Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Church Street Brewing’s Continental Lager light and crisp

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings, all!

This week, I would like to highlight a new brewery recently available to the Rock River Valley. The brewery is Church Street Brewery, and the beer is Continental Lager.

Church Street Brewing Company of Itasca, Illinois, was established in February 2012 by chemical engineer Joe Gregor. Joe learned to brew as a homebrewer after his son decided his father needed a hobby by purchasing some homebrew equipment. Joe enjoyed the hobby, which set him to begin to research starting up his own brewery. The story is that Joe’s job-related travel created his love of German lagers, which is evident in their portfolio of beers. Church Street’s lineup also reflects the traditional styles for each holiday and season.

The website states: “Church Street is a family business based on Joe’s dream to make quality ales and lagers that stand out from the crowd. The brewhouse is a 30-barrel system utilizing kettle mash-in techniques with the ability to perform decoction mashing (very important in the production of German beers). Our brewery was designed to be efficient and to care for the environment. We recycle cold water used to chill the wort before it goes to the fermenter by pumping it back to our hot water tank. Our spent grain goes out to Robertson Farms in Kirkland, Illinois, to help feed 650 hungry cattle.”

The brewery is open for tours Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays 1 to 7 p.m.; and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. The Gregor family invites the public to stop in for a taste, have a pint, or take home a growler.

Continental Lager is available year-round, packaged in bottles at a 5.3 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). So, let’s take this for a test drive.

Since this is a lager, I will use my trusty Cubs pilsner glass. The pour is a nice, bright golden yellow with a slight orange hue-colored body with a very small white head that dissipates rather quickly. Decent clarity with what looks like a bit of yeast sediment. There are some carbonation bubbles rising from the bottom.

The aroma is a bit uninspiring for a German pilsner; I detect a faint maltiness and an ever-so-slight floral and grassy scents — much less than I expect from a good version of the style. Hmm …

Taste is initially crisp pilsner malt and a corn sweetness that is probably from the pilsner malt, which changes to the grassy/floral and spicey hops, which has a bit of a bite, then gives way to a metallic-type flavor. I think I also detect an ever-so-slight phenolic (smokey, Band-Aid-like, or medicinal) off flavor in there.

The mouthfeel is crisp and clean with a good carbonation bite, which is light and refreshing and then finishes dry.

Overall, this is a fairly straightforward version of the style. It is light and crisp, but has a one-dimensional feeling to it. The presence of phenolics is a strange off-flavor in a German pilsner, which caught me off guard. I also thought the floral, lemony, grassy, flavors were subdued for this style. While it’s not a bad beer, I don’t think I’d pick this up again.


Michael Sears is the president of the Forest City Brewers, a home-brewing club dedicated to the art of finely-crafted beer. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to Contact Mike at

From the Aug. 13-19, 2014, issue

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