On a cozy corner off the main drag in O'Fallon, Illinois, Peel Wood Fired Pizza and the all-new Peel Brewing Co. welcome troves of pizza and beer-loving patrons to an impressive space.
Opening early last month, Peel's second location boasts a similar dedication to quality pizza, made from scratch before being wood-fired in a brick oven, as the original in Edwardsville. But things get very different from there.
In O'Fallon, the biggest change is the addition of an in-house brewery under the Peel Brewing Co. moniker. It boasts a seven-barrel system made in four fermentation tanks and four bright tanks that produce four varied brews – a cream ale, Belgian strong, brown ale and IPA.
Co-owners Patrick Thirion and Brandon Case were both avid home brewers before they opened the Edwardsville location, so Peel Brewing Co. became a great way both to extend the Peel brand and to have some fun – with some help from local beer experts and a former brewer at Brooklyn Brewery in New York. They plan to add a fifth brew to their lineup, a milk stout, in the upcoming months.
"The cream ale and Belgian strong are our best sellers," Thirion says. "The cream ale is a bit more popular because it’s our introductory beer: It’s a nice smooth beer with a lower abv than the others. But we got more positive comments about the Belgian strong right off the bat – I think beer-drinkers appreciate the flavor."
Another big difference: size. The O'Fallon location is nearly three times larger, according to Thirion, with 20-foot ceilings and two impressive levels. A central staircase leads upstairs to a large wooden bar with eight taps (two sets pouring its four beers for faster service) and housing the tanks and beer cooler, while the first floor features the extensive kitchen. From only 80 seats (plus 30 on the patio) in Edwardsville to 230 in O'Fallon, the new location offers more lounge seating upstairs for relaxing and sipping a beer throughout the infamous hour-long waits for a table.
"The first floor is laid out to mimic Peel Edwardsville," Case says. "Upstairs, it’s totally different. There are some normal seats, but then there are some smaller tables and lounge chairs for people who still want to order salads, pizza and desserts. But with the sheer volume we've had since opening, people are really grabbing any square footage they can find to order a pizza."
You wouldn't be able to tell from looking around, but the structure is actually from 1902, previously housing a bank, skating rink, ballroom, shooting range and more. The brick outer walls and hardwood floors are original; everything else was constructed by an outside team in a two-year build-out. Thirion and Case had their share of hiccups, mainly due to poor record-keeping by various previous tenants.
"The [construction crew] found pillars and structural support that hadn't been in architectural plans for 30 years," Thirion says. "So they'd knock down a wall and be like, 'Oh that’s there for structure; that has to stay.' So we had to go back and retool the kitchen layout or move pieces of equipment."
The menu features 11-inch gourmet pizzas, plus appetizers, salads, sandwiches and dessert. Two pizzas are unique to O'Fallon including the popular sausage-jalapeno. (The O'Fallon menu also features the same 24 beers as the Edwardsville location.)
Thirion hopes to add a few more unique offerings now that the place is up and running, including a rotating "chef's selection" option every Friday – on Jan. 9, a pine-nut encrusted grouper with braised fennel and toasted orzo custard will debut for a couple of days.
Peel Wood Fired Pizza, 104 S. Cherry St., O'Fallon, Illinois, 618.726.2244, peelpizza.com
Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the employee at Brooklyn Brewery as a brewmaster.
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