By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers
The past few weeks, I have been highlighting some commercial beers I thought were worthy of attention. So many breweries and styles are available to sample that it is a daunting task to seek them all out. That poses the questions from the newbies and novices: “What styles do I like?” and “How can I try beers without spending my hard-earned money on a six-pack that I can’t stand?” The answer, my friends, is your local brew pubs.
When my wife and I are traveling, we always try to stop by one of the brewpubs in the area we are staying. The Rockford area has three local brewpubs that are a good place start.
Carlyle Brewing Co., 215 E. State St., in downtown Rockford, is styled after traditional English brewpubs. Owner and brewer Don Carlyle focuses on the traditional styles, but occasionally brews up something special, like his Black Walnut Stout, one of my favorites. Their current beers on tap include English Blonde, Holiday Spice, Honey Ale, Humulus Lupulus (IPA), Irish Red (a good selection with St. Paddy’s Day coming up), Loco Lager, Scottish Ale, Stout, Smoked Imperial Stout, Tripel and Vanilla Cream Ale. They serve their own root beer as well. You can order a sampler paddle to try most of these in 4-ounce servings. Carlyle’s offers pub-style food like bratwurst, hot pretzels and sandwiches.
Pig Minds Brewing Co., which was founded by Brian Endl and Randy Yunk, is at 4080 Steele Drive in Machesney Park, Ill., and is styled in an industrial-type atmosphere. Head brewer Carson leans toward his own interpretations of styles. Their current beers on tap include Blue Collar (California Ale), Southy Bitch Slap (Irish Red), Phil-Up (American Brown Ale), Sweep the Leg (West Coast IPA), Death Grip (American IPA) and Joe Daddy (Coffee Stout). There are usually a couple of guest beers on tap. You can order a sampler paddle to try these in 4-ounce servings. Pig Minds offers a vegan menu, which was highlighted in an article of VegNews magazine titled “How to Survive a Cross Country Vegan Road Trip.” I saw that they have submitted Bitch Slap, Sweep the Leg, Joe Daddy and Blue Collar to the World Beer Cup competition. Good luck, gentlemen.
Prairie Street Brewhouse (200 Prairie St.) is in the historic brewery building on Madison Street next to the Rock River in downtown Rockford.
Originally built as the Peacock Brewery in the 1850s, Prairie Street accentuates the warehouse look. Although they are not scheduled to be fully operational until this spring, the tap room is open to the public Fridays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturdays from 12:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Brewer Steve focuses on the traditional styles as well. They have a traditional line-up of beers on 14 taps. I suggest trying the ESB and Cream Ale currently being served from their beer engines … delicious! Prairie Street was very gracious to the Forest City Brewers and opened its doors last Wednesday evening for a private event. It was a great evening of which the highlight was a guided tour of the brewery. Thanks again, guys!
Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to forestcitybrewers.org. If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Feb. 26-March 4, 2014 issue