Carlyle Brewing Co.

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Carlyle Brewing Co.Carlyle Brewing Co.
Very Good
81 Ratings
Carlyle Brewing Co.Carlyle Brewing Co.

Type: Brewery, Bar, Eatery, Beer-to-go

215 E State St
Rockford, Illinois, 61104-1010
United States

(815) 963-2739 | map

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Ratings: 41 |  Reviews: 28
Photo of SpdKilz
4.16/5  rDev +5.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Came here with my brother-in-law and my sister.

Walked in on a Saturday night at about six and there were already quite a few people there. We were only going to stay for a bit so we took some seats at the bar. The vibe was quite nice and the bartender helped us out immediately. The place was very cool looking with some stone work and overall just a very well done bar. The bartender was quite attentive the entire time and helped us with any questions we had. My brother-in-law and I ordered a beer each and then some tasters while my sister just had the Vanilla Cream Ale (which I admit was not the best – vanilla seemed pretty artificial). Their saison stood out to me and I actually got a second glass of it. There was a good selection of house taps and the tasters allowed us to try quite a few beers which was nice. We did not get food here but the prices/selection seemed on par with what you’d expect. Overall, an enjoyable experience and I can’t wait to come back here again.

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Photo of 4DAloveofSTOUT
4.38/5  rDev +11.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Very clean and nice place for a beer. Excellant bar food, the pizza is my favorite. Vanilla Ale and Stout are stables and every now and again, they have a tastey BIG BEER too fron thier specialty list! The rootbeer is amazing also, they make it in house. One of the first bars I would go to on a regular basis when I first started to like craft brewski! Still is a favorite. Its easy to spend money in that place. They have a shuffle board in the back along with bumper pool. This place is always packed on the weekends.

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Photo of phartzog
4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3

One of my favorites. Especially since this is about the ONLY place my wife will drink beer- She's a martini gal but at Carlyle, she will drink the Vanilla, Stout or a Stanilla and occasionally a "Juan More" Mexican style lager.

The owner did a great job of rehabbing an old building into a very cozy and inviting place to drink a few pints. The atmosphere is pub-like and is geared toward conversation. No blaring music, no scantily clad bubble-breasted bimbo servers, no TVs, just blues or sometimes jazz piped in softly as background music. The tables are rustic and low and the floor is made of stone tile complemented by bare brick walls and an impressive wooden bar. The crowd is a bit older and is very friendly and eager to talk beer.

One of my favorite touches is the chalkboard beer menu. It adds to the mystique of the rotating beer menu and every time I go, the first place I look is at the board to see what new malty or hoppy goodness awaits or to see which old friends have returned.

The beer quality is excellent and has far outpaced my original expectations. I have only had a couple beers I disliked and I tried them despite not liking the beer style to begin with. Friends confirm my suspicion that the beer is good and I am simply not a fan of Stouts or most Hefeweizens.

I hate to ding them for anything but here goes. Service tends to be slow. I am not a stickler for fast service so it doesn't bug me but I have gone with friends who are absolutely beside themselves when the server hasn't arrived just as they finish their last drop. On the plus side, servers are very knowledgeable and friendly.

Food- Food is secondary at Carlyle because it is not intended to be a restaurant. If you want a snack it does the trick but don't expect a gourmet meal. The pizzas are good but not great and they removed my favorite- Braunschweiger & Onion sandwich from their already limited menu. Go for the beer. Not the food.

Conclusion: Overall a fun and tasty place!

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Photo of Nurb
4.18/5  rDev +6.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3

For the last several years I've been visiting Carlyle Brewing Company in Rockford, and in my opinion, it's the best as far as atmosphere and beer is concerned for the city and for the entire area surrounding.

For astmosphere, I like the fact there are no TV's or sports related items nailed to the walls competing for your attention. There are enough sports bars in the Rockford area, so a more simple brewpub setting where you can talk to friends over a drink is a very nice change from chain franchises and hole-in-the-wall dives that overfill the city. They also have a selection of games behind the bar, which I find amusing. They have also recently expanded into the next building, which used to be a strip club, and into the area behind the building, now made into a beer garden.

When it comes to the beer, the selection is fantastic and frequently changing thanks to the owner, who likes to experiment and try different traditional and newer styles. The beer selection ranges from smooth and heavy, stouts to crisp ales, to high ABV IPAs, and everything in between. They will also feature seasonal beers through the year, and often will be different from the previous years themselves. One thing to note however; with the exception of some beer styles, Carlyle's does not over-hop their beer out of style or balance like many microbrews like to do. I've heard many a Hop-Head comment on the lack of hops punching them in the mouth, but they do have very hoppy beers to choose from, even though they aren't the bulk of their choices.

