It’s a hot spot of activity all summer long, and it keeps the entertainment coming through the cold winters. This downtown Rockford spot is a favorite to locals and travelers on many levels.
One of the hottest spots in Rockford in the warm-weather months is Prairie Street Brewing Co., located downtown and nestled on the Rock River at 200 Prairie St.
Highlighted by Dinner on the Dock every Thursday from May to the end of August, where people gather for food, beer and music, Prairie Street has become the place to be.
That status doesn’t end when the weather turns cold.
The large, five-story red brick building -– a National Historic Landmark – stays busy year-round. Billed as the oldest brewery in the state, dating back to 1857 when it was known as the Peacock Brewery, the fully restored Prairie Street houses a brewery, brewpub, dockside taproom, seven unique event spaces, offices, lofts and a marina.
There are typically 12 styles of beers available at any time, according to Reed Sjostrom, the chief brand and products officer and co-owner of Prairie Street along with Dustin Koch.
“We always keep a variety of beer styles flowing, so there is something for every beer-loving palate, from light lagers to dark stouts and everything in between,” Sjostrom says. “We also rotate our seasonals to ensure the best style for that time of year is being offered.”
All of the favorites – like the light lager “Screw City” (an homage to their hometown’s fastener-making past) and the Prairie Street IPA (a West Coast-style pale ale) – are sure winners.
For the strong beer lover, the 90-pound hammer Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine is a seasonal classic that’s always in great anticipation.
“And, this year we have brought back our sunshine sake ale,” Sjostrom says. “It’s brewed with sake yeast. It’s very unique. It is made to pair with our very popular February special menu: Far East February. That will include different types of ramen, including a vegetarian ramen, a pork ramen and a cold ramen.”
That’s just a seasonally inpired portion of the vast menu available at Prairie Street Brewing.
“It starts with our cheese curds. People just love them,” Sjostrom says. “Our pretzels are popular, as well.”
Other go-to items include the turkey club, which has been on the menu since Prairie Street began in 2013. The Nashville hot chicken sandwich is making a comeback, too.
There’s even more to the daily lunch and dinner menus than appetizers and sandwiches. The menu also sports salads, a vast selection of burgers and “Big Plates” like the new wagyu steak dish that Sjostrom calls “amazing.”
This January, Prairie Street brings back a variety of “comfort foods” that include meatloaf, chicken pot pie and a spaghetti dish.
“We have a heartier choice of meals in the winter and take down some of our lighter dishes,” Sjostrom says.
Food is served in both the upstairs bar and main dining area, as well as the dockside bar downstairs. The dockside bar only offers lunch on Fridays and weekends in the winter months, Sjostrom says.
While the menu alone is an attraction, Prairie Street is also a popular spot for social gatherings. It offers six rooms as well as the outdoor river deck. There are spaces for everything from weddings to smaller business meetings. The rooms range from the Barrel Room (500 row seating, 300 table seating) to the Petritz Board Room (18 table seating).
“Now is a great time to come and view the space,” Sjostrom says. “You can see the building and get a feel for what we offer. And around this time of year, we get calls from people who just got engaged for Christmas or New Year’s and want to plan their wedding. They just have to give us a call and we can set up a tour.”
Prairie Street is open Wednesday through Monday at 11 a.m., with the kitchen closing at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 p.m. all other days. It’s closed on Tuesdays.