Thursday, July 15, 2010

O! Upstream in Omaha

     Stopped by the Upstream Brewing Co. in Omaha on the way back west. This is a high quality quaffing experience in Omaha's Old Market district: a section of fifteen blocks in the downtown area where old warehouses and the like have been converted into restaurants, galleries, etc. The brewery is in a hundred-year old firehouse.  Three large doors for fire trucks have been redone in glass windows to let plenty of light inside. A historic district plaque says the building was originally designed in chateauesque style with an arty French-style roof. This unfortunately caught fire in 1913; the firefighters were sunning themselves at ground level until a passerby alerted them to the flames overhead.
     Today's brewers have better luck than the firemen of yore.  They make a goodly set of brews: eight are permanent and four are rotated with the seasons.  Their website lists all the regular offerings and the bieres du jour. On my visit two of the seasonals were definitely whimsical: Sequim Lager and Children of the Peppercorn. The former was named for our Sequim here in Wash. (and yes, the staff gave it the correct one-syllable pronunciation, like squid), where they had ordered some lavender to add with the hops during the boil.  I guess lavender isn't just something ladies put in sachets any more; I tasted some added--very lightly--to scallops recently and the effect was nice.  In a lager, I don't know:  The straight taste is as much medicinal as beerlike. The brewer had recommended serving this with a slice of lemon, to be frequently used.  My server told me this was not the sort of place that serves up orange slices with the hefeweisen, praise to them.  (I don't know about you, but I prefer my hefe straight, so as to see what flavors the brewer put in it.)  The lemon does put the Sequim Lager into another dimension and makes it enjoyable.
      The peppercorn ale had a distinct coriander taste on top of the pepper.  I didn't enjoy it quite as much as some of their standard taps (the Firehouse Red took a GABF silver in the bitters group and was very fine; so was their Pale.)  The brewers are definitely bold experimenters.  Port Townsend is a long way from Omaha, but I am writing these guys to tell them to think seriously about entering Water Street's Strange Brewfest there next January.
      One last note:  while Omaha's famous steaks are generally expensive and prices in general seem similar to what things cost in the northwest, Upstream does price happy hour (3 to 6 p.m.) pints at $2 for their own brews.  Cheers, Upstream!

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