The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Brew Pubs
Nebraska

 

 

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
1101 Harney St.
Omaha, NE 68101
402-614-9333

Young Questors are going to live longer, and that has its obvious advantages. But older Questors are sometimes played like a harp by a young lithesome virtuoso performer and it is a thing of beauty to behold. Deserea was her name and she took better care of me than my mom did when I was growing up. Back rubs, unrequested free samples, and she sat down to explain the pros and cons of the menu choices. She smiled nicely and knew how to lean over the table, making beer drinking so much more fun.
We were at the Omaha Rock Bottom on 11 th Street...the quaint warehouse district that is Omaha's destination street. Rock Bottom is a national chain, and featured 7 Rock Bottom beers none of which were losers, all of which were brewed in Denver. The Terminal Stout was roasted coffee and flavorful, the Hop Bomb was da bomb and their Fire Chief Red was a pleasing beer. And the food was good.

But stop the presses, here is the neatest thing about this place - they used the available warehouse building to create a reasonably pleasant flat screen dotted rectangular bar in the middle (of course) classic rock in the background place to drink. Near the front windows were large booths (6-8 people) arranged around a big wooden table. In the center of the table were two taps, each with a different house brew. The lucky patrons in these booths never had to wait for a beer wench; they only had to jerk a beer whenever they wanted one. Why didn't someone thing of this sooner?
Each booth has two pre-selected taps. You can change them to any two beers you want but that is going to cost you. Fifteen dollars to change (and flush) one tap, $25 to change them both. The virtual beer glass keeps count of the ounces you have poured and you're billed accordingly at the end of the night.
There were a half dozen guest taps and a couple more dozen “bottle conditioned” beers. Bud Light was the only macro I saw. A Questor new to the chain can score some beers. The guest taps include some local beers and the bottles were interesting.
If you get to Omaha, go to Rock Bottom. Try to sit in a tapped window booth and ask for Deserea. You're going to enjoy the evening. Guaranteed.

 

 

Upstream Brewing Company
514 South 11th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
402-344-0200

We sat in the path of phantom fire engines bound to save the burning Omaha of a century past. Built in 1903, the old firehouse itself lost its third floor to a fire in 1917 as firefighters lounged on the sidewalk outside their burning firehouse.   In 1972 it was resurrected as a dinner theater and since 1996 it has been the Upstream Brewery. It is not ancient Omaha but it was pretty damn close.

Interior walls stripped to their bare brick essence tell a story of long ago to those not engaged  in conversation.  Wooden floors mark the bar, carpet marks the restaurant.  The rectangular bar occupies most of the wooden floor area, a second bar is found upstairs.  It is Midwest chiche.

The bar was too busy to sit at so we found a table in the bar area.  Our server was a diminutive wenchette who seemed to be pushing beers, a trait I have never found necessary and rarely found appealing, but it was happy hour and she was serving up $2 pints of some of the finest micro brew beer I have had in a long time.

Six seasonals headlined,  among them a mediocre American Wheat, an MIA Mooring Vapor California Common, and a Maibock.  There were also six regulars. All the beers are brewed on premises and all were afflicted by the small brewery curse of mildness.  But Usptream managed to turn mildness into an asset as they finessed it with distinction. Every beer was remarkably solid, flavorful and distinctive without ever resorting to boldness or over the top flavorings.  I did not have a single beer I did not like and I would have happily ordered each again had it not been for the selections that were available.

Ceiling fans spun just above globed lights hanging from an industrial ceiling dotted by playing cards undoubtedly propelled skyward the 15 feet to the ceiling by alcohol addled patrons.  Classic rock played in the distant background generally muffled by the jibber-jabber of Midwest yuppies (muppies?).  You Can't Always Get What You Want and IORR graced my visit among appearances by Neil Young, Alice Cooper and other old friends.

Omaha seems like a very pleasant purgatory and the Upstream Brewing Company was a nice place to do penance.