Inside Look: Eris Brewery and Cider House, Chicago

Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood recently welcomed a first of its kind for the city: a hybrid brewpub and cidery called Eris Brewery and Cider House. Named after the goddess of chaos, Eris also happens to be the city’s first female-owned and -managed beermaking operation. “Eris’ story is one of our favorites, because she throws the golden apple of discord into a party that she wasn’t invited to,” says co-owner Michelle Foik. “There are 100 breweries in Chicago. What makes us different and mischievous? We threw an apple into the party and made a cider, too.” 

The Chicago native and beer industry veteran (with more than a decade’s worth of experience working for breweries like Goose Island and Revolution) shifted her attention to cider when she joined the team at Virtue in 2012. Afterwards, she spent three years as a cider specialist for Wandering Aengus, until she was approached by investors to open her own brewery. “I had no more heart and soul to put into another brewpub,” she says. “I wanted to do something different.”

It took some convincing to get investors on board with including cider in the new concept, but once they did, all the pieces fell into place. And when Foik and partner Katy Pizza discovered a former Masonic Temple on Irving Park Road, they knew immediately that the historic building would be the perfect place to bring their vision to fruition. “For the first time in my life I found myself in this building where I saw beyond the first year. I saw year two, and then year five, and thought, ‘We can keep going,’ ” Foik says.

It took three years and a total overhaul to transform the 20,000-square-foot space. Wrap Architecture served as architect of record, and to help bring the “industrial vs. vintage look” to life, local artists at Mass Jones Studio executed many the details, most of which hearken back to the history of the building. A former steel worker, Michael Jones also made the tables from reclaimed wood. Original lighting from the Masonic Temple can be found throughout the space, and the bar was reclaimed from a bank that was demolished a few blocks away. “The atmosphere is exactly what we wanted to be,” Foik says. “A mouth-dropping, amazing gathering spot where friends, families and first dates meet to be impressed and taken care of.”

There’s a new brewery opening every week in Chicago—I wanted to do something different.

Hayley Shine, a brewer with over a decade’s worth of experience brewing beer at Rock Bottom Brewery, runs the beverage production. Shine had never made cider prior to joining Eris. “One of the main things that drew me to this project was the chance to do something new,” she says, adding that she spent much of her time studying and learning cidermaking while Eris was under construction. Shine sources fresh-pressed juice made from culinary apples at Peterson Farms in Shelby, Michigan, and typically uses a Champagne yeast and very dry fermentation to achieve a pleasing balance of sweetness in her modern ciders.

“I don’t think Hayley realizes how good she is at making cider,” Foik says. “Modern cider, the way she makes it, with dry-hopping, different spices—they’re all clean and enjoyable. My favorite thing is managing the floor and listening to people talk about how they don’t like cider, and then they try it and say that we made them a cider drinker. That sense of pride the regulars have for us—they like coming here and telling their friends that there’s something in their neighborhood that’s spectacular.”

Shine’s approach to mixed drinks is similar. “I want to make drinks that you’d drink by the entire glass. There’s a lot of one-upping in the industry right now where people just want to see what kinds of bizarre things they can put in a glass, and it doesn’t always end up as a balanced, drinkable beverage. Not to say that I’m not interested in non-traditional ingredients or experimentation—I just make things with an eye for balance.”


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