Despite everything, there isn't one beer they've produced I have felt was of low quality, bad, or "wrong" in taste, and I am a bit of a beer geek, even if I try not to be.

When it comes to the food and service, both are adequet, but the focus is all on the beer. The food menu is about par for the course when it comes to bar food, but their sandwiches and tortilla crust pizza are very good. The service can be hit or miss depending on the day, time, and the staff on hand. Some days it's busy but they'll always be around, and some days you'll wait an hour for food service. However, in either case, the staff is always friendly in my experience.

Overall, I'd have to say this is one of the only gems in the rotting hole that is Rockford.

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Photo of Mandark
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Stopped in with my wife and four year old daughter for dinner and a sample of their brews on 4/7/10.

First, I love the fact there is no television anywhere. This alone is enough to make me want to give it a 5 all around. Too many bars with too many TVs in this world, dadgummit. Anyway, there's a great large window in front from which to see the cool older buildings across the way, and the Rock River just down the road a piece. Ceiling is high, tables of solid wood, comfortable enough chairs, kind of dark, a handsome bar and brick walls. The brewery itself is visible through a gate and a glass window, and that's a nice touch. The music is present but unobtrusive---we heard Tom Waits, Natalie Merchant, Van Morrison, etc.---and like the clientele, it seemed like a lot of white folks with good taste.

Nothing wrong with that. The food menu is kind of sparse but not bad for pub grub: pizzas, basic sandwiches, etc. No wings or fried stuff. We had a sausage pizza and it was more than adequate. There were at least twelve beers on tap and we sampled eight of the twelve. That is one of the really nice things in terms of the beer: 5oz. samples go for between $1.25 and $2.50. You can choose what you want to try, and there is no set "flight" menu. That is a very nice touch.

We tried the APA, the imperial stout, the stout, the honey ale, the Irish red, the IPA, the English bitter and the double IPA. Each had its strengths, and each was tasty in its way, but there was nothing outstanding, or that will blow your mind. Of them all I thought the APA was the best as it was the most balanced, drinkable and memorable. Growlers cost $5, and the fill prices vary depending upon what style you get.

The service was competent but not aggressive. I wasn't expecting a whole lot, to be honest, but our waiter was nice and kept us in food and drink.

I liked the atmosphere, the food was serviceable and the beer was not bad. We got there at 4:30 on a Wednesday, and people were trickling in throughout the almost two hours we were there, until the place was pretty full by 6:00. I would definitely go back again, considering that this is the only place of its kind for miles and miles around. The best thing about this place is that it is an independent establishment run by someone who obviously has a love for beer and brewing it himself, and I value that commitment, especially in this city. If you're ever in Rockford, this is the place to go.

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Photo of Bellabananas
1.98/5  rDev -49.7%
vibe: 2 | quality: 1.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 2

We stopped by here because my parents live in Rockford. Boy were we disappointed. Based on the reviews, maybe we just happened by on an off night, despite being a Saturday night. The place just looked completely blah. People were coming in every once in a while, but they all migrated into a back room or something, very few people in the front with the bar. We sampled several different beers and didn't enjoy a single one. My overall impression of their beer is watered down. It was hard to believe that the beers had the ABVs the menu boasted. We didn't try any food and left as soon as we had choked down a beer and some samples. Prices were standard for Rockford, although nice to us since we're from the city. I doubt you could drag me there again.

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Photo of TripT
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

As a life-long resident of this hard-luck city, I think Carlyle is a rare gem. This is the place that I proudly take folks who are visiting from out of town. As others have said, the atmosphere is inviting and the service is friendly. As far as the beer goes, I think most of their offerings are great. There have been a few that I did not care for, but by and large, the beer is very good. I'm guessing the most popular brew they offer is the Humulous Lupulus (sp.?), which is a classy IPA. The Scottish Ale is also noteworthy. They don't devote a lot of resources to food, but what they have is simple and good. Carlyle makes Rockford a better place.

