Rockford Brewing Company sits as a new inhabitant of an old shell. Back in the mid 1800s, the riverside location played home to the Rockford Brewery, founded by Jonathan Peacock. Throughout the years, the building went through many changes and iterations with the brewhouse being the core of it all. Now the exposed brick, steel framing, and rich wooden accents set a beautiful framework for the renovated building, event space, and the brewery.
Head Brewer, Steve Lenox, is a home brewer turned pro. His home garage has been converted into a brewery where he’s spent years experimenting and honing his craft. When he heard that RBC was looking for a head brewer, Steve figured he was ready for a change and tossed his hat in to the ring. Oddly enough, he was the only candidate that actually brought beer to the interview, which seems just as much of a conscious thought as bringing your resume. His knowledge of the brewing process, ingredients, and the science behind making beer made him a great fit for the new position. It was like giving a home cook the key to the Master Chef kitchen.
Currently Lenox is the only brewer on staff. He is still working to establish an annual beer lineup as well as introduce some limited and specialty offerings. “Experimentation is great when you’re a home brewer. You can make anything you want. When you get to commercial brewing, the mindset changes a bit and you realize the business of selling beer.”
Rockford Brewing Co has been in operation for just under twelve months, producing roughly 900 barrels in its first year. The brewery’s 15 barrel brewing system churns out some core recipes that give a nod to the original beers brewed on the site back in the mid 1800s. Nikolob, a crushable light lager that is clean and crisp, was the very first beer brewed at the original brewery back in the 1860’s and remained the flagship beer for years until the operation was shut down in 1919.
The restaurant area of the brewery has only been open for a short while and is an elevated take on a gastro pub. Everything that makes up the space is repurposed or refurbished materials, but with a very clean treatment. Adding to the focus on the history of the space, the walls are hung with images of the old brew house and brewing operations.
Sitting down at the bar, the first thing you notice is the large, steel pipe that makes up the tap tower. Adorned with tap handles fabricated out of old hand tools, this artery helps supply the taproom with almost 16 beers on a rotating schedule. Along with Nikolob, a good few of the beers are named after the founders and predecessors of the company.
Taking a trip from the top of the tap list to the bottom, you hit just about every shade of color available to beer, and a grand array of styles as well. Some of the beers, like the Screw City Light, are sessionable lagers that are an easy happy hour brew or even a lunch beer. For something a little more robust, you can try the Chocolate Porter, which has a very smooth creaminess and chocolate undertone. The list also features some barrel aged options like the Vanilla Porter aged in 12 year Heaven Hill barrels or the Scotch Ale that is every bit as boozy as it sounds.
The food menu is an above average pub fare for lunch, with a fully loaded spread for dinner. I can tell you from experience that the turkey club should be something of interest. Don’t let the fried egg throw you and do not request the sandwich without it!