Issue 30

Microbrews Hit the Metro

Microbrews Hit the Metro

The American micro-brew phenomenon that came to roost here in the 1980’s has increasingly grabbed the attention of beer drinkers across the country.  Where it was once relegated to yuppie bars in major metropolitan areas, it’s now not too hard to find at least a Sam Adam’s or Blue Moon in the smallest of rural communities.

Locally, the boom has really come on strong in recent years with retail stores and bars actually specializing in the many brands and styles available in the market now. Even the dirtiest of dive bars have had to cut a couple of rows of PBR to make way for a pale ale or a wheat beer. Omaha and Lincoln even have a nice array of brew pubs such as Nebraska Brewing Company, Upstream Brewing Company, and Empyrean churning out fine craft beers.

It’s not as surprising as it seems that almost every community with a population of over 50,000, and many under that, has a locally brewed beer that represents them. In Omaha our choices have for the most part been limited to Boulevard, Shiner, Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium until recent times. Those are all fine breweries with many excellent styles, but it is nice to see growth in the market and enough choices becoming available to keep the taste buds alive and guessing. Instead of going over the stalwarts available in our community this is a quick overview of some newer craft beers and those becoming more available here in the area. For further growth and exploration of microbrews check out the selections at Beertopia, Brewsky’s Park Drive Bottle Shop, Jakes, and even many of the Hy-Vee grocery stores.

One of the newest additions to the Omaha market is The Left Hand Brewing Company out of Longmont Colorado. The brewery has many specialty and seasonal offerings like its Gooseinator Smoked Dopplebock and Warrior IPA along with its normal fare such as The Sawtooth Ale and Polestar Pilsner. It seems as if beer drinkers around Omaha though have become enamored by the brewery’s Milk Stout. The Milk Stout pours dark brown and has a smooth and creamy texture and head. The beer features a smoky coffee and chocolate aroma. It’s not as intimidating as some stouts can be and definitely not as bland as some of the more popular stouts on the market.

Another new addition to the Omaha market last year was the Big Sky line of brews out of Missoula Montana. Big Sky is a simple brewery with four common styles including its Big Sky IPA, Scapegoat Pale Ale, and it’s Trout Slayer Ale. The brewery has done some special editions and also releases a summer and winter seasonal every year. I am seeing some of the initial beers disappear out of the coolers at some of the local bars that stocked them, but Big Sky’s staple beer, Moose Drool, seems to be hanging around. Probably bought more for the name than as an actual recommendation, this simple brown ale is an easy drinker once again with a sweet malty taste and hints of chocolate.

One of the most consistent breweries across the board in its styles is the Odell Brewing Company out of Fort Collins Colorado. Odell’s 90 Schilling ale has been in the area for quite some time now. The Scottish style ale is a staple amongst many bars. Thankfully, a lot of bars and stores have been picking up their other beers including one of the best wheat beers on the market – the East Street Wheat, their robust Cutthroat Porter, the 5 Barrel Pale, Levity Amber, and Isolation Ale. The Odell’s IPA is a true standout though. This hoppy, slightly bitter beer has notes of grapefruit, lemon, and pine. It is not only the finest beer of its style readily available in many places in Omaha it is arguably one of the finest beers readily available in the area. Request it at your local watering hole if it is not there already.

The one brewery that has been available to the community for quite some time that I am surprised is not carried by more bars and liquor stores is Oregon’s  Rogue Brewery. Sure their Grateful Dead inspired Dead Guy Ale has been a staple in many bars, but this company has a plethora of styles to offer. Their selection ranges from the spicy and sometimes dicey Chipotle Ale, the truly Brutal Bitter, the rich Chocolate Stout and many more. Proprietors of fun and fine dining establishments could have a ball pairing the many offerings from this brewery with various foods. One of my favorites from them is the Mocha Porter. This almost black porter has a nose of chocolate and coffee as its name suggests and an intense yet drinkable bitter taste. Not a great starter beer for people just getting into the game, but a fine choice for those who like a strong hearty beer.

Colorado has many great breweries including New Belgium, The Boulder Beer Company, and the above mentioned Odell Brewery. The Breckenridge Brewery is no exception to the rocky mountain tradition of brewing fantastic craft beers. The brewery’s signature beer is its Avalanche Ale, but they also carry a nice Oatmeal Stout, an Agave Wheat, and their Trademark Pale Ale. I have recently been turning friends onto the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter when I see it at bars such as The Slowdown, Jakes, and Burke’s Pub in Benson – all of them have stuck with that selection over the course of the evening. It’s interesting because most would consider this more of a dessert beer and not something to session with. The sweet vanilla flavor and not too thick texture makes this a nice alternative when one needs a break from some of the more bold extreme beers that are all the rage right now.

Again, there are many more options out there in the market with more and more coming into our state, and being made in our state all the time. If you are interested in further researching craft beers check out some websites such as, play around with pairing certain foods with the beers much like you would wine, and don’t be afraid to ask your bartender or retail clerk about the beers they have in stock or request your favorites if you do not see them.

Marq Manner

Marq Manner

MarQ Manner is a fan of Americana. He is interested in small town cafe's, roadside BBQ, getting a hotdog from a stand made in the likeness of George Washington, and the grittier eating atmospheres found in out of the way places. MarQ has been writing about the local music scene for The Omaha City Weekly for the past five years and has also written music features for many other rags and blogs.

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