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Photo of homebrew311
3.14/5  rDev -20.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 2 | service: 3 | selection: 4

I am from Chicago but I visit Rockford frequently as my girlfriend's parents live there. I went downtown to seek out some good beer when I came across Carlyle's. Everything about this place was promising... the only brewery in Rockford, a nice atmosphere, a decent list of 12 beers that include some creative styles. The prices were also reasonable 3.75 for a glass (short of a pint) for most of their beers. The first beer I tried was the Bourbon aged cherry stout. This was served in a "goblet". The goblet looked huge (about 12-14 oz) but the glass was so thick that it only looked large perceptually. My guess is that it held 10 oz max. This beer was a huge disappointment. The appearance is thin and watery which for the style is a no no. The taste... water, bourbon, water. No cherry flavor and no roasted stout flavors. If I tasted this blind, I would have guessed it was AB's winter bourbon cask ale. I also sampled the Scotch ale which had a pleasant aroma and had a nice grain profile. Once again, this fell short on the taste. Very watery. It is as if they brewed all of their beer and then watered them down. Also sampled the vanilla cream ale... same story here. I will no go back here. As tempting and attractive as this place is, the product does not deliver.

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Photo of hoosier222002
4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

Stopped in on a Thursday afternoon with some friends. This was the first time I had been in for quite a while. They had approx. 12 beers on tap with a nice range of styles. I enjoyed their Five Malt Ale, Scottish Ale and Imperial Stout. The only downside to the visit was that they were out of the Humulus Lupus (their IPA).

They have recently expanded their food for those interested. They now offer small sandwiches along with pizza and some small snacks.

The atmosphere is nice and relaxing while sitting at the bar and talking with friends. All in all, a very positive experience. Looking forward to going back and enjoying the beer garden for the first time.

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Photo of zebulon
3.43/5  rDev -12.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3 | food: 3

Pleasant bar atmosphere. A little dark but that just made it relaxing.

Not a lot of beer selection but most major types available. Had there IPA which was OK. Had their Triple which was like sweet liquid bananas, the alcohol was hidden in the sweetness - dangerous. More like a light bodied syrup than a beer.

Service was mixed one bar tender (that took care of me) was friendly and informative. The other looked through me like I wasn't there and spend his time with what seemed like regulars.

Lots of regulars in the place, both at the bar and at tables.

Very limited menu bar food brats etc.

A decent place for a snack and a beer. I like to support local breweries when I visit a town and I will be back if I come to Rockford. Not a great place, but certainly worth a stop.

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Photo of spointon
3.9/5  rDev -1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Visited on 10/11/2008.

Being the only brewpub in town, we decided to visit while on a camping weekend at Rock Cut State Park.

This place is located near the river in downtown Rockford. Parking was easy to find on a Saturday afternoon, but I could see it being a problem at other times. Upon entering I was immediately liking the ambiance of the place. The brew house is all off to the right and visible through windows and an open (gated)doorway. The main bar room is to the left and is a long skinny room that has the bar situated on the right side and the tables and booths over to the left. Everything is dark stained wood and very comforting in an old, well-used pub sort of way. The beers are clearly listed on a giant chalkboard at the end of the bar along with the relevant ABVs. The beer garden was down a long hallway and out behind the building (in the alley). It was nicely done (stone wall around it with a gate in the corner) but I decided against it because, well, it was in the alley and hot as hell.

I was impressed to find 12 beers on tap at this little place! A nice assortment of brews including some standards as well as a few showing some creativity (i.e. vanilla cream ale). All but 2 of the beers were in the 4.5 to 5.5 ABV range. I had the American Strong Ale, the Festbier, and the Vanilla Cream Ale. All were what I would consider good and drinkable but nothing earth-shattering to note.

Service was friendly (we sat at the bar) and the bartender was willing to comment on some of the beers, pour free samples, and generally shoot the breeze on a slow Saturday.

The prices at this place were in my opinion very good. The day we visited, 10 of the 12 beers were just $3.75 per pint and the other two were $4.00 per pint. Price wise, my only complaint was that the 2 "expensive" beers were each $26 for a growler refill while the other 10 beers were just $9 per growler refill.

Overall, this is a solid good place to find fresh beer in the Rockford area. I will definitely visit again without reservations on my next trip out that way.

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Photo of Hedeen
3.38/5  rDev -14.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3 | food: 3

Not expecting alot of greatness in Rockford... I love the town... and Cheap Trick... but being a visitor in that town for over 15 years to see family... I've never had a great brew experience there until recent years.

The Carlyle is good. The food is typical brew pub choices and the beer is OK. A bit flavorless at times... but good enough.

I think they need to embrace the wonderful brew mentality that is just up the road in Wisconsin. More classic retro brewing recipes...and homages.

In Rockford, The Carlyle is a safe bet.

