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Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week": Piece Worryin' Ale

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Nov 15, 2006 4:00PM

2006_11_piece.jpgThis week we turn our attention — and our beer-hunting skills — to the neighborhood Nelson Algren lovingly wrote of. Well, not that particular Wicker Park. That one's been gone for years. We don't presume to know what Algren would have thought of modern-day Wicker Park, but we're sure he would have dug around to find its seedy underbelly, somewhere between the designer handbags and strollers. Would he have written of the ambivalent detente between yuppies and hipsters, or the subtle class warfare between black labrador and golden retriever owners? Would he have appreciated the irony of the Tribune, which called Chicago: City on the Make a "highly scented object" in its review, naming a short fiction award after him? Would he have schooled some folks at Rainbo in the basics of good hygiene?

Back in our martinis and mushrooms days, we imagined picking Algren's brain over drinks at Estelle's, circa 1995; it's probably why we stopped ingesting the latter. But would Piece Brewery & Pizzeria have been seedy enough for him to enjoy a few beers? No one knows the answer to those questions. And, being that we live in the present and are writing about beer, we'll now focus on one of Piece's more popular selections, the Worryin' Ale.

This beer won a gold medal at this year's World Beer Cup and was instrumental in brewmaster Jonathan Cutler winning the small brewery and brewmaster of the year award. Piece describes Worryin' Ale as an English bitter. If we use the definition provided by the folks at, it fits. However, Worryin' Ale won its gold medal in the rye beer category. Chicagoist isn't that "worried" about the beer classification, as we were too busy lifting a pint or three when we were at Piece a few weeks back.

Worryin' Ale is a deep copper to brown in color, with a long-lasting head and light carbonation. The flavor is full of sweet malts and grains. You'll certainly pick up rye on the palate, along with toffee and some of your more floral hops. The finish is dry and of medium bitterness, with some hints of dark chocolate and coffee lingering in the back of the palate. It pairs well with Piece's plain pizza, but try it with some Italian sausage on your New Haven-style pie.

In order for you to enjoy some Worryin' Ale, you'll have to hoof it to the brewery. Lucky for the homebodies among us, Piece sells this, and all their beers, in growlers to go, for $15. The beer stays fresh for a few days. We've talked to people who claim to have extended the shelf life of Piece's beers in growlers by spraying an argon-based wine preservative in the growler, to form an oxygen-blocking layer of gas. In our opinion, Worryin' is too good of a beer to let sit around for too long.

If you want to give yourself a primer on how the really small breweries approach their craft, Piece is a great place to wet your lips and start your education. The Worryin' Ale is one of our favorites, and any beer that we shun Orval (which Piece sells in bottles) for to drink is a worthy recipient of Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week."