ROCKFORD, Ill. — Just two years after launching a new name and brand identity, and riding a dramatic wave of success, Prairie Street Brewing Company announced the launch of its first canned beers for off-site sales: Feather Eye Rye, a tasty rye IPA, and a fruit-enhanced Kölsch called Berry River Roll.
“This is the first time beer has been packaged in this building for many decades,” said Reed Sjostrom, co-founder and head of brewery operations.
Prairie Street Brewing Co is housed in an historic brick building built by Jonathan Peacock, an English brewer who immigrated to the United States and first brewed beer in Rockford in 1849.
“It’s kind of surreal, really, drinking beer you helped make out of a can. We’re excited about this and we hope it makes a few customers happy along the way, too,” Sjostrom said.
Sjostrom says the move to distributing beer to off-premise locations such as regional grocery stores, liquor stores, restaurants and bars is a natural part of the company’s growth. And, the brewery has, indeed, been on a roll for several years. It sold 1098 barrels of beer in 2015; 1160 in 2016 and 1250 in 2017.
“We will add another 400 – 500 barrels in 2018,” Sjostrom said. “It’s all part of our desire to bring our brews to more people in the region, wherever they are. We want Prairie Street Brewing Co to be known as ‘Rockford’s hometown beer.’”
“We developed Berry River Roll in summertime when the docks were opening. We wanted to make a classic summer beer: something refreshing and crushable. Berry River Roll is perfect for sitting on a boat, on a lawn chair, on a dock … and just watching the river roll by. It’s all-natural; we put blackberries and blueberries in the press and dump the juice in the tank. That’s it. No additives, no sweeteners. So, don’t be too surprised if you get a little fleck of fruit in your beer. It’s a bonus! But, this is not an overpowering, fruit-forward beer. It has a very clean finish that just makes you want another one.”
The second canned style, Feather Eye Rye, is a truly unique twist on a very popular style in the challenging modern world of craft brewing.
“IPAs are super popular, of course,” Sjostrom said. “So, we wanted one of our first canned styles to be an IPA. But, we didn’t want to do just any IPA. Feather Eye Rye really showcases the ability of our brewers to make complex beers. It shines up front with rye spice and a little fruit, then moves on to a velvety medium body in the middle and finishes with citrus, pine, and tropical and herbal notes. Feather Eye Rye is a product of our experimental Pilot Series and we could not be prouder of it. The judges at tastings.com loved it, too. It won a 92 point Gold Medal this year.”
On the day of Prairie Street Brewing Co’s first canning operation, Head Brewer Steve Lenox was feeling proud, as well. Anyone would, he said, but his pride was mixed with a little professional consternation.
“On canning day, I was busy making sure the beer was perfectly conditioned for canning,” said Lenox. “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t foaming too much, that it was properly carbonated and that it didn’t have too much dissolved oxygen. Those things can really make a good beer go bad in a can – and I want our six pack customers to enjoy the same quality beer they would here at the brewery. After it was all said and done? I was very happy. Very proud.”
Monday, May 14 from 5:00pm until 8:00 p.m., Prairie Street Brewing Co will host a Can Launch Party on the docks. Join brewery founders Reed Sjostrom, Chris Manuel and Dustin Koch and brewers Steve Lenox, Dave Hertzing and Shawn “Skippy” Steiner and the whole Prairie Street team to celebrate the canned release of Berry River Roll and Feather Eye Rye.
The party will feature live music, t-shirt printing, raffle giveaways, an opportunity to talk about beer with the brewers and, of course, a chance to be among the first to purchase six-packs of Berry River Roll and Feather Eye Rye. Don’t miss it!
Off-premise, Berry River Roll and Feather Eye Rye will be available in six packs at Valli Produce, Woodman’s, Cork & Keg, Artale, Everrett’s, The District, CJ’s, Woodfire and other regional locations.
For information, visit our website: psbrewingco.com
Prairie Street Brewing Company’s Success
In 2017, 175,000 retail customers were served in the brewery’s many event spaces, the brewpub dining room, Dockside Taproom downstairs and at the “out on the docks” outdoor seating venue.