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Photo of Contagion
4.38/5  rDev +11.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

This is one of my favorite places to go in Rockford. The interior of the building is very rustic from the exposed beams to the the 18th century style tables along the walls. The center tables are more modern. You can see the brew kettles from your seats through a gated doorway or windows. There is a slight Scottish theme.

The staff is generally very nice and helpful. However, when it gets busy it can be a while before visits. The owner is frequently in the bar and will sit down and talk with you if invited. In fact just last Saturday night he joined some friends and I for pint.

The food menu is not extensive, but everything on there is excellent. They probably have one of the best reubens in the city and the beer brat is also excellent. Their beer menu does change with the seasons. There are some staple favorites on there all year round.

If you are in the Rockford area and like good beer, you would be remiss not to visit.

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Photo of emerge077
4.28/5  rDev +8.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

Glass façade with the brewkettles in full view from the street. Once inside the double doors, there was a preliminary board listing the current specialty brews. It was December, and I was happy to see an Imperial Stout and Christmas Ale listed.

The first thing to draw my eye after stepping in was the colorful "Lion Rampant" flag of Scotland high on the back wall. Brewery area was gated off by Tim Burton style iron gates, right out of the Nightmare Before Xmas. Deep red and blue hues on some walls, with a large exposed brick wall to one side, with 5 educational banners about the brewing process. All house taps at the bar, dark wooden tables and benches in the small seating area.

We sat down and decided to order a pizza, but waited a while for service. Once the server got to us, I could see that he was also working the bar with one other staff member. We probably showed up between shifts, because the service was great once we ordered. They brought several samples over the course of the evening. Didn't get a growler, but the Imperial Stout was the highlight. Pizza was ok, it was ultra thin and employed a flour tortilla as the crust. The other menu items sounded good, deli sandwiches and soft pretzels.

Worth a detour off of I-90, this seems to be the best beer stop Rockford has to offer (in 2007). Also of note in town is Toad Hall, an emporium of collectibles, mostly records, books, and odds & ends.

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Photo of ultralarry2006
4.8/5  rDev +21.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

This brewpub is located near the Rock River in downtown Rockford. It is in an older brick building, and has exposed brick walls on the inside, very charming. The brewing area can be seen from the outside, off to the rightside, and from inside, it can be seen behind glass behind the right side half of the bar. The physical environment combined with the indie rock, jazz, and lounge music piped in on the satellite radio renders a very urbane, even hip ambience. They have only their own beers here, all on-tap, and roughly a dozen or so. The beer here is excellent ! I had one of the best quad's I have ever had, and a really good tripel, as well. I also had some 4 oz. sample sizes of an excellent strong ale ( which is what they called it, I think it was a barleywine ), as well as an excellent hefe-weizen, and a really good scottish ale. The servers here were very friendly, and helpful, and knowledgible. They have food, apparantly of the pub-food variety, but I did not have any since I had just come from having had a huge dinner previously, but maybe next time I will. Anyway, this place is excellent, and has excellent beer, and I would come here often if it was in Chicago, or if I lived in Rockford.

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Photo of Humulus51
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

At $3.50/pint for all except the specialty beers, this place is a great value. It's all about the superb beer, and the owner has no intention of becoming a restaurant.

It's good to note that about a year ago this place voluntarily went smoke-free. The strip club next door, Ken's Hideaway, went out of business in fall of 2006, and Carlyle Brewing has purchased the building and is in the midst of expansion, including plans for a beer garden sometime in the summer of 2007. As of this writing, the stone wall for the bg is half finished.

Food is secondary, but tasty, and freshly prepared to order. The 7" and 12" pizzas have a super thin crust...they are actually flour tortillas..and they are tasty. The 16" is made with a different crust, still thin, but not like the tortillas. The ingredients are fresh and what goes better with beer than pizza? No fried foods, no grilled foods.

The beers are mostly excellent. The owner/brewer is a Belgian fan, and a big beer fan. Trippels, dubbels, quads, American strong ales all dot the menu. Thankfully Don Carlyle, the owner/brewer, who is a graduate of the Seibel Institute, isn't afraid to experiment. While most of his beers are very true to their styles, he's had some fun with a variety of bourbon barrel stouts and monster big beers.

The atmosphere ranges from quiet, a place for crowded and fun. Don't look for TV's, neon, juke boxes or ashtrays.

When the place gets busy, service can be a little slow. The wait staff insists on personally pouring every beer order, then walking the length of the place to behind the bar....then back around. Also strange is the absence of any touch screen order entry. Not a problem during quiet times, but it's a comedy watching the staff operate during peak hours.

