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First Look At Eris Brewery & Cider House: Owners Are Making No Little Plans

By Patty Wetli | February 10, 2017 5:24am | Updated on February 14, 2017 11:00am
 Michelle Foik and Katy Pizza are building a brewery and cider house for the future.
Eris Brewery & Cider House Peek
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OLD IRVING PARK — Michelle Foik and Katy Pizza have yet to serve a single glass of cider or beer at their forthcoming venture Eris, but the two are already preparing for the operation's expansion.

In the tradition of famed Chicago visionary Daniel Burnham, Foik and Pizza are making no little plans: The projected summer debut of Eris Brewery & Cider House, 4240 W. Irving Park Road, is just the first step toward, not the culmination of, the business partners' much bigger picture.

"You've got two very ambitious ladies opening up a crazy space," said Foik, who cut her teeth at Revolution Brewing and Goose Island.

Make that three very ambitious ladies — Hayley Shine has just been announced as head brewer, lured away from Rock Bottom Brewery.

Foik and Pizza, a project manager whose husband Nunzino is an investor in Revolution and CEO of Hop Head Farms, shared their long-term dreams for Eris during a recent tour held in conjunction with the annual CiderCon convention.

Katy Pizza and Michelle Foik led a tour of Eris Brewery & Cider House. [All photos DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

The property, built around 1910 as a Masonic Temple, is still very much under construction, in the midst of a gutting from bottom to top.

In the basement stands a forest of tanks and fermenters — made to spec in Oregon — that would be gleaming if they weren't still wearing their protective wrappers. One side of the room will be devoted to beer and the other to cider, Foik said.

To the expert eyes of industry professionals taking the tour, so much capacity seemed like, well, overkill, for such a young brewery.

It is, Foik responded, by design.

Where most craft breweries start small and upgrade later to larger facilities — think of this as the garage-to-warehouse fairy tale — Foik and Pizza have taken the opposite approach. The size of the building on Irving Park Road is their end goal, one they intend to grow into instead of out of.

"It's a building made for five years down the road," Foik said. "We have to create the skeleton now."

One floor up is the shell of Eris' main dining area, which eventually will seat 150 but at the moment is largely a blank slate. The framing for the kitchen is in place, as are 17-foot-tall windows, which stretch nearly floor to ceiling. Just barely visible is a raised seating section where diners will have a view of the brewing operation below.

A mezzanine has room for another 40 people, and overlooks the first-floor entrance along with a planned bottle shop that will sell to-go growlers well down the road.

"The first year, we want people to come inside" and not just carry-out, Foik said.

The dining room: Barely discernible along the far wall is a raised seating section, which will have a glassed-in view of the brewing operation below. The mezzanine is on the left.

On the second floor, the bones of a curved-ceiling ballroom could just be made out in the darkness. This prospective event venue is another piece of the Eris puzzle that will fall into place later rather than sooner.

Demolition is still underway on the third floor, where the ghost print of a cross on the wall is a holdover from Foik and Pizza's immediate predecessors — the Korean Bethel Presbyterian Church took over the building from the masons in the 1980s.

A use for this area is still up in the air, as is the question of whether Eris will one day be allowed to serve guests on a potential rooftop deck, Pizza said.

Those are just two of the seemingly never ending decisions the business partners have yet to make.

There's a chef to be hired — likely in April, Foik said — a menu to be developed and, oh yeah, beer and cider to brew.

"Alternately I'm terrified or I get excited about it," Pizza said.

Hayley Shine (left) was just announced as head brewer at Eris.

A tour of Eris Brewery & Cider House, still very much under construction, was timed with the annual CiderCon convention being held in Chicago.

It's not open yet, but Eris is already a star. The building was used as an exterior set for the new Fox series "APB," and received a cameo during a Super Bowl commercial for the show.