a man and woman: pizza and beer. The pizza is not the traditional Chicago deep dish variety. Instead, it is a thin crust delight they call New Haven-style. The toppings are fresh and flavorful, with the pizzas served steaming hot from the oven.

The location is a former roofing company garage that is now home for the creativity of brewer Jonathan Cutler. The big open space with its skylight makes it a great afternoon stop to explore beer and brewing. In a relatively short period of time Cutler has put Piece on the beer map with a number of awards, including the 2006 World Beer Cup Small Brewpub of the Year Award. During my visit this weekend I tasted four brews. Each was very unique from the other and showcased Cutler's command of brewing styles and willingness to experiment on the edge.

The beers ranged from Piece Baron von Awesome, a light wispy wheat beer with a citrus flavor bed, to the Piece Anniversary Ale, which had the aroma and flavor of the hop harvest in a big rangy brew. The Full Frontal Pale Ale was a cloudy amber ale with a good amount of hops and some spicy characteristics. The surprise of the visit was the brew labeled "Dark Bier." It appeared to be a basic dark larger with a thin head, but the flavor said so much more. Somewhere between a Schwarz and a Rausch beer, The Piece Dark Bier had a pronounced roasted malt flavor profile. The malty sweetness is joined by a roasted, slightly smoky flavor combination. It is one of the more interesting beers I have had at a brewpub recently.

Rick Nielsen, guitarist with the 1970s band Cheap Trick is a part owner of Piece and shows up from time to time to host some of the events.

Piece is about a 15 minute cab ride from downtown Chicago or you can take the CTA Blue Line to the Damen stop. It is worth the trip.

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