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An interesting thing happened when Big Grove Brewery opened its second location in Iowa City in 2017. Somewhere along the line, the massive Gilbert Street bar, restaurant and entertainment complex ceased to be just a hangout and became a community.

“The space has really evolved into something people like and the community feels like is theirs,” said founding partner Matt Swift on how Big Grove has maintained the title as Best Brewery for a second consecutive year. “There’s a sense of pride that’s developed over the past few years and things are really clicking.”

Big Grove’s original location opened in Solon in 2013 with a small brewing operation that was a local hit. But the opening of its cavernous 26,000-square-foot complex in the growing Riverfront Crossings district and a move last year into manufacturing and retail sales pushed the brewery into the spotlight in a big way — most recently as the brewer of RAGBRAI’s official beer, Tailwind Golden Ale. Big Grove has also started selling its products in 12-packs.

“Giving people the ability to take [beers] with them has been a big plus for us,” Mr. Swift said, adding that the RAGBRAI-inspired ale “has just been going crazy.”

– Katharine Carlon

1st Runner Up: Lion Bridge Brewing Co.

2nd Runner Up: Iowa Brewing Company