Upstream Brewing Company
514 S. 11th St.
Beer Selection: Exciting variety of freshly brewed beers
Food: Standard brewpub fare
It’s just the way men are wired. We like to try different stuff.
So go ahead. Try it. Cheat on your Miller Lite.
The sun will come up tomorrow. I promise.
Whenever I walk into a bar or restaurant, the first thing I check out are the taps. Then the bottles on display.
I can spot the ubiquitous Miller Lite, Bud Light, Coors Light taps from across the room. My eyes just pass right over them like they aren’t even there.
No, I’m looking for something new.
Maybe even, SOMETHING I’VE NEVER TRIED BEFORE!
I guess that’s why I’m a sucker for a good brew pub every time. Freshly made beer in all sorts of cool varieties that have never before passed my lips.
Now that’s something to get excited about!
Unfortunately, sometimes this idea of exciting variety can itself get a little stale.
Too many brew pubs stick the basics – IPA, stout, brown ale, red ale, and the “American” lager (so your lame “I only drink Michelob Ultra” girlfriend doesn’t veto the place).
But at some point, once you’ve tried one “Award Winning fill-in-the-blank Red Ale,” you’ve tried them all.
That’s why Omaha’s Upstream Brewing Company really stands out on my list of brew pubs.
They had the old standbys like “Firehouse Red,” “Flagship IPA,” “Capitol Pale Ale,” and the girlfriend veto-proof “O! Gold Light.”
But their beer selection went way beyond the basics – which included “Dundee Scotch Ale,” “Old Market White Satin,” “Munich Helles,” “Johny Dortmunder Lager,” “Smoked Porter,” “Saisson Sorel,” and “Raspberry Lager” (if you have a slightly less lame girlfriend).
On top of that, they had some good cask-conditioned beers.
It was like beer snob heaven!
Unfortunately, as always, I was on a tight schedule.
I had 35 minutes to sample as much beer as possible and eat the only meal I would consume in the next 48 hours before heading to the Omaha Airport to spread my legs, raise my arms, and have some federal bureaucrat deem my body cavities adequate for travel within our own borders.
That doesn’t leave much time for beer experimentation. So before I could delve deeply into the beer menu, I ordered up an IPA, the ultimate test of brewery quality.
It was a beautiful, bright golden color. Strong. Hoppy. Perfect.
Next I had to try Upstream’s “Smoked Porter.” I’ve had Alaskan Brewing and Stone Brewing versions before and was anxious to try it.
Smoked beers, for the uninitiated, contain malt that’s been smoked, rather than roasted. Of course, how much smoke is up to each individual brewer.
The Alaskan Smoked Porter is like drinking a carton of Marlboros – but in a good way. Very, very smoky. An exciting diversion from normal dark beer – and perfect for a cold Alaskan night feasting on smoked salmon and reindeer meat.
The version served by Upstream is much more subtle, with just a few hints of smoke. But considering it was 100 degrees outside, maybe that’s not a bad thing.
The only problem with Upstream was the service.
My bartender acted like she had just spent the afternoon hanging out at the 420 SweetWater Brewery before her shift – if you get my drift.
(But don’t worry about her – I’m sure I’ll pick up the tab for her federally guaranteed food stamps, WIC, subsidized rent, cell phone and 99 weeks of unemployment when she gets canned.)
If she had demonstrated just a bit more ambition, I might have been able to squeeze in a third beer. But as it turns out, I was lucky to get my food 10 minutes before it was time to race to the airport.
I ordered a BBQ bacon burger with corn chowder.
The burger was big, but dry and overcooked beyond recognition. Of course, little miss ambition didn’t ask how I wanted it done and, mesmerized by the beer menu, I forgot to specify medium rare (which is really medium in restaurant translation).
So I got stuck with “don’t sue us” scorched.
The corn chowder was not as extravagant as some varieties I’ve had – it was basically a can of creamed corn with spices and bacon. But it turns out, a can of creamed corn with spices and bacon is pretty tasty.
I wolfed down my food, polished off the smoked porter and was ready for my mad dash to the airport.