By Tyler Estabrook
As a beer reviewer, it is a duty both to my readers and to beer journalism in general to not pay lip service to a brewer just for being local.
But, after finally getting around to trying Rockford’s own Carlyle Brewing Co., 215 E. State St., I am genuinely impressed both with the beer, which is obviously the most important factor, and the pub ambiance.
Carlyle has an ever-revolving lineup of craft brews available by the sample, pint or growler.
To my delight, most of the selections are at the darker end of the spectrum. And while there are only a couple options that at first glance would attract lighter beer drinkers, the truth is most of Carlyle’s styles excepting the heavily-hopped (such as the double IPA) are mellow and easy on the palate.
The lightest option currently on tap is the Munich Helles. Although a lager, the Helles appears a deep, almost cloudy golden color that for a second I mistook for a hefeweizen. The flavor is bold and malty, but smooth enough that it would make a great introduction to microbrews to the average lager drinker.
The style that truly shined during my visit to Carlyle was the Irish Red. This could be the most well-balanced Irish Red I have tried. One thing I find with Irish ales is that sometimes the dryness of the finish almost negates the nuances in flavor originally detected; not the case here. This Irish Red is very “un-dry,” one could say, but the smoky, spicy bite is still in there somewhere.
Carlyle’s Scottish Ale is also unique for its style. This one has a much more nutty and hop-tinged flavor than the usual Scottish staples like Belhaven. It’s rich and heavy, as a Scottish ale ought to be, but there’s a lot of unexpected nuance when it first hits the tongue.
I wholeheartedly recommend Carlyle Brewing Co. because of the exceptional brews, friendly staff and Old-World atmosphere. But the bottom line: By the end of the night, you might spend the same or even less at Carlyle than at your average watering hole because of reasonably-priced pints and generally-higher ABVs. So, if you have the choice, why not choose microbrews fresh from the tap instead of the average light lager?
Send questions or beer recommendations to Tyler Estabrook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the May 19-25, 2010 issue