Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Rockford’s Screw City Beer Festival at its best in fourth year

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

Greetings, fellow beer geeks.

Wow, what a weekend. We had some awesome weather, the NFL season started, and Rockford’s very own craft beer festival, Screw City Beer Festival, was held Saturday.

This year’s festival was the fourth annual, and I would say the best one yet. The event organizers did a nice job lining up local and regional breweries to be represented, featuring more than 130 different beers to 2,000 craft-beer enthusiasts. It was good to see our three brew pubs — Carlyle, Pig Minds and Rockford Brewing Co. — out there.

In addition to all the fine beers that were available, the Forest City Brewers were back pouring our own versions of craft beer after a two-year hiatus. We were at the inaugural event and garnered some nice feedback on our beers that year. Then, the dark times of “homebrew prohibition” happened at beer festivals in Illinois — BOOO! After some legal dancing with the liquor distributors and state reps, the legislation was amended last August, allowing home brew to flow at future festivals — HOOORAHHH!

I had a chance to get out and try a few selections, and the ones that stood out for me (in no particular order and I certainly did not get to most of them) firstly were the offerings from our local brew pubs … delicious, gentlemen! Bell’s 2 Hearted on cask, Dark Horse’s Reserve Black and Reign in Blood Orange (thanks, Barbie), Goose Island’s Bourbon County Barleywine, Founder’s Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold. I tried Church Street’s Continental Lager, which was on tap and one that I did not care for in the bottle version in one of my past articles. It was a totally different beer, much to my liking. My wife was hanging out at B. Nektar sampling the meads, which does not surprise me.

The Forest City Brewers had nine beers consisting of a sweet potato pie ale, cream ale radler, Belgian dark strong, blackberry sour, honey and hibiscus saison, hefeweizen, IPA (named F Bomb), brown porter infused with bacon, and a cask-conditioned English bitter.

The day started early at 9 a.m. getting unpacked and set up. We encountered only a couple of minor glitches, including Giff making a few runs back to his place for forgotten items, but we still had time for a quality control tasting before the gates opened. The festival gates opened at noon for the VIP session, which was a nice way for us to ease into the flow of serving before the onslaught of the general admission crowd — and boy, it got busy!

Our pourers for the day — Darin, Giff, Joe, Mike and Tim — handled the pressure admirably, as our booth was eight to 12 deep for the entire day, even when we only had two beers left! Our fellow Forest City Brewers members found the booth a good oasis also. We received very positive response from the festival attendees, many surprised that these were home-brewed beers.

OK, it’s thank-you time … first and foremost to Anthony Artale, Aaron Sleger, Chris Wachowiak and Zak Rotello for organizing and running this event; I hope you guys finally got some rest! To all the volunteers who help things run as smooth as humanly possible. Also, thanks to the readers of this column for stopping by and saying hello, especially Brian. The festival attendees get a big shout out as they intoxicated us with their very kind and positive comments. And as for my fellow Forest City Brewers brethren, I cannot express how much you made this day possible and how much I appreciate your hard work. You guys and gals are THE BEST, and I love you all.

I can’t wait for next year! Prost!

Michael Sears is the president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a home-brewing club dedicated to the art of finely-crafted beer. The club meets on the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Street. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at

From the Sept. 10-16, 2014, issue

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