Many more customers were served offsite as the company continued to expand its reach via catering services and at special events where they pitched their tents and poured many thousands more pints for thirsty fans.
All those performance indicators are well on their way to being exceeded in 2018.
Jonathan Peacock & His Historic Old Brewery
Prairie Street Brewing Company is housed in the oldest brewery building in the state of Illinois. There were older ones, but they all burned down in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Jonathan Peacock, who built the building, immigrated from Markingham, England to Chicago, IL in 1847 where he found employment with Diversey & Lil Brewery. Wanting more out of life, he purchased a small Greek revival home at 200 Prairie Street alongside the Rock River in nearby Rockford, Illinois in 1849 and founded his own brewery: Peacock Brewery. He invested $200 in the purchase of the home. There, in the early days of Peacock Brewery, he ground malt in a hand-milled coffee grinder, brewed mash in a washtub and delivered his brew to fellow Rockfordians in a wheelbarrow.
Peacock’s limestone home still stands at the intersection of Prairie Street and Madison on the southeast corner of the PSB property.
The Englishman’s success wasn’t immediate, but business was good. In1857, Peacock built a brewhouse/bottling plant on the two acre site behind his home. Thanks to an on-site artesian well, he had access to good, fresh water – and the Rock River provided ice for many months of the year in those days. On the east side of his property ran the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad for easy distribution. In 1860, Peacock brewed a hit: a lager he called Nikolob, “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Jealous.” Legend has it that’s where the idea for Michelob originated.
Peacock passed away in 1896 at the then ripe old age of 75. His sons, Edwin and Frank, took over the brewery’s operations. In 1899, the brothers’ passed away and the brewery was operated by Frank’s widow for a brief time. In 1900, Peacock Brewing Company was sold to a Croatian immigrant named John V. Petritz, who re-named it Rockford Brewing Company. By 1909, Petritz brewed nearly 75,000 barrels of beer annually.
In 1919, Petritz and two business partners tried to circumvent the new US Prohibition ban on alcoholic beverages. The Feds found out and the brewery was soon converted to Rockford Storage Warehouse.
Prohibition was repealed in 1933 and Petritz reenergized his brewery until 1934 when it again changed hands. It was purchased by John Fox, who operated the company as Rock River Brewing Company. In 1945, the Stormont family purchased it and converted it once again to a storage and warehouse business.
In 1999, Loyd and Diane Koch purchased the building and began to design and convert an expansive mixed use development. The purchase was made by the couple in part due to the many years they had spent boating and enjoying the Rock River.
“We love Rockford and we love the Rock River,” said Loyd Koch. “We always admired the old brewery building and thought it could – and should – be a destination for boaters as well as people who want to experience the river from land. For too long, too much of the land along the river has been devoted to industrial sites. Diane and I wanted to create positive access to the River, and we hope others will be inspired to do the same thing.”
Prairie Street Brewing Company’s Commitment to Green Business Practices
Green isn’t just the dominant color in Prairie Street Brewing Company’s new logo – it’s a way of life for the business. Owners Dustin Koch, Reed Sjostrom and Chris Manuel make a point of thinking about the environment first when making business decisions:
- Prairie Street Brewing Co believes canning is the most eco-friendly way to brew beer and the best way to keep it fresh.
- The building itself, originally started in 1849 by Jonathan Peacock, is a lovingly restored historic landmark that’s on the National Historic Registry.
- All the bar tops and most of the public furniture at Prairie Street Brewing Company are hand-crafted of retrieved lumber removed from the building during renovation.
- Prairie Street Brewing Company employs geothermal energy for heat and air conditioning throughout the building and in the brewing process.
- In its operations, the business recycles as much waste as is humanly possible.
- The brewery is committed to operating with efficient and long-lasting LED lightbulbs.
- Prairie Street Brewing Company even sends spent brewing grains grain to a local farmer to feed livestock.