My Beercation to Beer Mecca & Beyond: Lincoln Finale

Among craft and independent beer enthusiasts, Colorado is known as the “Beer Mecca.” This is due to the vibrant and well-established culture of breweries and brewpubs that number over 300. I first visited the rocky mountain state in 2015. I fell in love with the people, pace of life, and the beer. In celebration of my 40th trip around the sun, I decided that it would be fun to beercation out west again and check up on the beer scene.

After a big day of immersing myself in more Nebraska breweries, I am getting a clearer sense of what the Nebraska beer scene is all about. They are a younger craft beer scene in relation to other places in the country I have been. However, there is promise here and it is definitely worthy of a beercation destination.

After checking into my Airbnb and a little rest, I have time for a few more brewery visits. Armed with some suggestions from locals and brewery employees, I feel like I have a good agenda for the rest of the night.

White Elm Brewing Company

White Elm Brewing Company came highly recommended by at least 10 different people I met along the way. I am excited to see what all the love is about. My beercations are fueled by local recommendations and there is nothing better than a good endorsement from someone who is local. When you plan a beercation, you can only glean so much from online ratings.

White Elm is located on the edge of a residential neighborhood that reminds me a lot of Mendota Heights, MN. Nice houses, impeccable yards, and tons of vibrant flowers. The brewery is in an industrial complex and other than a sign on the side of the building, you would never know that there are tremendous beer delights pouring from the taps inside the building.

I settle in at the end of the bar. There are aromas of vegan Cuban sandwiches wafting around the place and I am regretting eating a sandwich on the road. The place is quite crowded for a Wednesday night. Groups of people sit at the bar and occupy the 4-tops and 2-tops around the place. There is even a couple canoodling on the couch in the corner. The range of patrons spans a continuum from early twenties to wiser folks in their seventies. Clearly, White Elm is a popular locale for beers, community, and a possible precursor to romance.

Service At Its Finest

As I look at the menu, Cassie, a bartender with tremendous beer knowledge and an amazing smile asks me if I need anything. They have a lager, a saison, some Belgian and English-inspired styles. I am finding myself quite at home here. All the while, I am sitting in the shadow of a beautiful artistic rendering of a White Elm on the wall.

Cassie is nice enough to tell me the story behind their logo. The White Elm is the inspiration for this brewery. The owners, Sarah and Colby, bought a house and would sit under the white elm in their yard pondering about whether or not to open up a brewery. Fun fact, the white elm in their yard is the oldest one in the entire city of Lincoln! A beercation is not just for drinking; you learn things, too.

Great Beers Make For A Great Beercation

I settle on some tasters and they are laid out in front of me in all their glory. I start with the saison. This beer is bright, spicy, and has a nice tang to it. My biggest complaint about most saisons is the the yeast character is not distinct enough. That is definitely not the case with the White Elm saison. The beer is nice and crisp with an effervescence that dazzles my palate.

Lager Me!

The next beer in line is the Still Life Lager. This is a hoppy lager and really drinks clean. I love the hoppy finish because it gives the beer an earthy depth.

Cerberus Belgian Strong Golden Ale

After the lager, it is on to the Cerberus Belgian Strong Golden Ale. There is an essence of chardonnay in this beer. Cerberus has a soothing, buttery, and white grape skin complexity that is balanced. There is also a pear sweetness that keeps it from being too dry. It leaves your palate feeling satisfied.

West Coast DIPA

The Spacegrass is White Elm’s West Coast DIPA. It has a fresh grassy hop aroma. The flavor of tangerine flesh starts you off sweet but quickly turns to a rind or pith-like bitterness. It gets more juicy as it warms up.

To The Dark Side!

It is time to transition to the dark, maltier beers. The Flat Roofin English Brown Porter is both delicious and a history lesson in a glass. Aromas of chocolate leather, and roasted malt waft invitingly from the glass. Sometimes when a beer smells so incredible, the flavors seldom deliver on that same level of sensory bliss. Luckily, this is not one of those times. The roasted malt not only delivers, it has free shipping on rich, nutty, and toasted malt. There is a nice bitterness in the finish that makes you want to keep sipping.

Stout Time!

Just when I think that the malty beers cannot get any better, I get a taste of the Champ Imperial Stout. This has guajillo chiles to give it an extra modicum of depth. The guajillo is subtle and the heat builds on the back of my tongue in a slow heat that dries out the sip. Then, the cocoa nibs, vanilla, and cinnamon jump into the fray to add balance, sweetness, and more harmonious and decadent layers of flavor.

