Beer Drinking in Lincoln
by Tyler A. Thomas
author of Nebraska Beer Great Plains History by the Pint and founder/managing editor of NebraskaFoodie.com
Lincoln has an amazing beer culture, with each brewery crafting its own unique take on beer, food and hospitality. Among others, it’s home to historic breweries including Empyrean Ales in Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill and the popular and nationally recognized breweries Zipline and Boiler.
Lincoln’s breweries make diverse beers and create memorable experiences. Some feature typical taprooms with high-top tables, bar snacks, dim lighting and 10-plus taps of their latest creations. Others serve their beer restaurant-style, and patrons can order appetizers to share or full three-course meals. Most feature the option to taste their beers through flights, which I highly recommend, and some have outdoor seating for the warmer months.
When asked which is my favorite brewery, I fire back a few questions.
- What do you like in regard to beer styles?
- Who are you with? A buddy, co-workers, extended family, your kids?
- Do you want to eat?
These three questions usually help me point the person in the right direction.
Boiler Brewing Company is downtown in the historic Grand Manse building at 129 N. 10th St. One of the newest breweries to Lincoln, this hotspot features small-batch beers big in diverse flavors. Located in the old boiler room of the building, Boiler Brewing features plenty of small tables perfect for conversation after work or into the night and has a direct view of the brewing equipment from anywhere in the taproom. If beer isn’t your thing, Boiler Brewing features a select wine list and wine-dispensing machines. You can order food from Single Barrel chophouse across the street and have it delivered. Need to take your favorite new beer with you? Ask your bartender and he or she can help you take your favorite selection on the road.
Empyrean Brewing is the historic Haymarket restaurant Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill at 210 N. Seventh St. Empyrean’s standard lineup of beers is delicious and served at the two Lazlo’s restaurants in Lincoln and one in Omaha, and sold in local grocery stores. In addition to its standard beers, Empyrean features seasonal and rotating selections, with some guest features from its local homebrewers’ competition. One of Lincoln’s gems, Empyreans’ Beer School is an awesome experience. Offered once a month, it gives guests a chance to explore different types of brews with head brewmaster Rich Chapin and sample five craft beers. But get there early; only the first 150 people make it in.
Ten minutes north of downtown in the Fallbrook area is Schilling Bridge Cork and Tap at 575 Fallbrook Road. Its location provides an escape from the city and its offerings are great for a date night or a big group outing. Between stand-out beer, delicious wine flights and some big flavors on the food menu, Schilling Bridge is a perfect neighborhood brewery. If you’re hungry or just need a snack to share, a few items featured at Schilling Bridge are crafted with their beer and are a must-try. From the beer bread and beer cheese nachos to the drunken nachos with Scottish Ale BBQ brisket, you won’t be disappointed. If the time of year is right, Schilling Bridge has a killer outdoor seating area with fire pits and outdoor pizza oven and a great view of downtown.
If you’re looking for that traditional taproom feel, award-winning Zipline Brewing Co. offers just that. The taproom at 2100 Magnum Circle features frequent happy hours, monthly brewery tours, and occasional local food trucks. The selection of standard and rotating beers is reason enough to zip out to Zipline, but the atmosphere seals the deal. Featuring an outdoor area and private conference room, Zipline is a Lincoln must. If you can’t make it to the near-downtown brewery, swing by the German style beer hall at 5740 Hidcote Drive near 56th Street and Pine Lake Road, which features high ceilings, long community tables and interactive games. A diverse food menu is offered by Art & Soul and available in the hall via a pass-through window. The beer hall is the perfect post-church Sunday hangout.
Next door to the Zipline beer hall is the Local Beer, Patio and Kitchen. An Omaha favorite, this restaurant lives for local beer as its name would suggest. If you can’t make it out to western Nebraska or don’t want to drive to another brewery in the state, you don’t have to. Local Beer has hundreds of beers on tap from breweries all across the state. Not only does Local provide a huge draft beer selection, the menu is amazing. From small plates to full entrees and a generous happy hour, Local is perfect for any time of the day. My personal favorite is The Sloppy Charlie, with beer cheese sauce. If you’re a fan of messy bar food that will fill you up and make you all warm inside, this is it. Wash it down with a cold beer and ask for extra napkins.
Backswing Brewing is owned and brewed by golfers, offering “a better round of beer.” Inspired by the love of the game, Backswing Brewing at 500 W. South St. features three standout beers and a small taproom. The taproom is the place to watch the game, relax with friends or even play some music bingo (specific nights only). Backswing Brewing is giving us all a new reason to hit the course.
If you’re in search of rustic ales with a modern spin, White Elm is brewing them at 720 Van Dorn St. White Elm’s taproom is modern with an industrial flare, and its tap handles feature American and classic Belgian ales, plus seasonal and guest taps.
Code Beer is near downtown Lincoln at 200 S. Antelope Valley Parkway and offers an escape from the downtown ruckus and a great place to meet friends. Code Beer usually has 11 beers on tap, ranging from Cream Ales and IPAs to Milk Stouts and Passion Fruit Sours. The taproom doesn’t serve food, but guests can bring in their own, and with so many take-out and delivery places near downtown, it’s a perfect bar stop for a flight of unique beers before heading back to your hotel.
Lincoln’s newest taproom features my favorite Broken Bow brewery, Kinkaider Brewing Co. Opening in fall 2018 at 201 N. Seventh St., Kinkaider’s features small-batch beer, oftening using ingredients fresh from their farm including chokecherries, jalapenos, pumpkins, corn and Nebraska hops. From beer on tap to snacks and special events, Kinkaider has transplanted its hospitality from the Sandhills to the Haymarket, giving us all another place to try.
I recently went to a birthday party at Cosmic Eye Brewing at 8600 P St. in the old Laser Quest location and had a blast. This locally owned and operated brewery features more than 20 beers on tap that play off their cosmic theme. The space features long family-style tables and benches made from trees from a farm near Fairbury, Nebraska—perfect for big groups. The brewery also features a few cozy areas with chairs and couches, and if you’re competitive, you can play a round of shuffleboard. The “kids room” with tables, books and coloring supplies makes Cosmic Eye a space for the entire family. You can easily make reservations for your event in a small private room or in the main taproom. Both options allow you to bring in your favorite food or have it catered. Look for the EYE, you won’t regret it.
If you can’t make it to a Lincoln brewery, The Happy Raven downtown at 122 N. 11th St. is Lincoln’s craft beer bar with 16 rotating taps and a massive bottle selection, as well as a laid-back atmosphere.
Whether you’re in town for a football game, conference or just visiting family, the Lincoln beer scene is definitely something to explore, enjoy and maybe even write home about. And if you’re on Untappd, you’ll have plenty of options to document your adventures and pints to brag to your friends about.