Rockford and its citizens have been waiting for a brewery for a while.
Bill and Charlene Dehn have been waiting since this time last year to use their mug club membership at the Rockford Brewing Company. RBC co-founder and co-owner Jeff Sheehan says he’s been waiting five years to open it. And Rockford resident Peggy Barbour says she’s been waiting since 1988.
On Thursday, the wait was over. After a week of “soft openings,” the brewpub opened its doors to all comers with an all-day grand opening.
The festivities began with an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. On hand to speak and cut the ribbon was State Representative Peter MacGregor.
MacGregor was moved by the perseverance and entrepreneurial drive of RBC’s founders. He heralded them as an example of the spirit Michigan needs to rejuvenate its workforce.
MacGregor wasn’t the only emotional participant on hand, of course. Sheehan and his co-founders, Seth Rivard and Rockford Mayor Brian Dews, were excited and a little astounded to see their project finally come to fruition. Sheehan called the final weeks before the opening a miraculous transformation.
“It’s overwhelming to see people in the building drinking our own product,” he said.
As expected with a grand opening so long and widely anticipated, the event packed the house. In the downstairs bar area, customers could squeeze into a gap at one of the long tables. Upstairs, the benches were full, and it was standing room only.
The cellars were adequately stocked though — all eight of RBC’s current beers were available throughout the day. The offerings spanned the spectrum from light to dark, starting with a Hefeweizen-style wheat and ending with an Irish stout.
The most popular among customers and servers seemed to be the Carriage House Ale — a smooth, bright beer not too light for winter drinking — and the caramel-and-malt O’Brien’s Red Ale. But many customers named three or even four of the eight beers on tap as “favorites.”
Sheehan is confident that the beer will continue to be the main attraction. He said that a year from now he will measure success not by production or distribution but by taste: “The biggest success would be people noticing the quality of the beer.”