Froth-topped glasses of house-made beer welcome patrons to Rock Bottom Brewery, where chefs prolong the flavor fun with creative American dishes made from scratch. To pique the interest of coy appetites, kitchen artists toss firecracker shrimp in sweet thai chili sauce and pair ale-brushed giant ballpark pretzels with spicy spinach-cheese dip. Stomachs ready for main fare can request a plate of short rib, braised overnight and dished with white-cheddar mashed potatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes, pearl onions, and mushroom sauce. Half a roasted hunter’s chicken lounges in a wild mushroom and tomato demi-glace, and the creole jambalaya’s jumbo shrimp parades into mouths atop a float of andouille sausage, roasted chicken, tomato sauce, and white rice. The pizza selection sends toppings to tables via flatbread rafts, and Bourbonzola burgers bombard mouths with a combination of Jim Beam glaze, creamy gorgonzola cheese, and crisp onion straws—the same mixture that Kentucky gentlemen use as shaving cream.
Order a BLT at Upstream Brewing Company, and chances are good you'll taste a tomato picked that morning. Every year, a nearby farmer—amiably known as Farmer Jerry—plants 700 heirloom-tomato plants reserved exclusively for the brewery’s kitchens. Executive chefs Gary Hoffman and Jonathan Draper covet such freshness, and it shows on their menus. Seafood arrives from both coasts at least two to three times a week—throughout the summer, the chefs get even wild salmon harvested during the runs in Alaska's Copper River. And of course there are the cuts straight from Omaha Steaks, which the chefs choose individually from choice-grade, 21-day wet-aged beef.
This dedication to quality echoes Upstream Brewing Company's name. Taken from the Native American word "Omaha"—meaning "upstream" or "against the current" in honor of the settling tribe that traveled up the Missouri River—it reflects the owners' intention to elevate the typical brewpub experience by taking unexpected approaches. The flagship Old Market location also mirrors this dedication to the unpredictable, residing in a converted 21,000-square-foot firehouse built in 1904 that surrounds guest with dining spaces including a patio, two floors with bars, and a rooftop deck. In between the exposed-brick walls, diners may spy charring on the timber beams, marks left by a fire in 1917 during an ill-conceived attempt to domesticate Roman candles.
The basement houses part of the brewery, where brew masters handcraft batches of house beers from the Flagship IPA to cask-conditioned ales. They also continually experiment with seasonal beers—one such creation, the "Johnny" Dortmunder Lager, placed on DRAFT Magazine's top 25 beers of 2010—as well as Bugeater Root Beer, named in honor of Omaha's sports teams before they became known as Cornhuskers. Both the Old Market and Legacy locations encompass billiard rooms, and the staffs encourage guests to linger out the hours by trying a new brew or ordering something off the late-night menu.
The 1.5–2-hour event, which starts at 7 p.m. on a Friday of your choosing, takes place in the wine-tasting room. Set in a French Country House, the tastery features Nebraska vintages from sweet to dry, beer, food, and a wine troll. While sipping sips at the special after-hours event, you'll learn wine lessons from the vineyard's owner's daughter, who is studying to be a sommelier. The unintimidating course includes tips on how to rate, taste, and judge a wine, so you'll leave with the ability to determine if a wine has oaky undertones or hints of tire iron.
The brewers who keep Keg Creek Brewing Company afloat in fermented fare began as homebrewers. Though they now operate an entire company, their experimental, do-it-yourself philosophy remains the same. From mash tanks and fermentation vessels come the brewery's lifeblood, a lineup of expertly crafted beers that flow forth daily in the onsite tasting room. The brews include Wabash Wheat, a light-bodied wheat beer that honors the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, and Breakdown Brown Ale, a malty brew named after the communication breakdown that resulted in East Dakota’s statehood. As the seasons change, Keg Creek's brewmasters rotate their output with it, brewing beers both big and small to fit the weather.
After an injury forced him to retire prematurely from the Lincoln Police Department in 2006, Brian Podwinski set out to find a new passion. He began brewing his own beer at home, and before long, became hooked. Brian's knack for creating homemade suds caught the attention of friend and law-enforcement confidant Jason Goodwin, and together—and perhaps following a few too many of Brian's brews—the pair decided they wanted to open a brewery.
Named in honor of those who protect and serve every day, Blue Blood Brewing Company officially opened in December 2011. There, Brian, Jason, and others concoct handcrafted ales inspired by special people or places. Currently, the brewery produces a classic series and seasonal selections, all of which use the finest ingredients available and hops grown right in Nebraska.
In the days before kegs and bottles, beer enthusiasts would have to cart a bucket to their local brewery, fill it up, and carry it (gently) home. Lucky Bucket Brewing Company pays tribute to brewing history both in its name and its traditional brewing techniques.
Lucky Bucket’s flavorsome creations are crafted inside an 18,000-square-foot brew house. Gleaming silver tankards give birth to bottles of a pre-Prohibition-style lager, a pleasantly floral IPA, and the dark, malty imperial porter Certified Evil.
The facility operates a craft brewery, as well as Nebraska's only craft distillery, which turns out hand-crafted spirits such as Cut Spike Single-Malt Whiskey and Cut Spike Premium Vodka. The distillery ages it's whiskey for two years in brand new American oak barrels.