Given how beer and pizza is a perfect pairing, it’s astonishing that it’s taken Chicago so long to get its second pizzeria/brewery. Piece Brewery & Pizzeria has had that slice (pun intended) of the market to itself since 2001, but with the December opening of the brewing facility at Gino’s East River North, the city finally has a place for our deep dish pizza and craft beer crossover dreams.
The initial beers are a bit of a departure from what you’d traditionally expect to partner with pizza, like an amber, a pale ale or an American light lager, but brewer Kevin McMahon (a Two Brothers and Abita alum) offers up four somewhat surprising choices—a Helles lager, a heavily spiced witbier, an English-style IPA and a black IPA.
The Helles lager is light, easy drinking and ideal for anyone who wants a Bud Light–like beer with their pizza, while the wit is its Blue Moon understudy kicked up with a big bite of sharp spices on the front. There’s nothing wrong with either of them, but Gino’s hoppier offerings distinguish themselves much more successfully.
The black rye IPA lacks the roasty malt flavors and massive punches I expect from the style, but I don’t mind, since this is one of the few black hoppy beers that actually tastes balanced. But it’s the English-style IPA that’s the big winner here. Made true to the style, the approachable beer is a very traditional take on a beer in a city that mostly believes the weirder the beer, the better. The earthy, herbal hops slightly overpower the darker bready malts, but it all adds up to a proper pint that’s pleasantly warming on a cold day, and probably pairs the best with a double dough or deep-dish offering.
The initial lineup is solid, but I’m most excited about the future experimentations with members of the CHAOS Homebrew Club. Gino’s plans to open up its brewhouse to collaboration beers that come from homebrew competition winners, and victors will have their brews made available for purchase. Growlers are also available to go, making a to-go pizza and beer lunch run a tempting proposition for anyone within walking distance.
The rest of the beer list is mostly local- and Midwestern-focused, with options from Moody Tongue, Ten Ninety, Metropolitan and 5 Rabbit alongside craft mainstays like Great Lakes. Aside from that, Gino’s East doesn’t offer any macrobrew domestics—no Lite, no Silver Bullet—and that alone is worth supporting with a visit.