Within the last 2 weeks I’ve been to quite a few local restaurants and breweries. Granted, I practically live in these places but lately I continue to be blow away with what these brilliant minds are doing. Let me start with what I love…the beer. The sweet, the hoppy, the malty, the chocolatey, the coffeey?, just beer.
My wife I headed to 3rd Base Brewing in Cedar Rapids to meet her bro-in-law and his family for a meal. I’m not going to lie, they had Abrasive on tap, and it was delicious. But, after my Abrasive, their Cobra coffee oatmeal stout caught my eye, and then after the first one, caught my taste buds again. A fantastic stout, wonderful for the coffee lover, wonderful for the stout lover, wonderful for the beer lover. 3rd Base has become a staple, a mainstay, a frequently attended spot for the Baron and family. Why? I get great beer, excellent food, and the best thing, I can take my kids.
Onto my next destination. Lion Bridge. Now, Quinton and Alec probably get sick of seeing my mug at this place. I probably should just rent an apartment nearby. I live 13 minutes and 36 seconds away from Lion Bridge and depending on my aggressiveness, can get their a bit sooner. Yellow light means speed up, correct? Anyway, the beer they brewed for St Pats and St. Joseph’s Day, the Olde No. 17 could easily replace Guinness as my go to green holiday stout. In fact, it should be go to year round stout. Brewed with potatoes to give it more dryness, this beer is what I picture people enjoying at the classic pubs across Ireland for years, now turns into what people enjoying at pubs/breweries in IOWA enjoying for years to come. Excellent stuff. And, once you finish that, I hope you have/had the opportunity to try a GAZPROM! and the collab Mellowdrama. All terrific!
Off to Big Grove in Solon I go. Since opening close to two years ago I’ve spent more time at this establishment than I have at my workplace. Ok, a bit far-fetched, but seriously, I’m here alot. And why not? Another 11 minute and 24 second trip from door to door, being able to talk to the brewery, talk to the restaurant manager, talk to the manager, and at times enjoy beers with them. With their latest and greatest beer, Bill and company have hit one out of the park. The first ever, Iowa-brewed, Triple IPA. And like most of the things these folks do, there’s a terrific cause behind it. This brew benefits the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society of Eastern Iowa. The beer is the smoothest of all triple IPAs I’ve ever had and most doubles as well. I believe it checks in at 11.4%, but the booze is hidden remarkably well, making this dangerous so damn drinkable.
Onto the grub. All three of the above have terrific menus. Some are the basic bar/pub fare, some are locally sourced, some are unique and artisanal. All are amazing. Chef Ben Smart at Big Grove puts out some the best food in the area, his Beer Dinners are becoming legendary and their not even 2 years old yet! Now, onto my town. Mount Vernon, Iowa. Smaller college town that has 2 options I think can satisfy both beer and food. 1st place is Chameleon’s Pub and Grub. Nick and company continue to get craft beer on tap, pushing the envelope in a small town for craft beer can be very difficult. He’s working his ass off to do it. Lion Bridge, Big Grove, Exile, Kona, Summit all on tap, with Stone, Green Flash, Sam Adams, Founds coming in bottles. Get yourself a bacon, bleu-cheese burger, a local brew and sit back and enjoy and comfortable atmosphere.
The next stop is Lincoln Wine Bar. A once, sometimes twice, sometimes three times a week stop for the Baron household is pushing out wood fired pizzas with nightly specials using locally sourced ingredients. All the pizzas I’ve ever had have been terrific. The last one being a goat cheese, shrimp, and jalapeno, pie of perfection. I just met Jesse (sp?) for the first time on my last stop. He had a full selection of new-to-Iowa Surly Beers which go excellent with their terrific pizzas. Not only Surly, but a excellent bottle list for such a small-spaced pizzeria. Not to mention, he also kicked out a Prairie Apple Brandy-Noir. Does he want draft lines? Absolutely. Right now the space is too tight but I think this guy is going to make it work one way or the other.
Okay, that’s too much typing for me. Time for a brew. The good news is, tons of people know about and support these places, the better news is, I think it’s only going to get better. Cheers!