In the same riverside location an English immigrant named Jonathan Peacock began building his brewery in Rockford, Ill., in 1849, a trio of young Rockfordians fulfilled their shared dream to be in the craft brewing business. In 2013, they opened an all-new version of Peacock’s Rockford Brewing Co. The beer was flowing and the kitchen was busy. In summertime, the riverside docks were filling up with boats, beer drinkers and diners. Business was good. Very good.
Native Rockfordians all, Reed Sjostrom, Dustin Koch and Chris Manuel are co-owners of Prairie Street Brewing Co. in Rockford. In the backs of their minds, though, the three owners knew one aspect of their business needed streamlining and improvement: the brand identity and how the business was being promoted.
“We actually had two names and that was confusing people, including us,” said Dustin Koch. “Rockford Brewing Company stood for brewing craft beer and Prairie Street Brewhouse stood for everything else that went on in the building, from meetings and weddings to leasing offices and loft apartments. We knew we had to take a long look at our brand and get better and more efficient.”
The company was full steam ahead when the trio received a message from the owners of another Rockford Brewing Co., this one in Rockford, Mich.
“We had no idea there was another Rockford Brewing Company,” said Dustin Koch. “I mean, here we were in this historic building that had been named, ‘Rockford Brewing Company,’ back in 1900. The last thing on our minds was, ‘hey, ya think there are any other Rockford Brewing Company’s out there?”
After the Rockford owners filed an initial lawsuit to protect their name, a period of fairly cordial communication took place between the two ownership groups. They talked and emailed and an out-of-court agreement was reached to, again, coexist. But, that didn’t satisfy the Illinois partners’ desire to improve their branding.
“We still knew we had to streamline our brand,” Sjostrom said. “And we needed to be better prepared for moves we want to make in the future. Even after the quarrel with the Michigan boys, we were still confusing our own customers and we needed to pave the way for a strategically strong future. We wanted to create an original brand, something uniquely ours and distinctive to this Rockford generation – but still rooted in our building’s history. It was definitely time to make another change.”
To honor the legacy of Jonathan Peacock, the business will now be called Prairie Street Brewing. Its logo will feature an image of a peacock bird as well as three feathers — an oblique reference to the three new owners. Jonathan Peacock immigrated to the United States with one thing in mind: craft great beer. After a brief two-year stop in Chicago, he began making his dream a reality in Rockford in 1849.
“It turned out the real secret to our brand was in the ingenuity and spirit of the British gentleman who started brewing on these grounds in 1849,” said Chris Manuel. “That’s pretty cool. I really believe Jonathan Peacock’s spirit is still alive here, and we should honor him. If he didn’t do what he did, Dustin and Reed and I might not have decided to build this business together. We have become like brothers, and we think of him as sort of a long-lost great, great grandfather. So, it feels right to honor his name and legacy with our brand identity.”
Prairie Street Brewing is soft-launching the new brand-identity and progressively introducing new elements such as a new menu emblazoned with the words, Birds of A Feather Drink & Dine Together. Prairie Street Brewing is much more than just a craft brewery and eatery. It also plays host to weddings, meetings and all kinds of special events in its many events spaces.
“That’s pretty much it in a nutshell,” said Reed Sjostrom. “Birds of a feather. Everyone is welcome and among friends here. We want every guest to have a memorable, relaxing experience and let go of their worries — whether they’re stopping by for a beer in the Pub upstairs or Dockside Taproom downstairs, or they’re renting the Barrel Room for a 300-guest wedding.”
There’s a lot more in store for fans of Prairie Street Brewing in the near future, as well.
“There’s a LOT more coming,” said Dustin Koch. “We’re getting started on a new website, new signage, new merchandise, new advertising.”
“There’s also this little brand-spanking new restaurant we’re going to open at the UW Health Sports Factory in downtown Rockford this summer — and it’ll have something to do with beer. Well, a lot, actually…but, shhhhh! Don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret,” Manuel said.
Any last thoughts on the shift to Prairie Street Brewing?
“I’m really happy with where we’re going now,” he said. “I’d like to think it would make Jonathan Peacock happy, too. Proud, in fact. Peacock Proud.”
Jay Graham is creative director of GrahamSpencer, a Rockford, Ill.-based brand, advertising and content development agency with offices in Tenn., Utah and N.J. He is a student of Rockford history and ardent beer enthusiast.