Tag Archives: Jonathan Cutler

Interview With Jonathan Cutler

Brad Chmielewski and Ken Hunnemeder interviewed Piece brewer Jonathan Cutler a few days before the Great American Beer Festival. Unfortunately they had some audio issues with this episode; it seemed like where they were sitting in the restaurant just amplified the background noise making it difficult to listen to the interview. This was an excellent interview with Jonathan Cutler so below you will find the transcript of the interview.

Ken
Just kinda wanted to go through specifically right now, what are you drinking Brad?

Brad
I have the Dysfunctionale, and its coming in at like 5?

Jon
It’s closer to 6.

Ken
I’m doing the Camel Toe which is actually Brad’s Favorite. But he’s got to go to work later and I don’t so I went ahead and went for it because its about 9.5?

Jon
Yeah 9.5% Double IPA, a lot of hops a lot of malt.

Ken
It’s a treat.

Ken
And then it looks like you have the Golden Arm there.

Jon
Kölsch, yeah I still have work to do today. So went with a lighter beer.

Ken
Well we appreciate you jumping on board here. Know you’re not feeling well. But you’re a beer trooper.

Brad
So all your beers feature or a lot of them feature amarillo hops.

Jon
No not necessarily . There is definitely some amarillo in there but there is also cascade, centennial, simco. The only beer that is straight amarillo is the Amarillo Brillo, which we are actually making today.

Ken
One thing I noticed after coming here for years is that you do a lot of different styles and you do them all very well. Specifically right now you actually have an Alt beer on which is somewhat rare to see. Lagers, bocks, different hefeweizen’s and of course you have some great hoppy ales. You must bring them to quite a few festivals and it is the festival season and all.

Jon
We just went to the great taste of the midwest which is always fun in Madison. That’s really like my favorite beer festival. I think its actually the best beer festival in the country, I mean a lot of people will agree with me. It’s not a competition, it’s on the side of the lake up in Madison, WI. It’s really chill, you just bring up three of four kegs of beer and tap them and have a good time. It’s really a lot of fun.

Brad
Yeah we missed that one, sadly.

Jon
You guys got to make it. But the GABF is actually next weekend in Denver. Everything is done, sent off and ready. The anxiety about getting all of that stuff ready is still very present.

Ken
You’ve done very well in past, you’ve won a bunch of awards notably at GABF and also the World Beer cup.

Jon
::Knocks On Table::
We’ve gotten lucky and made some good beer… its always fun. It’s nice to have some recognition. Because it’s all blind judging by people who are trained brewers or trained taste judges. It’s good to get some accolades from your peers. Becuase when you see people drinking your beer and enjoying it you get that kind of immediate sense of ok cool, I know I like this and the customers like this but it’s always nice to have a blind judge. Not a blind judge but…

::Laughs::

A judge at a blind tasting say, yes this is true to style and a quality beer. That’s the cool thing about that.

Brad
What are you featuring up at the GABF this time?

Jon
Just what we usually have. I kind of know what we’ll have on tap this time of year. And we just plan accordingly. We don’t brew anything special or different for it, we just go with what we have.

Ken
I took a trip down to Three Floyds one time and saw a collaboration with them. I don’t know how many you have done with them.

Jon
We’ve done a couple.

Ken
It was the Ham on Rye. That was quite something. It was a smoked rye beer if I remember correctly. How many things are you doing over there? It seems like you have a pretty good relationship with them.

Jon
We’ve done a beer here and there. Umm.. Barnabe has come up and done a beer with me and Nick has came up and did a beer with me a couple years ago. But, they are actually really good friends of mine. We go out to dinner together, I’ve known Nick for years, I’ve known Barnabe for years and I know Chris V. through Barnabe and I’ve known him for years as well. We have gone on vacations together as well. It’s not just a working relationship we have a social relationship as well.

Brad
It seems like the Chicago beer community is pretty close. All those guys, Flossmoor, and Rock Bottom guys…

Jon
Ya everyone knows each other. The craft brewers guild meets pretty regularly. So you know all the brewers, and it’s a pretty small community. There are only so many pubs.

Brad & Ken
Yeah ::Laughs::

Jon
So everyone gets to know each other it’s a small incestuous community.

Brad
Have you been brewing here since Piece opened? Been eight years?

Jon
Yeah I’ve been here since before the doors opened.

Ken
Then previous to that how long were you brewing before you landed the Piece gig.

Jon
Couple years, I brewed for almost three years at Goose Island and then almost a year at Sierra Nevada. And then left Sierra Nevada to come back here.

Ken
Originally from Chicago?

Jon
Yeah, I grew up in Libertyville…

Ken
Gurnee guy here.

