Chris Manuel, Sean Farr, Reed Sjostrom and Dustin Koch.

Rockford Brewing Co.: Where Old and New Come Together

Prairie Street Brewhouse’s latest attraction joins a creative menu, craft brewing and a wicked location in one of downtown Rockford’s hottest new destinations.

Chris Manuel, Sean Farr, Reed Sjostrom and Dustin Koch.
Chris Manuel, Sean Farr, Reed Sjostrom and Dustin Koch.

Another chapter is unfolding in the growing presence of Prairie Street Brewhouse, 200 Prairie St., Rockford.
The Rockford Brewing Co. restaurant now serves lunch and dinner seven days a week. An ever-changing bar menu consistently offers 16 handcrafted beers on tap, including the infamous Nikolob, the “beer that made Milwaukee jealous” when it was first brewed in Rockford during the 1800s, in this very building. It was described as a “light, crisp lager with noble Czech hop.”
“We wanted to create an atmosphere unlike anything in Rockford, with a social, casual feeling, with delicious food and a wide variety of beer and a view of the river,” says Chris Manuel, vice president of Rockford Brewing Co., and co-owner of the business with Reed Sjostrom and Dustin Koch.
The brewery serves as a backdrop to the bar, which is made from reclaimed materials found in the 1849 building. “It’s a mix of old and new, and people like the natural look of the original building, with the warmth of wood,” Manuel says.
The menu features daily specials and “small bites” like peanuts, snack mix, pretzel sticks and bacon fat popcorn. “Shared dishes” include wings, Poutine, Nikolob-steamed mussels, a Charcuterie (meats) board, cheese board, giant pub pretzel and Nikolob lager-battered cheese curds. In addition, there are soups and salads, sides like house-made chips with sea salt, burgers, and other sandwiches like pulled pork, Screw City light corned beef, turkey club, and a BLT made with a one-third pound patty, cherry-wood bacon, and/or duck bacon.
Chef Sean Farr is happy with the menu, which involved a long research process in Chicago and is meant to bring “fun items and a lot of choice” to Rockford patrons. “It’s well-rounded and people appreciate what we offer and are accepting it,” he says.
The most popular item on the menu is the smoked turkey club, made with cherry-wood bacon, spring mix, fried egg, cheddar cheese, cranberry-chipotle mayo and sourdough bread. Another much-asked-for item is Poutine, made with Yukon gold fries, Screw-City Light braised pork belly, cheese curds and herbed bacon gravy. Entrees include fish and chips, ribeye steak, blackened bone-in pork chop, Mediterranean beer chicken and Gado Gado, an almond-crusted tofu dish made with sauteed vegetables, coconut jasmine rice and sweet chili peanut sauce.
For dessert, there’s a root beer float, chocolate porter float, chocolate porter fudge brownie or creme brulee.
Brewhouse dining options will expand even further this fall, with the opening of Dock Side, a very laid-back setting on the river level, with indoor and outdoor areas geared to the comforts of sports enthusiasts.
“It will be a casual setting where you can get great food, great service and fresh beer, in a friendly outside environment,” says Manuel. “It’s where people can take a break from the business of life and sit by the water. This is something Rockford has craved for a long time, and we’re happy to be able to bring back dining by the river.”
The Koch family bought the 85,000-square-foot Brewhouse in 2000 and set about transforming it. Today there are banquet rooms for large or small groups; high-end apartments; the brewery, bar and restaurant; office spaces; and a fuel station and boat dock. The owners are determined to help breathe life into the city’s downtown riverfront.
“We’ve pieced it together on purpose,” says Manuel. “As new things are added, we see Rockford accepting and enjoying us and it generates more ideas on how to utilize the space. We’ve always wanted to lead the way for added development in downtown Rockford, to see a vibrant downtown with a unique and fun environment. We’re seeing it now. There’s something going on every day.”
Rockford Brewing Co. is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursdays to midnight; and Fridays and Saturdays to 2 a.m. For a reservation, call (815) 227-9427.