Upstream Brewing Company is on a roll. This year’s Readers’ Choice award for Best Brewpub marks the fifth consecutive win for the Old Market brewery, an impressive feat as Omaha’s brewing scene continues to expand and develop each year. With a simple, four word motto of “eat well, drink better,” Upstream nails the fundamentals of craft beer, inspiring customers to return year after year.
Founded in 1996 by Brian Magee, Upstream is an Omaha classic. Beyond its name recognition, the iconic brewery utilizes its large capacity, prime location, and emphasis on in-house quality to provide local Omahans and visitors alike with a drinking experience they are sure to remember.
“When we have a brand that people are familiar with, consistency is just as important as being good,” Head Brewmaster Dallas Archer said.
Archer knows the Upstream brand well. Fourteen years ago, Archer was a 20-year-old University of Nebraska-Omaha student unsure about his career aspirations. He started as an Upstream server, and slowly fell in love with the process of brewing craft beers. Upstream supported Archer’s budding talents, eventually promoting him to head brew master in 2013. Today, Archer leads a small full-time brewing team through each step of the brewing process, as well as leading required brewing education training sessions for the entire staff.
“Accessible is a good word, approachable,” Archer said. “[I want] to make people feel comfortable being able to try new stuff. And, I mean, who doesn’t want to taste some free beer?”
However, this year posed particular challenges for Archer and his team. Brewing craft beers requires flexibility, as the team tries to anticipate which drinks will be popular two to three weeks before they hit the bar taps. When the COVID-19 pandemic reduced in-person dining, that adaptability became even more essential.
“A lot of people don’t think about if you have a batch of beer sitting around for too long, that’s a quality concern,” Archer said. “We would brew a lot of smaller batches, which takes just as much work, just so we can make sure we went through it quickly. But then that causes logistical problems, because we go through it too quickly.”
This year’s win cements the fact that Upstream managed the struggles of 2021 with success. Now, Archer looks forward to bettering his brews and sharing his joyful passion for craft beers with more Omahans.
“That’s what drives us, is always creating something new, increasing our quality. Whether it’s through process or ingredients or by design, whatever it is,” Archer said. “But it’s funny, because people are always like ‘working on anything fun?’… Well, we’re always working on something fun.”