Just 59.7 miles Northeast of our Quad Cities is Solon, Iowa, and just down Solon’s Main Street is Big Grove Brewery, a cool little place to have a few beers and get something to eat. Opened in August of 2013, it’s a fairly new place though the third venture of the same owners of Brickstone Fine Dining, located in Iowa City, and Red’s Alehouse, in North Liberty (also both great places to visit, eat, and drink). The Executive Chef and Head Brewer also have some impressive credentials and are both Iowans returning back to their homeland. Both gentlemen use locally grown ingredients as often as possible – including hops purchased from a hop farm just down the street.
My partner in crime and I arrived there on a Saturday afternoon at the end of the Hawkeye basketball game – they were on their way to victory over Ohio State. The energy of Iowa City on a game day – especially when they’re doing well – has always touched me. I’m not too much of a sports fanatic but I am a Hawkeye and when you’re in town and everyone’s wearing black and gold, there’s a great sense of camaraderie there.
From the outside, the building doesn’t appear to be anything too special, but it is gorgeous inside. They label it “Barn Contemporary” and that’s an accurate description – high wooden ceilings with dark metal beams and wooden tables and art work all throughout. We sat at the bar and at first decided what to drink. I tried a sample of Big Grove’s IPA and their all Citra hopped Pale Ale. I preferred and ordered the IPA, the Pale Ale was a bit to prickly at the end for me. My travel companion ordered Lion Bridge’s Coffee Compensation – one word. Delicious. This would be the third beer by Lion Bridge I’ve had and I’ve really enjoyed all of it so far. They’re located in Cedar Rapids – a place a plan to visit soon.
Next we turned out attention to the menu – lots of good options, wood fired pizzas, sandwiches, and some interesting out-of-the-ordinary items. We ordered the mac n’cheese (hands down some of the best mac n’ cheese I’ve ever had), tater tot casserole (solid), and the pork shoulder (gross – served cold with a layer on fat on it you stirred into it, not what we expected).
While there we struck up a conversation and shared a piece of pizza with an older couple sitting next to us whose son worked behind the bar and was beginning to brew beer there as well. We tasted his Rabbit Rye, the very first beer he brewed. We also tried both of their stouts and the goza, the latter I preferred. In addition to the Lion Bridge beer on tap, they had other guest drafts and a fairly decent selection of bottles and bombers – they still were touting bottles of Deschute’s Abyss.
We learned during our visit that Big Grove currently brews with a 3 1/2 barrel system with 3 fermenters now and 3 on the way. The gentlemen who told me this was a little hesitant – wasn’t confident but their brew house is fairly small.
On Big Grove’s website, they mention having a lot of support from the community within Solon and the greater Iowa City area. It was evident during our visit – though people came and went the bar and the restaurant both were always bustling with patrons. I know I thoroughly enjoyed myself – the food, beers, and company were all outstanding. Go check it out sometime when you have a free afternoon.