Piece in Chicago has been on our radar for years, but because of its location we never made the effort to get there. It's in a nice trendy neighborhood, but the nearby crazy intersection where three major roads intersect makes navigating the area nuts. Our adventures in parking proved once again why we can't go on The Amazing Race together.
Piece is doing many things right. Their bar felt like places we used to frequent in college: comfortable and slightly dilapidated. For some reason they were playing an entire album of Run DMC songs. After settling in we got to look over the beer menu which featured about 6-8 of their own brews on tap, a few guest taps, and many bottles. The house brews are mostly session beers and cover the ranges from hoppy/malty. We enjoyed their stout, kolsch, and dunkelweizen. Our server was great and helped us make the right decision in picking the perfect size and style of pizza.
Scorched Earth in the northwest suburb of Algonquin. Scorched Earth is located in a small industrial park near a creek branching off the Fox River. They don't do food, but invite you to bring in your own. The space they occupy is divided into two sections by a rail separating the brewing area from the tap room. At the time of our visit nobody was working in the brewing section. The taproom decor is a mix of industrial-modern with some natural elements thrown in. Pleasant!
had 11 beers to choose from. We found anything labeled hoppy was in fact a bit hoppy for our tastes, but still you could tell they were quality-made products. The clear winners here for us were the Hickster, Rugged Coalminer, Der Sommer, and The Bitter Choclatier. While enjoying our beers we got into a long conversation with a father and his 22 yr old son about beers and breweries. Our tastes could not be any farther from each other, which shows that craft beer is truly a diverse industry. Anyone can find a beer they will love.
Crystal Lake Brewing was the last stop on this tour. They were a short block away from Duke's so we reccomend parking once and visit both. CLB took over a stand-alone retail location in town, which makes it a bit more accessible to the general public vs. Scorched Earth which is tucked away in a corporate park. The taproom was a large open space with a lot of communal tables and a long bar. While there we noticed a family gathering with 3 or 4 generations in attendance. Food is not available in the taproom, but BYO is welcomed.
Eight beers were on tap that day and we sampled the blonde, hefeweizen, doppelbock, oatmeal stout, and marzen. Nothing really stood out to us. They all seemed very neutral within their styles. We didn't hate them or think they were made poorly, just overall neutral. They do get bonus points for the lifeguard chair inspired tap handles and life preserver flight tray.
- Piece - Must go back to for the pizza alone. The beer is icing on the cake.
- Scorched Earth - Would visit if in the area and would choose certain product if available at a local bar. Too far for a stand-alone trip.
- Duke's - Would visit again if in the area - best burger we'd had in a while.
- Crystal Lake - Would visit Duke's down the road before returning to CLB, unless they had an event like a tap takeover.