Thursday, August 26, 2010

Going Upstream to Cheat on Your Beer

Upstream Brewing Company
514 S. 11th St.
Omaha, NE
Visited August 11, 2010
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.

If not held in check, that desire for variety can get us into trouble.

But I see nothing wrong with having a polygamous relationship with beer.

Go ahead. Try it. Cheat on your Miller Lite.

The sun will come up tomorrow. I promise.

When ever I walk into any 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.

Something cool.


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 concept, which is built on the idea of exciting variety, can itself get a little stale.

Too many brewpubs stick the basics. IPA, stout, brown ale, red ale and the “American” lager (so your lame I-only-drink-Bud-Light-girlfriend doesn’t veto the place).

At some point, after 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 brewpubs.

They had the old brewpub standbys like “Firehouse Red”, “Flagship IPA”, “Capitol Pale Ale” and the limp veto-proof “O! Gold Light”.

But their beer selection went way beyond the basics, including “Dundee Scotch Ale”, “Old Market White Satin”, “Munich Helles”, “Johny Dortmunder Lager”, “Smoked Porter”, “Saisson Sorel” and “Raspberry Lager” (in case 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 a 48 hour period before heading to the Omaha Airport to spread my legs, raise my arms over-head and have some federal bureaucrat deem my bodily cavities necessarily adequate for travel within our own borders.

That doesn’t leave much time for exciting beer experimentation. So before I could even 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 the Alaskan Brewing and Stone Brewing versions before and was anxious to try it.

Smoked beers, for the uninitiated, contain malt that has 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 up by Upstream is much more subtle, with just a few hints of smoke. But considering it was 100 degrees outside, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The only problem with Upstream was the service.

My bartender acted like she had just spent the afternoon hanging out with Suit420 before her shift. (But don’t worry about her; I’ll pick up the tab for her federally guaranteed food stamps, WIC, subsidized rent, cell phone and 99 weeks of unemployment after she gets canned.)

If she had demonstrated just a bit more ambition, I might have been able to squeeze in a third beer variety. 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 over-cooked 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 just a can of creamed corn with spices and bacon. But, as 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.

I had a 5:20pm flight.

Just one problem though. At 4:20, I was still sitting at the bar trying to get bartender420 to take my money. It was like trying to get one of those fuzzy mascots to throw you a T-shirt at the game.

But bad service on one random Wednesday afternoon isn’t going to keep me from coming back. I’m sure bartender420 will be collecting some of her 99 weeks of unemployment checks by the time that happens anyway.

For truly exciting beer selection in a cool, historic, high-ceilinged hang-out in downtown Omaha, Upstream Brewing is a great place to beat the heat.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt

Upstream Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

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