The Quest for the Holy Grain - Best Brew Pubs




Upstream Brewing Company
514 South 11th Street
Omaha, NE 68102

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.