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Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Carlyle Brewing Co Review Brewery In Downtown Rockford Illinois By In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Thirsty Thursdays

For a classic hometown brewpub, look no further than the Carlyle Brewing Co., in downtown Rockford, Illinois. Known endearingly by the locals as “Carlyle”, it’s a warm, inviting space for some tasty craft beers.


Where is Carlyle Brewing?

Carlyle Brewing Co. is located at 215 E State St. in Rockford, Illinois, about 1 ½ to 2 hours west of Chicago. It’s part of their historic downtown district, which has been revitalized over the last ten years as Gen X’ers and Millennials are opening up new businesses. On Friday nights in the summertime, Rockford City Market is a small pop-up market that’s popular with the locals, and Carlyle Brewing is right next to where it happens.

How to Get to Carlyle

Rockford does have public transportation, with the 11 and 12 lines running directly in front of Carlyle Brewing Company, with the close-by stop at Madison and E State (West). We’d recommend a car to get around Rockford though, as the buses only run every 30 minutes or so. Ubers and Lyfts are an option, as well.

If you’re visiting from Chicago, it’s best to drive. Greyhound and Van Galder offer bus routes between the two cities, but it would still be a pain to get around in Rockford once you’re there. If you don’t have a car in Chicago to drive out there, you’d be better off renting one (we recommend finding cheap car rentals on Turo).

Our Experience

Carlyle Brewing Co. was founded in 2003 by master brewer Don Carlyle. Decked out in brick and dark wood, the decor is warm, inviting, and makes it feel more like a full-on pub rather than just a brewery tasting room. On our most recent trip to Rockford, we popped in for a beer after visiting Adam’s brother at his skate shop, Ground Floor Skateboards, just up the street, but we’ve visited a few times before too. For being a random Thursday afternoon, before 5pm, the brewery was quite busy, but the bartender still delivered prompt table service.

Craft Beer Brewery In Rockford Illinois Carlyle Brewing Co Black Walnut Stout And Stanilla Beer Mix With In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Thirsty Thursdays

Carlyle Brewery Menu

Carlyle is well-known in Rockford for having some of the best craft brews in town. Their beer selection features some local favorites, and the rest are rotated out on a seasonal basis. Their current beer selection consists of:

  • Vanilla Cream Ale

This is the “OG” (as they call it) and is definitely a local favorite. It was one of the first beers brewed at Carlyle and has been a mainstay on their tap list ever since. Its strong hits of vanilla are sweet enough to satisfy anyone with a 4 o’clock sugar craving after a long day in the office and the 5% ABV isn’t too shabby either.

  • American Stout

This stout was their first dark beer to hit and is also a mainstay on their taplist. Coming in at a healthy 6.2% ABV, the beer is bold and cuts right through your palate.

  • Stanilla

In recent years, Carlyle has been experimenting with mixed ales. The Stanilla is a mix of their OG Vanilla Cream Ale and American Stout, giving an incredible balance between the sweetness of the vanilla and the bitterness of the stout. I ordered this and was not disappointed!

  • Black Walnut Stout

This beer is one of the newer brews at Carlyle but is quickly becoming a local favorite. It sure caught Phoebe’s eye! The notes of black walnut add complexity to their popular American Stout, but it had a bit more of a bitter flavor than Phoebe was expecting. Still at 6.2% ABV though, it’s hard to complain.

  • Black Wanilla Stout

This of course leads to another mixed beer, mixing the Black Walnut Stout with the Vanilla Cream Ale. Having the two mixed together enhances both flavors of Vanilla and Black Walnut, making it a near perfect pour. Phoebe is excited to order this next time we go!

  • Carlyle also has an Irish Red, a Belgian Blond, a pilsner, a honey ale, and an IPA on tap. I’m partial to the Irish Red, as it’s not quite as bitter as the stout, but not as sweet as the Vanilla Cream Ale.

Prices are reasonable too; the cost for a pint of one of Carlyle’s craft beers is only $5.50-$6! Or you can order an 11oz glass or even a 5oz glass if you want to sample several, which we always love doing when we go somewhere new. Since they change their menu fairly frequently, you can check their most up-to-date menu on their website. They also offers to-go beers in a few different sizes:

  • Growlers - 64oz glass bottles that can be brought back and refilled at a discounted price after an initial few-dollar buy.

  • Crowlers - 32oz canned beers for less than the cost of two pints.

  • Pints - 16oz canned beers that cost about the same as in the pub.

As far as food is concerned, Carlyle used to offer on-site hot, fresh pizza, but since the pandemic, they’ve eliminated the food aspect of the pub. They do still offer hot salted pretzels (which also come in a sweet-cream filled or jalapeno-filled variety), but that’s it. We did overhear the bartender talk about a meat and cheese plate they were offering that afternoon, but don't count on having the brewery’s kitchen open. That being said, they encourage people to get food from other local businesses and bring it in to eat while enjoying a beer.

They now also offer fresh to-go pizzas, but you have to bake them at home. We’re sure that plenty of locals have refilled their growler and grabbed a pizza to enjoy at home after a long day at work. If you’re just feeling snacky at the pub, they offer snack-sized bags of Mrs. Fisher’s potato chips, the local potato chip based in Rockford. There’s a debate over whether Mrs. Fishers is better than Ole Salty’s, the other local Rockford-based potato chip company, but we’re firm believers that there is no potato chip like Mrs. Fishers.

Carlyle Brewing Co Brewpub In Downtown Rockford Illinois Review By In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Thirsty Thursdays

Carlyle Brewing Co Hours

After closing for a long while during the pandemic, Carlyle Brewing Co. has reopened with limited hours. At the time we’re writing this, they are open:

  • Wednesday & Thursday: 4:00pm – 8:00pm

  • Friday & Saturday: 3:00pm – 9:00 pm

If there are enough people still in the pub, they are happy to stay open later on all those days, but you can’t always count on it. If you’re looking for somewhere that’s open 7 days a week and a little later, try Prairie Street Brewing Co. that’s a 10-minute walk up the street.

Our Verdict

Despite the limited hours and the limited food menu, when in Rockford, make a stop at the Carlyle Brewing Co. as their beer is creative and just plain delicious. Even if you don’t want to stay a while, grab a growler to take home, filled with your favorite brew.

Warm And Inviting Atmosphere Pub With Dark Woods At Carlyle Brewery In Downtown Rockford Illinois Review By In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Thirsty Thursdays

Quick Reference Guide



How to Get There

The 11 and 12 RMTD lines run right by Carlyle, but are inconsistent; we recommend having a car to get around in Rockford


  • Wednesday & Thursday: 4:00pm – 8:00pm

  • Friday & Saturday: 3:00pm – 9:00 pm

Bring a crowd and they’ll happily stay open later


Tap beers are between $5.50 - $6 per pint, with to-go pints costing about the same. To-go Growlers and Crowlers offer a bigger bang for your buck.

Reservation Info

No reservations

Our Verdict

Worth dropping in before or after dinner in Rockford to try their “Wanilla” beer mixture of their OG Vanilla Cream Ale and the Black Walnut Stout

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In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Thirsty Thursdays Writer Adam Neubauer


In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog Phoebe and Adam at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, Scotland

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