You’re Killing Me, Fluffaluffagus!

Last, but certainly not least is the Fluffaluffagus. No, this is not an inoculation for a Brazilian strain of herpes, it is an imperial milk stout brewed with roasted marshmallows. Initially, I am hesitant to try this beer due to my fear of a cloyingly sweet stout.

However, as soon asI taste it, I realize I have nothing to worry about. The aroma of the beer is lots of marshmallow. Both sweetness of the mallow, but also melanoidin burnt sugar aroma. This is smell is a combination smokiness and caramelized sugar. The flavors are roasty and not at all cloying. Rather, there is a comforting warmth to the sweetness. You also get a little smokiness to mimic the burnt marshmallow.

As I happily sip away on my beers, Cassie asks me if I want to take a look at the brewhouse to see their barrels. I think that anytime you get to have a look behind the curtain, it makes for a great beercation moment. Graciously accepting her offer, I go back to find a decent amount of stellar spirit barrels resting peacefully on racks. I also take some pictures of the brewhouse for good measure.

Old School Versus New School

I have two separate conversations with locals while enjoying my beercation stop at White Elm Brewing Company. The conversation centers around where I should stop for my last taproom visit of the night. The main commonality of the conversations is that each person feels passionately about their favorite Lincoln brewery. The juxtaposition of the perspectives showcases the old school versus new school proclivities of the craft beer geek in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Old School-The Classic Styles

As I am tasting my beers, I notice, out of the corner of my eye, a gentleman walking over to me. He asks what I am up to and inquires on whether I am with the local paper. I explain that I am on a beercation from MN visiting Lincoln for beer. His face lights up and he smiles. Immediately, he wants to know what I think of White Elm Brewing.

This older gent is effusive with his praise of White Elm Brewing and lives in the neighborhood. I imagine this mid-fifties male, who is here with friends, represents a growing segment of the Lincoln, Nebraska, craft beer scene. He explains that the comes here often to meet some friends for a pint or two. He is keen to know where my beercation is taking me next. I explain that I have time for one more stop in Lincoln. I ask him to suggest a place.

He pauses, and then asks me if I like weird shit in my beer. Almost shooting beer out of my nose, I guffaw and ask him to elaborate. He says, “You know, like peanut butter, chocolate, and fruit in your beer.” The gentleman continues, Boiler Brewing puts all that crap in their beer. You should definitely stick with Zipline, they have a great lager that wins all kinds of awards.” I thank him for his idea and look into how far away Zipline is from White Elm.

The New School-Adjuncts, Dry Hops, and Fruit, Oh, my!

About five minutes after my first interaction with a local, another guy comes up to pay his tab. He looks my stuff and asks, “What did you think of the beers?” I told him that they are very good and he is lucky to have this brewery in his neck of the woods. This guy is probably in his thirties. He is wearing a Denver Broncos hat and his name is Troy. I ask Troy where I should meander to next and he almost asks the same question that the previous gentleman did, “Do you like off-the-wall beers?” I said I do to a certain degree. He says, “Then you gotta go to Boiler Brewing.”

I had heard from others about Boiler and they are doing all the fad beers. There is nothing wrong with trends-pastry stouts, milkshake IPAs, and Hazy IPAs-all have their place. However, I do find many of them to be poorly made. I ponder the next stop as I wrap up my beers and gaze around the taproom in admiration.

White Elm Brewing is definitely a must-stop if you are in Lincoln. They are operating on a skillful level when it comes to the flavors that they have in their beer. Cassie’s passion for beer and friendliness also elevated my experience. Your beer can be world-class, but if the people serving it don’t make you feel at home, you will stick to buying that particular brand off the liquor store shelf and not frequent the taproom.

I say goodbye to Cassie and she gives me an awesome sticker and kindly thanks me for stopping in. Now, based on Troy’s advice and the countless suggestions of others, I am setting my GPS for Boiler Brewing.

Boiler Brewing Company

Chasing trends can be a fool’s errand. New is not always best. When it comes to beer, certain breweries have definitely made a name for themselves by hopping on the hype train. That works for a while, but after the buzz dies down, you still have to make good beer. Whether it is trendy or good, there has to be a reason why so many people glorify and promote visiting Boiler Brewing Company.

