The good kind of chaos

Insights from Michelle, Katy, & Hayley, Eris Brewery & Cider House (Old Irving Park)

Katy, Michelle, and Hayley (left to right)

Katy, Michelle, and Hayley (left to right)

Michelle Foik, Katy Pizza, and Hayley Shine are the collective force making Eris Brewery and Cider House a reality. Not yet open, Eris will be a full-service restaurant, brewery, and cider house in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood. But it’s more than that. Michelle explained: “[Eris will be] a community center. It will be a place where families and people come to try cider, come to try beer… it’s going to be an educational space too… whether it’s the knowledge about hops, whether it’s the knowledge about apples or different yeast strains we’re using. ”

It’s new. It’s exciting. It’s the kind of project you throw your heart and soul into. As Katy said, “You just don’t let it go. Once you see the place and you get the energy, it’s not something you’re going to let go of… The building’s a great space. It’s a fantastic concept. And chaos truly has followed us everywhere we’ve gone.” The project spoke to Hayley as well, who was recently brought on board as the head brewmaster and cider maker after brewing at Rock Bottom for over a decade and earning a number of impressive awards: “These ladies came and found me. … I was ready to do something different and I like every piece of it. I’ve been approached a lot of times, and nothing felt quite right until this.”

Eris is the goddess of chaos, so it kind of has interpreted a lot of what I am… even though none of us knew each other all that well when we first started, we all have these characteristics of being a bit chaotic. But organized chaos, I like to call it.
— Michelle

Bringing Cider to Chicago

Eris is unlike anything seen in Chicago today. It will be the first cider house and brewery under one roof in the state of Illinois as well as the the first women-owned and operated brewery in Chicago. As Hayley explained: “We’ll lead with cider, that sets us apart. A lot of opportunities for education when it comes to cider. People are interested in it and starting to drink it, but people don’t know a lot about cider in general.”

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But having a unique concept that’s new to Chicago does have its challenges. Getting approved to have a cider house and brewery in the same building was no small feat. As they were securing funding for the project, they also had to ensure that they had all of their legal ducks in a row. According to Michelle, “Cider is a new concept to America now, but wasn’t back in the day. And it’s a winery license, so the wine licensing has stayed very slow to evolve, where the brewery industry has evolved so quickly within legislation.” She laughed, “we actually had a lot of studying to do and a lot of reading to do.”

Cider is the fastest growing type of craft beverage, but many don’t realize that cider is actually made like wine and has just as much (if not more) complexity and variety. As Katy said, “You’ve got red wines, you’ve got white wines, you’ve got rosés. Within the reds, you’ve got all these different varieties. The same is true with any species of apple you can think of. They’re going to give you a different product.” 

An Ambitious Buildout

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Before we can enjoy Hayley’s ciders and beers, the three women behind Eris have to finish an impressive buildout of the massive space Eris will call home. The building, which originally belonged to the Freemasons, has been a Korean Presbyterian church since the 80’s. Now the multi-level building with 20-foot ceilings and potential for a rooftop expansion belongs to Eris.

According to Michelle, “This building was a lot bigger than anyone expected us to purchase and work with. So it’s kind of fun when we speak to people that haven’t seen the building and they’re just looking at us like, are you sure you guys know what you’re doing?” 

Discussing the ambitious buildout, Katy said “I think it’s a rite of passage. I think it’s a necessary thing to go through and get frustrated and feel stupid and ask a lot of questions. And run into brick walls, I mean literally run into brick walls.”

The massive space has plenty of room to expand so that as Eris grows, they can continue to create community in a single building rather than pulling people apart by having multiple locations. Another benefit? Michelle explains, “It keeps the neighborhood the way it was. It doesn’t have us tearing [the building] down and putting up a parking lot.” 

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Michelle, Katy, and Hayley are bringing creativity, passion, and a community-centric mindset to Chicago’s craft beverage ecosystem. We’re *almost* as excited as they are for their doors to open, as Michelle said: “This part of the business is tougher and harder but I know the moment we can open those doors I know what we can do… and we’re so freaking close.” 

Follow along to stay posted on their progress.

Sam LetscherComment