TINLEY PARK, IL — Erik Pizer wishes he could recognize every face who’s come back to see him in his second shot in a familiar space in Tinley Park. But he’s so grateful they all remember him.
Pizer, who’s back at 7144 183rd St.—this time as owner of Flipside Brewing—is a familiar face there after his role as co-owner at shuttered 350 Brewing, and now a year in to his new business, it sure feels like he’s getting it really right.
“It’s been a wild ride,” Pizer told Patch. “I can’t believe it’s been already a year and only a year, all at the same time.”
With the brewery’s first anniversary approaching and a birthday bash set for July 29 to celebrate, it seems surreal that a year has flown by, though some moments have certainly felt longer than others, he said.
“I can’t believe how quick it went—redoing the space, starting to brew, opening,” Pizer told Patch. “Switching modes from that into operating—it’s like two different worlds completely.”
Pizer circled back to the space in Cornerstone Centre Shopping Center in April 2022, after six years after leaving his role at 350 Brewing. He went on to various roles as head brewer elsewhere, but after those fell away, he felt pulled back to the space in the strip mall. He cleaned it up, slapped on a new vision and fresh paint, and has watched as old fans have come in, as others find it for the first time.
“… The history of being in the building, it just feels so comfortable after all these years,” Pizer said. “It still just feels like it’s been so much longer than just the one year. It’s so different than it used to be.
“It’s fun seeing so many people that knew me from 350, or even Rock Bottom along the way. It’s cool the people I don’t remember meeting before, were excited to have me back in town.”
The look of the brewery has changed greatly since it was 350, Pizer said—and so has the industry. One of the biggest hurdles he’s experienced has been adapting to stay viable.
“The industry, the market is just so different,” Pizer said. “There were 2,400 breweries in the country when we opened 350 in 2014. There’s almost 10,000 breweries in the country now. There’s over 300 breweries in Illinois. There’s so many more, and not all of them are successful.”
As Pizer prepares to celebrate a milestone in his venture, his friends in the business mourn the impending loss of their own. Metal Monkey Brewing in Romeoville recently announced that it had not recovered from pandemic-related woes, and soon will shutter. Seeing some breweries flounder or fail has taught him some valuable lessons, Pizer said.
“I don’t have just beer,” he said. “On purpose, I’m trying to cater to having something for everyone: cocktails, spirits, soft drinks.”
Pizer, of Palos Heights, faced weathering lulls in business—with some quiet stretches spliced in between busy seasons—and has also focused on making the setting family-friendly, striking a balance of being brewery and restaurant. The right menu picks—including a kids menu—and beverages help with that.
“… So families can come in and still make it part of their rotation,” Pizer said motivated him.”We aren’t a big taproom where kids can literally just run around, it’s a restaurant, there are tables everywhere. There’s not room and space for that.”
He hopes families who stop in notice the efforts he’s made to create that environment—one where parents can enjoy a beer and their kids find something they’ll like, too. It’s made a difference in his customer base, he believes, by opening up to more possibilities.
“So they still feel welcome and comfortable to do that is important, to adjust with how people are drinking beer,” Pizer said.
Pizer has welcomed the opportunity to get back to brewing classic styles, instead of having to lean into trends, he said.
“It’s been cool that I can focus on classic styles, I’m not hitting on the trends right now,” he said. “I feel strongly that they’re good. The beers I want to drink and share with people—it’s awesome that that’s being embraced again.
He’s been pleasantly surprised to see one of his long-brewed beers recently make its way back into customers’ top picks. An American IPA hopped with Simcoe, Centennial and Citra, Last Stop IPA and coming in at 6.9 percent ABVis one of his own personal favorites.
“Someone was telling me earlier it’s one of their favorites again,” Pizer said. “I’ve probably been brewing this beer either at home or out for almost 14 years. It’s changed a little bit over the years, but it’s the thing that did it for me.”
It seems fitting, then, that it be the inspiration for signature beer on their brewery’s big birthday festivities. He’s changed it up just a bit, though, for the occasion. It’ll come in at
“I just amped up all the malts, and grain, and added more hops,” Pizer said. “But it’s a really similar profile. But it’s just bigger, badder.”
The festivities on July 29 will be classic birthday style—think streamers, maybe even birthday hats, Pizer said. Kid friendly fun—face painting, and if Pizer gets his wish, balloon animals—will be packed into the first few hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They’ll celebrate all day, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with additional featured drinks and a special menu. They’ll have cheese curds and a classic cheeseburger, but also chicken and waffle wings, Philly mac and cheese, a pretzel-crusted chicken sandwich, and veggie/vegan dish tofu banh mi. Brewpub Shootout food pairing award-winning Asian pastrami on rye will also be available. And don’t forget the birthday-cake flavored gelato from Undici in Itasca.
Pizer invites all to celebrate a year he almost can’t believe has already passed. He’s worked hard to make everyone feel welcome, and he hopes it shows. He knows how the support he’s been shown has made all the difference this go-around.
“That’s the vibe we’re trying to go for here,” Pizer said, of striving for a certain feel at the brewery. “The number one thing I want to do is make everyone feel comfortable and have a good time. It feels good to get that back from the community. That’s been the coolest part.”
Look for the bearded guy wearing Flipside swag and a party hat.
“We’re going to party all day,” Pizer said.