I park the car and descend into the lower level of the building that houses Boiler Brewing. I step inside and immediately am in love with the place. It almost has a speakeasy feel to it. Bar seating, table seating, and all the tanks basking in glory behind the bar. This is a unique place, for sure.

Beer Time

The hour is late and this is my fifth and last stop of the day. It is beer time, for sure, but any thoughts I have of tasting my way down the line will have to wait for another visit. I order a mix of things in a 4 taster flight. I am just getting a sense of what these beers are. There are a lot of higher ABV beers whose descriptions ready like a detailed dessert menu. I double down on the pastry stouts and mix in one good NEIPA to see what how they rate.

Kviek Yeast? Sköl!

That! V2 is Boiler Brewing’s NEIPA that is brewed using Kviek yeast. What is Kviek yeast, you ask? Well, it is literally a gift from Odin. It is an old Norwegian yeast strain that has been used in brewing for centuries. American brewers have discovered it and been tinkering with it for about 5 years. Now, you might say that you haven’t heard of it up until a year ago. I know of at least 5 brewers who have been researching and experimenting with it for longer than it has been visible in the marketplace.

Kviek is a versatile yeast that responds well to fermenting at higher temperatures. It is a fast and efficient yeast strain. Brewers can ferment out a beer in 2-4 days with this yeast in the right conditions and that is pretty mind-blowing to me. Surely, I will have other run-ins with Kviek yeast on this beercation to see how it does in different beers.

That! V2 is insanely juicy. There are aromas of pineapple and tangerine. There is not a ton of bitter hop bites or oils in the taste. It is cloudy, but not hazy like a Trillium or Lupulin beer. The big takeaway here is that the Kviek yeast has imparted some distinct citrus qualities. If the beer had more hoppy balance in the form of bitterness, it would be absolutely sensational.

Liquid Desserts

Next up is a Turkish Coffee Double Milk Stout on Nitro. I am sure that the beer on its own is as viscous as a quart of Penzoil. On Nitro, this beer breaks the creaminess meter. Inhaling deeply, I close my eyes and am sitting back in Archetype Coffee, totally immersed in the comforting aroma of roasted coffee. The beer is almost cloyingly sweet. Lots of chocolate and vanilla in this one, and the sweetness is somewhat dulled by the Nitro. I think that a taster size of this beer is just about as much as I want.

The You Got Peanut Butter In My Chocolate is another pastry stout. This one is definitely too cloying for my palate. The peanut butter is lost on the overt levels of sweetness. I was really hoping for more of a balance with this one.

Thinilla is the last beer of the night. Thankfully, this beer is balanced and has vast layers of complexity. There is dark cherry, molasses, plum, chocolate, and a hint of bourbon barrel in the flavor. This delectable stout is aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. There is no doubt that this is my favorite of the bunch. This beer will stand out amongst many of the others I am sure to drink on my beercation.

Minnesotans Are Everywhere!

As I am drinking my beers, I hear a couple at the end of the bar mentioning how Boiler Brewing Company reminds them of Barrel Theory Beer Company. Why is this noteworthy? Well, Barrel Theory Beer Company happens to be located in my home city. It is also the darling of the MN beer scene. If you haven’t been there, you need to go. I find it funny that seconds earlier, I was thinking that Boiler Brewing reminds me of Barrel Theory.

I ask this couple if they are from Minnesota and they are. They live in Eagan, a southern burb, and they are in town for the Nebraska Craft Brewer’s Festival. What a small world! I love to see other people doing a beercation to explore further than the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

If I had more time, I would venture into some of the other selections. I didn’t get into any of the kettle sours, but enjoy the ones I had. I think that if you venture to Boiler Brewing Company, you can expect flavors that are electric and bold. Some of them drank a little too sweet for my palate, but they are by no means bad. I understand why there is a ton of hype around Boiler Brewing. They are definitely worth a stop.

I am happy to end my beercation time in Lincoln with White Elm Brewing and Boiler Brewing. I will come back again and try the others, but Nebraska is just the appetizer to the main course of my beercation which is Colorado. The Nebraska beer scene is heading in a good direction. They are maturing as a beer culture and there is definitely a diversity in what each brewery offers. Now, I need to head back to my airbnb to get a good night’s sleep. I set my sights on Denver, Colorado, tomorrow and will need to have my palate ready for excellence. Prost!

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .