I am a beer geek. It's a title to wear proudly, though I might wince occasionally when saying it. Still, there’s no shame in appreciating the subtleties between different beer styles, or even drooling a bit at the thought of an open-air fermentation vessel.
Ryan Miller, owner of the recently opened Benson Brewery at 6059 Maple Street, is also a self-professed beer geek. It was only ten minutes into our conversation he was talking about the brewery’s new amphoras, a type of ceramic container based on an ancient fermentation style. Designed by local gallery Hot Shops, they’ll be integral in creating many of the brewery’s specialty beers. “We believe there’s only one other brewery in the world using these right now,” he revealed. The geek in me got giddy.
This year, beer geeks in Omaha have a ton to look forward to. Infusion Brewing Company, the long awaited craft beer bar from the folks at Crescent Moon, opened on October 2nd at 6115 Maple Street. On the first night, it was a standing room only affair as patrons gathered for their first swig of brewer Aaron Bush’s creations.
Back down the street at Benson Brewery, the beer was flowing freely. Maple Street Porter, a lightly smoky yet notably smooth-drinking ale, was found in the hands of many patrons at the bar. Others enjoyed beer-braised short ribs from Chef Matthew Taylor. Miller said that while they don’t love the term “gastropub,” they’re working at an inventive but approachable pub menu.
Of the bar’s 16 tap handles, Miller explained: “Andy [Elliott, head brewer] and I see eye to eye. We’re not into gimmicky beers, but we’re still progressive. Our hardcore brews will be rolling out by year's end.”
Across town in the Old Market, construction is underway for another newbie: Borgata Brewery & Distillery at 1116 Jackson Street. The site, which includes a tasting room, will be home to the first new distillery in Omaha since before Prohibition, and an array of beers that will also be distributed throughout the city.
Head brewer Zac Triemert, who some beer geeks might recognize as former President and brewer at Lucky Bucket Brewing Co., described his first Borgata brew, Premium Pilsner, as a “session beer with a golden, bright, thick head, and great hop character.” An IPA will follow shortly after.
Borgata Brewery & Distillery is slated to open this winter, but Triemert and Vice President Holly Mulkins recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the tasting room. Unless they attain their $30,000 goal by November 9th, the tasting room construction could be stalled significantly. By reaching out to the community, Triemert is able to offer several incentives for beer geeks, in particular a chance to brew closely with him during a three-day workshop. This opportunity to learn brewing in a commercial setting is priced at $1,000. Other incentives include $25 for a Borgata T-shirt and $60 for an invitation to an exclusive grand opening party.
“Borgata is an old Italian word for ‘family’,” Mulkins said. “We want people to really feel like they're a part of this project, because they are. Omaha was built on a foundation of family-owned and operated craft breweries. We feel that we, as a city, are bursting at the seams with excitement. In our opinion, you can never have enough good, quality craft beer.”
At Benson Brewery, Ryan Miller agrees. “The goal is to be more than just a solid company, but to drive progressive growth in places in Omaha that are going to be meaningful to the city in the future. It’s the soul part of it that really makes it for us.”
That’s a sentiment everyone, not just beer geeks, can appreciate.