A great man once said, “There is always room for more beer.” In Omaha, it seems as though every spare nook and cranny are being filled with breweries. Craft beer demand in our city is so high, that our own Omaha Beer Week event has become a national destination for many who long for a pint of Bourbon County without Chicago prices.
Things are changing in the beer scene here in Omaha, and it is incredibly exciting.
Said great man is Chris Bettini, internationally recognized beer aficionado, Marketing chair of Omaha Beer Week, and the monk at most Crescent Moon beer events.
“Omaha Beer Week spawned out of a discussion between Dustin Boushon, the owner of Krug Park, and Bill Baburek, the owner of Crescent Moon,” said Bettini. “They thought it would be great to organize a bus tour of all the bars in town. In 2011, Bill called several bars and breweries and organized a meeting at the Huber Haus to talk about getting a tour started.”
This meeting laid the groundwork for a 7 member board, and an eventual 501(c)3 organization.
“What makes Omaha Beer Week as an organization unique, is that no one person has majority share,” said Bettini. “Everyone has an equal part in making this event happen, and everyone is invested.”
Omaha Beer Week is a 10 day event where bars have “tap takeovers” of unique, hard to find beer, and breweries put their best brew forward. “For our first beer week in February 2012, we had 12 bars participating in the event,” said Bettini. “We had 17 last year, and 26 this year. We’ve already gotten phone calls about next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 40-50 participating partners.”
The 2014 Omaha Beer Week Craft Beer Bus Tour had three routes this year, ensuring a wide spread throughout the community. “We had 12 buses to 21 bars. For $12, people could ride the tour from noon to midnight.”
Considering the cost of the Jone-z Party Bus rentals were upwards of $16,500 for the organization, this seems like a great deal for a ride. “We had signs made, security, drivers, all the aspects that go into making sure people get around safe and had a good time.”
Beer has always had an impact on the world. Fostering relationships and encouraging entrepreneurial innovations are just a few ways beer has made the world a civilized place. “The straw was invented in Mesopotamia, because early brewers didn’t want to drink the sludge at the bottom of the clay vases which held the very first beer,” said Bettini. “George Washington’s hand-written porter recipe is on file at the Library of Congress. Beer has been an influence to make people more creative.”
Even here in our little pocket of the Midwest.
“Krug Park was named after a brewery here in Omaha that opened in 1859,” said Bettini. “It was a great place with rides and a beer garden. There have even been Krug bottles found all along the railroad in California from the gold rush. Omaha has been a part of beer history since the beginning.”
It’s no wonder why Omaha Beer Week has grown in popularity since its inception. We have the love of good beer in our blood.
“It’s amazing how in 3 years an idea over a beer grew into something so successful,” said Bettini. The impact of Omaha Beer Week is seen all over the city. “We are still gathering the final numbers, but bars generally experience a 10-25% increase in business over the week. And it’s perfect timing, because February is a slow month for the bar business.”
The bus tours are a great way to see new places and faces in a town we all call home. “The residual effect of the week is long term. People visit bars they have never heard of, to try beer they have never known existed. It is exciting to see people get into these unique beers and develop new favorites.”
As the 2014 Beer Week wraps up, Bettini is already looking to plan the next 10 day event in 12 short months. “The sky's the limit,” said Bettini. “There is such a wealth of great beer in this town. And the word is spreading. Last year I talked to a guy from Washington D.C. who had heard great things about Omaha Beer Week, and had enough frequent flier miles to fly in for one day to attend Extreme Beerfest. This year we had people from 18 states attend. That is money back in the Omaha economy.”
The ripple effect of Omaha Beer Week is seen throughout the community. The restaurants in Benson experienced a push in sales. People who may have been strangers sitting on the bus turned into friends by the end of the night.
“In Europe, beer halls are built with long communal tables,” said Bettini. “When you first sit down with a German pint, you may not know the person across from you. By the end, you have created a new relationship. That is the power of socializing over good beer.”
Next year’s event promises new experiences with breweries that are just babies now, and recipes that will astonish and amaze. That is something spectacular about this town. The craft industry just keeps getting better.
Remember, there is always room for more beer.