I was tempted to save this post for last but at the same time, I want to share my thoughts on Pig Minds Brewing while the excitement is still fresh in my mind. The drive from Rockford to Machesney Park (just under 15 minutes) seemed a little bleak, but the area near Pig Minds has lot of newer buildings with modern stores, and the brewery is tucked away just beyond them. There’s seating on the patio, but the wind kept us inside and we settled in for a couple hours of pure gluttony. Chris and I were especially looking forward to this because we had a rough start to the morning food-wise and had a good feeling the vegan brewery would lift our spirits.
Both of our eyes quickly jumped to the bottom of the beer list: BEER SAMPLE FLIGHT – Our current draft selection in 5oz glasses – $14.99. The current draft selection offered 10 Pig Minds beers. There wasn’t even a question; we were sharing a flight. The weekend special of Fried Polenta Fries with Harissa Ketchup seemed too good to pass up and Chris ordered the Artisanal Pretzel Sticks with Agave Mustard and a Beer Reduction Sauce. Everything was cooked perfectly and I loved the spice of the ketchup. I have no clue how they made the Beer Reduction and I honestly don’t even know how exactly to describe it but it was amazing. They seriously should bottle that up and sell it because it would fly off the shelves. It was awesome with the pretzels and we both also loved dipping the fries from my entree in it.
The beers have fun names and we took our time working our way through them and comparing notes. I knew going in that I would like the Joe Daddy because it’s a coffee stout and I did enjoy the dark coffee flavor. However, I ended up liking the Keep on Swinging more because the roasted flavor of this Belgium brown ale appealed to me ever so slightly more than the coffee flavor in the Joe Daddy, and I brought home a howler. Along the same vein, their Smokey Scott is an American Scottish ale with roasted malt so these three darker beers were my favorites. Chris and I also both really liked Old Man Withers, a barrel-aged English strong ale with a 10.0% ABV, which made me think of Bent Brewstillery’s Kalamity. Unfortunately, this one was a small batch and unavailable as a take-home purchase, otherwise it definitely would have found its way into the cooler.
The Irish Red, proclaimed Southy Bitch Slap, went down smoothly but I couldn’t quite say the same for its vanilla bean-aged sister, Vanilla Bitch. I know many who would love Pig Minds’ Death Grip and Sweep the Leg for their citra hops but these were not for me! We walked out with bombers of their American brown ale, Phil-Up, and the Joe Daddy for my friends Sarah and Jason who cat sat while we were gone and I can’t wait to find out what they think.
After letting the appetizers settle for a bit, we dove into our entrees. I chose the Korean BBQ Tacos and Chris got the Pig Minds Burger. The texture of the marinated soy curls was great and I loved the tangy flavor of the sauce, along with the crunch of the cabbage. At first I found the lime sour cream a little boring but all together, the taco was awesome. I would be tempted to order this every time I visit, especially because the fries were yummy too – some mushy, some crispy, delicious on their own but even better with the Beer Reduction. The chipotle aioli and guacamole spread on Chris’ black bean burger couldn’t have complemented it better!
And last but not least — dessert. I had my eye on the Special Brownie: made with chocolate & the Joe Daddy stout and topped with chocolate syrup & peanut sauce. I would have walked out if this wasn’t incredible. Thankfully, it was heavenly and decadent and I was tempted to lick the plate. The brownie was dense and just the right amount of peanut sauce made for a party in my mouth. Pig Minds also offers a rotating dessert special, so Chris found himself with a brownie topped by chocolate mousse and blueberries. We both also loved this one, despite finding the blueberries a little lacking in flavor. The mousse was so creamy and rich, it more than made up for it.
Whether you’re vegan or not, if you find yourself anywhere near Rockford, IL, swing by Pig Minds Brewing and grab a pint of their rotating beer selection. We warned our server we’d be camped out for awhile and I felt like she gave us just the right amount of attentiveness. There’s a laid back vibe and a good variety on both the food and beer menus. Finding this vegan brewery inspired our trip and we’re both so glad it lived up to our expectations!