While some watering holes seem to fill up only on weekends, customers pack Carlyle Brewing Company in downtown Rockford every night of the week to enjoy flavorful handcrafted beers, most brewed in the shiny copper vats behind a glass wall in the restored 1800s building.
Though the European-style alehouse's bar is likely to be three patrons deep at any given time, there's usually room to sit down in the adjacent exposed-brick dining hall. Pull up a bench at one of the communal wooden tables and order from the 14-brew menu. If you can’t make up your mind, reasonably priced beer samples ($1.40 to $2.50 per 5-ounce pour) are a smart way to go. We tried the caramel-chocolaty stout, Irish Red, dark amber Weizenbock, pale gold Helles lager and spicy Belgian Saison ale, but the vanilla cream ale won our vote. A $4 pint made a good pairing for doughy salted pretzels with jalapeño cheese ($2.25); other pub grub includes thin-crust pizzas, brats, chipotle chicken chili and meaty sandwiches.
Family-friendly, Carlyle Brewing Company opens at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and at noon for lunch on Saturday (closed Sundays). There’s even house-brewed root beer for the kids.