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

It might surprise you to find out that Lincoln has quite the beer scene that is slowly beginning to rival cities in 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 more historical breweries like Empyrean Ales in Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill to the popular and nationally recognized breweries like Zipline Brewing and Boiler Brewing Company. Lincoln is creating quite the beer culture. While we don’t have 50+ breweries to explore, each Lincoln brewery has its own unique take on beer, food and hospitality.

Lincoln’s breweries are as diverse on your palate as they are in creating that memorable experience. Some feature typical tap rooms with hi-top tables, bar snacks, dim lighting and 10+ taps of their latest creations. Others serve their beer in a restaurant style and you can order an appetizer to share or even a full three course meal.  Most feature the option for tasting their beers through flights (which I highly recommend) and some feature outdoor seating for the warmer months.

I often get asked, “which brewery is your favorite?” To which I always reply with my hands up and a shoulder shrug, “it depends.” Before I can actually answer the question, I follow up with a few qualifying questions of my own. They usually include:  

  1. What do you like, in regard to beer styles?
  2. Who are you with, a buddy, co-workers, extended family, your kids?
  3. Do you want to eat?

These quick three questions usually help me point the person in the right direction.

I work in downtown Lincoln, so being able to walk to a brewery after work, grab a pint and a snack is important. I usually park across the street from Ploughshare Brewing Co. on 16th & P and can’t get enough of their Tailgate Red and soft German style pretzels. I get my pretzel paired with the Spicy Szechuan Peppercorn Ranch and Mustard Aioli.

Boiler Brewing Company is also located downtown near 9th & P in the Grand Manse building. Once of the newest breweries to Lincoln, this Lincoln hotspot features the Raspberry Berlinger Weisse. This specific brew was brewmaster, Tim Thomssen’s Sam Adams 2015 Longshot homebrew contest brew and Sam Adams released a limited supply in the spring of 2016.

Modern Monks brews beer in downtown Lincoln and it’s sold exclusively in Misty’s restaurants. Misty’s, a historical Lincoln restaurant known 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. Empyrean Brewing, like Modern Monks is served in the historic Haymarket restaurant Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill. Empyrean beers are not only delicious and also feature seasonal and rotating selections, Empyrean has “Beer School” once a month where you can explore different types of brews with the hand brewmaster Rich Chapin and sample 5 craft beers. But get there early, only the first 150 people make it in!

Just north of downtown is Schilling Bridge Cork and Tap. Located in Fallbrook, just five minutes from the Haymarket, Schilling Bridge is an escape from the city that has great beer, delicious wine flights and some big flavors on their menu. They build a few items starting with their beer including beer bread and beer cheese. These two items are a must try and if you really like cheese, check out the Drunken Nachos with their Scottish Ale BBQ brisket and Extra Pale Ale cheese sauce, you won’t be disappointed!

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 sometimes they bring in local food trucks that park out front. 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.  

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 and similar to many brewery restaurants, they 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 quite huge with both indoor and outdoor seating and they have cave tours three times a week. The beer and food are enough to try Blue Blood, but the cave, its historic story and photo ops makes it well worth the visit.  

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 includes a massive bottle selection as well as a laid back atmosphere. Hopcat in the historic Haymarket also features 20 Nebraska based beers and an incredible international selection of 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!

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