Regardless, Carlyle Brewing produces beautiful ales, and when in Rockford, you must visit.

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Photo of TechMyst
2.94/5  rDev -25.4%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3 | service: 2 | selection: 4

Not very large but they had good seating for the space they had. There is a front and alley entrance. Reasonably priced. Good Quality beer. Sandwhiches and Pizza are on the menu. I did not notice anyone smoking. Middleclass 30 something crowd. Service a little slow for how busy it was, but one cannot judge from just one waitress. Plenty of schwag to purchase. Growlers available also. Quite a large selection of beers. I had their IPA which they have monikered Humulus Lupulus. Plenty of seasonal beers also. Good atmosphere. I'd definitely go again!

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Photo of dickroop
3.88/5  rDev -1.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

Stopped in two nights in a row while traveling to this burg. The place obviously has a good set of regulars, which gives it extra points for the neighborhood bar feel. Not crowded when I visited, service was attentive and friendly. Menu is limited. I got a small pizza and it was fine. Not great, but a good deal, tasty, hot, good ingredients.
The beer selection is OK - they had what was important to me, a dry-hopped IPA with a killer nose, good flavor. A fine brew. The American Wheat was awfully close to MGD, althogether lacking in distinction. Coulda-shoulda-woulda tried the stout.
From a seat at the bar, one can see through to the brewing area, and there is serious production going on here. Too bad they don't offer tours more often. This is a solid place, deserving of your visit and patronage, and capable of providing you a brew to remember. Recommended.

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Photo of mynie
4/5  rDev +1.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Nice simple decor. Old brick building and the owners are milking the old brick feel. It's in downtown Rockford, right next to a titty bar and a hip little vintage clothing store.

Came in early evening, right when a bunch of professional-class types were getting off of work and getting ready to drink. The crowd was almost enitrely in its 30s and 40s. Smoke, but not too smoky. Dim lights, but not bar dim, not depressing. The music was old blues and it wasn't playing very loudly.

The bartender and waitress were both friendly. I didn't have any need to test their knoweldges, thanks to a large chalk beer menu that listed and described each beer that was being offered, along with a menu at each table. There were about ten brews to choose from.

The beers ranged from middle of the road to exceptional. The pints were 3.50, quite reasonable (and cheap, compared to the Chicago area). All in all, it's a nice little place. Worth stopping by if you're in the area.

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Photo of zjungleist
4.14/5  rDev +5.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

Located in downtown Rockford, very near the Rock River. You can easily see the cool brewing equipment in the window from the street. Nice, cozy atmosphere, though maybe a bit small. There were several strip clubs in the neighborhood (one next door), so I expected maybe a rougher crowd, but it was surprisingly laid back. Perhaps all the ruffians were next door drinking macros for half the price. Not to say that the joint was expensive. Pints were $3.50, and then they had Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout for like $8. That's fair in my book, for a brewpub.

The beer selection was not huge in any sense, but somewhat unique. They had a vanilla cream ale (which was not great but worth a try), and a triple/belgian seemed interesting. The rest of the selection was fairly standard.

The service was prompt, helpful, and moderately attractive. I had one pint while I got my growlers filled. I didn't have food, but the menu was real simple. Brats, sandwiches, pretzels, that's all I recall. The simple menu is a plus in my book, sort of, because you can tell they are focused on brewing and not cooking. The menu seemed well matched to the simple atmosphere

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Photo of kmpitz2
4.34/5  rDev +10.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4

My in-laws were nice enough to stop in here with me on our way to Madison today. From the outside you can see the brewing equipment. From the inside, it sits behind the bar, visable through a window. I saw that their bourbon aged imperial stout had just gone on and asked about getting a growler of it. I was told that it would run me $60 I got a growler of the Pale Ale to go and had a chalice of the stout while there. It was a typical bar-type establishment. I've heard rumors that they do food, but saw nothing that let me know that while there. The bartender was very nice, taking the time to let the brewer know I had a question. He came out and I was able to ask him what barrels he used to age the stout (Jack Daniels barrels, so bourbon stout is a bit of a stretch). The beer was good, there was a very nice patron that was rather interested in my love of beer and my reviews, so it was really nice to see people taking the time to ask me about what I was doing. I gave him a note with the web address here and my username, so hopefully he will be reading this some time and sign up and see what it is all about. There were 8 brews on tap, all house beers. OVerall, this was a very positive experience. Everyone was very nice and I could easily sit down and have a few beers there.

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Carlyle Brewing Co. in Rockford, IL
Brewery rating: 3.96 out of 5 with 81 ratings