Craft Beer in the Capital City
by Tyler A. Thomas
Growing up in a military family, we naturally traveled a lot. Between moves to different duty stations to visiting cities, states and countries on the weekends, my parents never wanted to waste time just hanging out at home. This type of explorer energy is ingrained in me and as I began to become more independent, first earning my drivers license, exploring my city and its surroundings was welcomed and encouraged.
At 16, I started searching for and sampling new coffee shops and smoothie stands driving my passion to eat and drink local. When I later moved to Lincoln at 18 for college, new coffee, ice cream, cupcake and sandwich shops became the way to learn how to navigate my city and satisfy my caffeine and sweets addictions. After graduation and when I landed my first job with an adult paycheck, exploring local got even wider with the constant invites for gathering at happy hours and catching up with friends after work. Exploring Lincoln and the surrounding area through its craft beer scene quickly became part of my identity. So much so, I wrote a book on it!
While Lincoln is often known for its offerings in the arts, family activities, biking trails, Husker Athletics and restaurants; it’s craft brewing scene will surprise you. Breweries, craft beer bars and beer forward restaurants are sprinkled throughout the city serving up Lincolnites and Star City visitors daily. What I love the most is that each business offers their own beers and approaches to brewing while curating an experience to remember. From patio drinking in the summer, trivia in the winter to flight and pint nights, the craft beer community is strong and each business has its own take on beer, food and hospitality.
I often get asked, “where should we grab a drink”? This is one of my favorite questions, because I immediately get to play detective and start digging in to what experience is desired and matching that with somewhere local to grab a pint. My preliminary questions always include: 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 always help point us get pointed in the right direction.
Boiler Brewing Company is located downtown near 9th & P in the historic Grand Manse building. This hotspot features small batch beers that are big in diverse flavors. Located in the actual boiler room of the building Boiler features plenty of small tables perfect for conversation after work or for hours into the night. With a direct view of the brewing equipment from anywhere in the taproom it makes for a behind the scenes experience. If beer isn’t your thing, they have a select wine list and individual pour wine dispensing machines. Need to take your favorite new beer with you? Ask your bartender and they can help you take your selection on the road. If you can’t make it downtown, Boiler South is just off 56th and Pine Lake Road and offers 10+ of their popular beers on tap and it’s conveniently tucked in the Village Garden’s neighborhood.
Empyrean Brewing can be found in the historic Haymarket restaurant Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill. Empyrean’s standard lineup of beers are delicious and served at both the restaurant and in local grocery stores. In addition to their standard beers, Empyrean features seasonal and rotating selections in the restaurant, with 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 and sample Empyrean craft beers. But get there early, space is limited.
Ten minutes north of downtown in the Fallbrook area is Schilling Bridge Cork and Tap. Its location provides an escape from downtown and their offerings are great for a date night or a group outing. Between stand out beer, delicious wine flights and some big flavors on their food menu, Shilling Bridge is a perfect neighborhood brewery. If you’re hungry for big flavors 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 and outdoor pizza oven and an even better view of downtown.
If you’re looking for that traditional taproom feel, award winning Zipline Brewing Co. is just that. The taproom 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 available in the hall via a pass-through window. The beer hall is the perfect post church Sunday hang out.
Next door to the Zipline beer hall in south Lincoln is Catalyst an award-winning brewery and restaurant. Featuring south Lincoln’s largest outdoor patio perfect for conversation and community Catalyst brews beers with a twist and pairs them with an outstanding menu. The Blood Orange Lager and the Fried Burger (Fried onions, fried pickles, fried cheese, fried mushrooms, ranch) are a perfect combination. You’ll have plenty of options for drinking and eating and if beer isn’t your thing, barrel-aged cocktails and other drinks are also featured on the menu.
“A better round of beer” Backswing Brewing is owned and brewed by golfers. Inspired by the love of the game, Backswing features nearly a dozen standout beers and a small taproom. Their latest Backspin Apply Wheat Ale is a must-try in the fall. But no matter your style, Backswing is teeing up a beer for you.
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 “Mothership” taproom is modern with an industrial flare and its tap handles feature American and classic Belgian ales, plus seasonal and guest taps. Their recently opened Haymarket location nearly 15 beers available in the heart of downtown Lincoln.
Code Beer on the corner of Antelope Valley Parkway and N Street in the Telegraph District is an escape from the downtown ruckus and a great place to meet up with a small group of friends. Their beer selection usually consists of 12 beers on tap ranging from Cream Ales and IPAs to Milk Stouts and Passion Fruit Sours. I highly recommend the Cream Ale. This Nebraska-grown ale has a hint of corn (from flaked corn) and it’s definitely something special! While Code Beer doesn’t serve food on-site guests can bring their own food in. With so many take-out and delivery places near downtown, Code Beer is a perfect bar stop for takeout, a flight of beers all before heading back to your hotel.
My favorite Broken Bow, Nebraska brewery, Kinkaider Brewing Co. is serving up in Lincoln’s Haymarket. Kinkaider’s brewing style features small-batch beer and they often use 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 their hospitality from the Sandhills to the Haymarket giving us all another place to try. Their train station patio and concert series makes it an ideal beer garden destination on the weekends.
New in 2022!—the owners of Kinkaider Brewing opened Bierhaus Maisschäler which closely translates to “Beer House Corn Peeler (Husker)”. In the heart of the Haymarket at 8th & P, this Old World Inspired Pub serves German style lagers, butcher built sausages and Bavarian Pretzels the whole table can share. With Traditional German style steins and das boot glasses, the only question you have to ask is, stein or boot?
Cosmic Eye Brewing in east Lincoln at 8600 P. Street is a locally owned and operated brewery featuring 20+ beers on tap that play off their cosmic theme. The space features long family style tables and benches made from local trees from a farm near Fairbury, Nebraska, perfect for groups. The brewery features a few cozy areas with chairs and couches and if you’re competitive, you can take a round at the shuffleboard tables. The “kids room” with tables, books and coloring supplies makes Cosmic Eye a space for the entire family. I’ve found Cosmic Eye to be great for an afternoon spending time with friends or for special occasions. As mentioned, you can easily make reservations for your event, the brewery includes a small private room or you can reserve tables in the main taproom. Both options allow you to bring in your favorite food or have it catered. Parking is ample at Cosmic Eye, look for the EYE, you won’t regret it.
Lincoln’s newest brewery and taproom was founded by two college friends who were scattered across the country during military service and lovingly nicknamed Lincoln (where they met) the “Corn Coast”. Corn Coast Brewing is at 1433 Dahlberg Dr. Suite A Lincoln, NE 68512 and these two college roomates have elevated their home brewing dreams into a business brewing on a small 5BBL brewing system, allowing them to constantly try new flavors, recipes and tinker to give us something new to come back and try. Corn Coast often welcomes food trucks to their parking lots, so guests can drink and eat local!
If craft beer isn’t your favorite drink of choice or you have friends that want to try something less hoppy, Saro Cider, Lincoln’s premiere Cider House packs a punch with more flavor and less sweet ciders. Saro is often available at many of the breweries throughout the city, they also sell cans and ship! You can even join their Cider Club and have fresh cider on your doorstep once a quarter!
I’ve found that exploring a city through its local businesses is one of the best ways to try something new, mingle with the locals, make your Instagram followers jealous and heck maybe even find your a new favorite. Lincoln has no shortage of gems to write home about. We wish you luck as you explore, eat and drink local! Cheers!