Jon
Nice Catholic community in the suburbs.

All
::Laughs::

Ken
Well, it must be fantastic for you to be doing exactly what you love to be doing in the city you grew up in?

Jon
Yeah, its nice. That’s why I came back. Sierra Nevada was an unbelievable company to work for and they treat their employees very well. Its basically like a dream job. This was a chance to come back to Chicago, ya know I’m from here I think Chicago is the best big city in the country. Making beer is what I really wanted to do so yeah making beer in Chicago, its about it. Its great.

Brad
You probably have a little more say here too.

Jon
Thats true. This was eight years ago too, so I was a little bit younger and a little bit thinner and a little bit dumber. And it was a chance to come back and do, not do whatever I wanted but pretty much whatever I wanted to do. The owner has always been open to anything I want to do, no one said you need to make this beer or that beer. I came in here and it was kind of common sense. I want to have something light, something dark, something with hops, something with wheat, just trying to cater to as many people as possible.

Ken
Yeah its a very, very balanced selection. And you’ve even had some belgian stuff that I’ve had, which was great as well.

Jon
Yeah we got a belgian beer in the tank now. Our Christmas Ale is always a belgian beer. We do a triple and a single. We try to mix things up. As far as belgian beers go, we don’t brew as many of them but if we don’t have it on tap we’ve got a number of belgian beers in bottles and we’ve also got 10 guest taps.

Brad
Yeah, you have Surly and Three Floyds.

Jon
Yeah we always have Three Floyds, Bells, Sierra Nevada on tap.

Ken
Yeah it’s a great guest list.

Jon
One of the first questions that I was getting when we first opened was, aren’t you scared of guest beers kind of cannibalizing your beers. I wasn’t worried about it cause we knew what we were going to do here and then the guest beers were just going to fill in the slots. We were going to make a pale ale. I started making a kölsch kind of on a whim and it turned out pretty well. Now its our number one selling beer and I can’t stop making it. We were going to do a wheat beer, a stout, a porter, or a dark lager and the guest beers were going to be stuff that was local that I thought was good and was something that we don’t do a whole lot of, like I don’t do any fruit beers. As far as framboise or kreiks or anything like that. We’ve always got one of those on the guest tap. The idea was that if you came in here and I didn’t have a beer that you liked on tap, maybe there was a guest tap and if there wasn’t one there then we’d have bottled beers. We’ve got pretty much an example of every styled beer here.

Ken
If you can’t find one then it’s your fault.

Jon
To promote not just us, but beer culture and if I’m not making a beer you like, hopefully we’ve got one you like.

Jon
Its nice that people like drinking your beers and it’s good to sell a lot of beer, its just trying to keep them on tap becomes you playing tetris with the tanks.

Brad
Is there a plan to bottle anything?

Jon
Not right now. We’d obviously looking towards the future, we’d love to see Piece on tap at bars or people being able to pick up a six pack of like Golden Arm at a liquor store but that I guess is the next step. We just did an expansion about a year and a half ago on the others side and added more tanks over there and that immediately got filled up with kolsch and specialty beers. We’re basically right back at capacity. We have a seven barrel system and we’re going to brew close to over 1600 barrels this year. So thats a lot of brew. We are brewing every day on top of cleaning and transferring. Its a lot of work but its a labor of love.

Ken
Anyone thats been in Piece knows that its really one of the popular places to be here. It can be tough to get a table. Not only have you discussed the great beer you have but the pizza here is fantastic.

Jon
The pizza is unbelievable. Thats the thing, people they talk about brewpubs, its a restaurant still and if the food isn’t good then people aren’t going to come just for the beer. No matter how good your beer is if you don’t have something to eat with it, its not going to be the same. And the pizza here is just outstanding.

Brad
Mashed potatoes…

Jon
Yeah mashed potato, bacon pizza

Brad
We add some jalapeno’s on there too.

Ken
Thats right we call it the hopcast special. We order it whenever we’ll be doing a few episodes in one night. So we’d like to see it on the menu at some point.. be able to call up and order the hopcast special. ::Laughs::

Jon
I’ll see what I can do.

Ken
Well one of the things that I love to do, especially during the football season, is you have the special on sunday where you can get the large pizza and a growler to go for $25. Watching football and just relax on the couch all day, thats a good sunday.

Jon
One of the best deals going.

Ken
For sure.

Jon
We sell a lot of growlers. We are doing anywhere from 175 to 200 growlers a week. A lot of beer to go.

Ken
Great things going on at Piece. Thank you for joining us. You can also follow on twitter @Piecechicago

Brad
Stop in if you’re on North Ave. Get some beer, get some pizza.

Jon
Cheers!