by Tyler A. Thomas
author of Nebraska Beer Great Plains History by the Pint and founder/managing editor of NebraskaFoodie.com
Lincoln has quite the craft beer scene that is slowly beginning to rival popular cities in Oregon and Colorado. With a rich history of brewing across the state, Lincoln is pioneering the way for new breweries in Nebraska. With historical breweries like Empyrean Ales in Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill to popular, nationally recognized breweries like Zipline Brewing and Boiler Brewing Company, Lincoln has an amazing beer culture. Each brewery crafts their own unique take on beer, food and hospitality.
Lincoln’s breweries brew some amazing beers, but they also pay careful attention to creating a memorable experience. Some feature typical tap rooms with high top tables, bar snacks, dim lighting and 10+ taps of their latest creations. Others serve their beer restaurant style where you can order an appetizer to share or even a three course meal. Most feature the option for tasting their beers through flights (which I highly recommend) and some have outdoor seating in the warmer months.
I often get asked, “which brewery is your favorite?” I always reply with a huge smile and rapid 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 located downtown near 9th & P in the historic Grand Manse building. One of the newest breweries to Lincoln, this hotspot features small batch beers that are big in flavor. One of their signature beers is the Nebraska Native. This is the first commercially produced craft beer to feature all Nebraska grown ingredients. If you’re looking for a local beer, you can’t get much more local than this brew! Located in the boiler room of the building, Boiler Brewing features plenty of small tables perfect for after work conversation or late night discussions. A direct view of the brewing equipment from anywhere in the tap room makes this a unique experience. And if beer isn’t your thing, they feature a select wine list and have wine dispensing machines. If you’re hungry you can have food from Single Barrel across the street delivered. Need to take your favorite new beer with you? Ask your bartender and they can help you take your favorite selection on the road.
Modern Monks brews beer in downtown Lincoln and it’s sold exclusively in Misty’s restaurants. Misty’s, a historical Lincoln restaurant famous for its chargrilled steaks, is also popular for its microbrews, brewed in-house by Modern Monks. The Monks feature five classic brews and often have a rotating feature. I don’t get to Misty’s too often, so I usually have to try the new and exciting rotator.
Like Modern Monks, Empyrean Brewing is served in a restaurant, Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill in the historic Haymarket. Empyrean’s standard lineup of beers are delicious. But besides being served in the restaurant, they are sold in most local grocery stores. In addition to their standard beers, Empyrean features seasonal and rotating selections in the restaurant, with some guest features from their local home brewers’ competition. One of Lincoln’s gems, Empyreans’ Beer School is an awesome experience. Offered once a month, guests can explore different types of brews with the 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. Its location provides an escape from the city and their offerings are great for a date night or a big group outing. Between great beer, delicious wine flights and some big flavors on their menu, Shilling Bridge is a perfect neighborhood brewery. If you’re hungry for a meal or just need a snack to share, a few items featured at Schilling Bridge are crafted with their beer and they are a must try. From the beer bread and beer cheese nachos to the drunken nachos with their 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, an outdoor pizza oven and a great view of downtown.
If you’re looking for that traditional tap room feel, award winning Zipline Brewing Co. is just that. The tap room features frequent happy hours, monthly brewery tours and to satisfy your appetite, some nights they bring in local food trucks. The selection of standard and rotating beers is reason enough to Uber out to Zipline, but their 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 in southeast Lincoln featuring high ceilings, long community tables and interactive games. If you’re hungry there is a diverse food menu offered by Art & Soul via a pass-through window. The beer hall is the perfect post church Sunday hang out.
Have you ever had a beer in a cave? Well, Blue Blood Brewing Co. has this bucket list item covered. Located above the historic “Robber’s Cave” rumored to a be a Jesse James hideout, Blue Blood Brewing Co. is a Lincoln brewery and full service restaurant. With 20 taps, Blue Blood serves up 15 of their own creations and five other Nebraska based beers. The food menu is focused on pub fare similar to many brewery restaurants. They also include menu items that feature their own beers—like their Happier Than Ale cheese sauce, creamy IPA-Parmesan dressing and the amazing Adult Stout Float featuring Okhrana Imperial Stout and vanilla bean ice cream. The restaurant is huge with both indoor and outdoor seating and you can even take a cave tour three times a week. The beer and food are enough to try Blue Blood, but the cave, its historic story, and photo ops make it well worth a visit.
“A better round of beer” Backswing Brewing is one of Lincoln’s newest breweries owned and brewed by golfers. Inspired by the love of the game, Backswing features three standout beers and a small tap room. The tap room is a great 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 in a near downtown neighborhood. Located off 8th and Van Dorn, White Elm’s tap room is modern with an industrial flare and its tap handles feature American and classic Belgian ales, plus seasonal and guest taps.
If you can’t make it to a Lincoln brewery, The Happy Raven, downtown on North 11th St., is Lincoln’s craft beer bar. They have 16 rotating taps and a massive bottle selection in a laid back atmosphere. Hopcat in the historic Haymarket also features 20 Nebraska based beers and an incredible selection of international craft beer.
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!