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Brew Big Red: A Brewery Tour of Lincoln, NE

by Carrie Dow on Jan 26, 2015 in Beer
Brew Big Red: A Brewery Tour of Lincoln, NE

As college towns go, they don’t get much better than Lincoln, NE, home to the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. Sitting along a stretch of I-80 that cuts its way through the fields for which the team is named, Lincoln has a vibrant and well educated population that enjoys good beer. Home to six breweries, including Nebraska’s first brewpub, Lincoln is steeped in foam and suds.

Nebraska’s oldest brewery opened as Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill (210 N 7th St.) in 1990. The brewery has always been located in the historic Haymarket area of downtown, even before the area became a hot spot for urban renewal over the last two decades. As demand for Lazlo’s brews grew, Empyrean Brewing Company was created in 1997.

A flight of eight 3-oz Empyrean beers at Lazlo’s is only $5.75, which includes all regular beers and two special brews. Year-round beers include the Chaco Canyon Gold, Watchman IPA, Burning Sky Scotch Ale, Luna Sea ESB and Third Stone Brown. Also on tap are the Axis Winter Ale and the Collapsar Oatmeal Stout. Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of the popular Dark Side Vanilla Porter, however, we were able to the try the limited release Chocolate Cherry Stout from the Carpe Brewen Series.

A new brewpub on the scene is Granite City (6150 O St.), a part of a chain of brewpubs across the Great Plains. Granite City features fine pub food paired with beer that is produced onsite. Granite City is located on the grounds of the Gateway Mall in east Lincoln and serves a blend of sandwiches and pasta for lunch, and steak and seafood for dinner. There is also a cocktail and wine list.

At Granite City, a beer sampler is eight 2-oz glasses for only $4.95. Regular beers are The Northern American Lager, The Bennie, a German-style lager, The Duke Pale Ale, Batch 1000 Double IPA, Broad Axe Stout and the winter seasonal, the Freezerburn made with clove and cinnamon. Also part of the flight are two-beer blends, the 2 Pull made with The Northern and The Bennie. This blend is a amber brown color full of warmth for winter. The Admiral is a blend of The Northern and The Duke and because it uses the beers with the lowest ABV, it makes for a nice afternoon of drinking.

Already an institution, Misty’s Steakhouse (200 N 11th St.) began in the Havelock neighborhood as a “bottle club” in 1963, and as the liquor laws have changed, so has the establishment. There are three locations in town, but the location downtown has its own brewery making fine beers to go with fine Nebraska Beef. Upholding a tradition by the late owner Bob Milton, on Friday nights before home football games, the NU pep band performs at the restaurant to fire up the crowd.

A flight of beers at Misty’s is called the House Six, featuring six 2-oz pours of any beer you like. Misty’s also makes its own vanilla-rich Root Beer. Our flight consisted of the Orange Wheat, IPA, Pilsner, Expresso Porter, Alt Bier and a Honey Saison.

Blue Blood (500 W South St.) is a new brewery that opened just south of downtown in an industrial area near Pioneer’s Park. The owner, Brian Podwinsky, is a former police officer so all the beers have a law enforcement connection. Podwinsky has partnered with other officers and when a member of the force invests in his brewery, he gives a beer that officer’s badge number.

The taproom offers two types of flights. The Usual Suspects is five flagship brews for $5 or get the Most Wanted, five of the brewery’s special, rare or experimental beers for $8. We tried the Usual and enjoyed the 1327 Pod’s ESB, the 824 Happy Ale American (Happy As Ale), the 1800 Big Hog Wheat, the All Hopped Up, Two Guns Tritticale Brown, the brewery’s popular Pernicious IPA, and a special brew, the Skull Creek Pale Ale. Skull Creek is a small-batch beer that is made with locally grown hops. The brewery and farmer partnered together to develop the state’s first hop farm. The brewery is already canning beers and they can be purchased at the brewery or at N Street Liquors.

Over in West Lincoln, also called West O, for the main street that runs through the city, Zipline Brewing (2100 Magnum Cir., Ste 1) has only been open a year and has already won the Lincoln Small Business of Year 2014 award. Its beers are all over town on tap and in cans. The NZ IPA is a traditional bitter beer with a piney scent and golden color. The Oatmeal Porter doesn’t taste like oatmeal at all. It is however, a fine blend of nuts and chocolate with a touch of bitterness at the end.

The local college brewery is Ploughshare (1630 P St.), located on the edge of the university campus at 17th and P Streets. Along with 12 beer taps (seven year-round, four seasonal), the brewery also has a small food menu. According to a Haymarket barkeep, Ploughshare doesn’t like to share its beers and one can only taste them at the brewery.

For those who don’t want to travel all over town looking for the perfect pint, here are a few taphouses downtown that carry a variety of beers. Old Chicago (826 P St.) on the edge of the Haymarket has 30 taps and serves up a few Lincoln beers along with a selection of regional and national brews. A new place across the street from the Pinnacle Bank Arena is Longwells (350 Canopy St., Ste 100). The bar has over 100 taps and serves 76 different kinds of brews including a selection of Lincoln and Nebraska beers. The bar also has three giant projection TVs that will show not only the Husker game, but can keep up with Big 10 rivals as well. Then there is the mainstay of football Saturdays and Haymarket nightlife. Barry’s Bar and Grill (235 N 9th St.), on the corner of 9th and Q Streets, has been providing beer to the thirsty masses for over half a century. While Coors Light and Bud Light fill the cheap beer tubs on weekends, the bar also serves up some tasty craft brews at its three bars.

Photos by Carrie Dow (Empyrean Brewing, Granite City, Blue Blood)


Tags: Beer, Food
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