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Monday, July 07, 2008

Beer Corner USA

posted by beertopia_brent
Omaha has never been known as a beer destination let alone a craft beer friendly town. However, this perception is slowly changing...

While I admittedly harbor some bias I do believe "Beer Corner USA" is one of the beeriest spots in the country, let alone Omaha. On the corner of 36th & Farnam, in the heart of Midtown Omaha, resides the epicenter of all things beer in Nebraska. Three bars and a package beer store are the residents of Beer Corner USA, each is unique and yet they are all interrelated.

The anchor of Beer Corner USA is Crescent Moon Ale House. Since 1996 Crescent Moon has been home to Omaha’s best draft beer selection. With 31 taps, and the vast majority devoted to American craft beer, "the Moon" is one of the few bars in Omaha that does not offer one light beer on-tap or any Budweiser/Miller/Coors beers (ok, Blue Moon is on-tap).

Boulevard Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewing Company provide the foundation of the draft selection but seasonal beers and Nebraska brewed beers add depth. A few of the newest draft beers include Odell IPA, North Coast Old Rasputin and Sierra Nevada Summerfest.

Crescent Moon is the type of bar that feels like home, it feels used and enjoyed. It is not sterile or stuffy but it isn’t rundown and dingy. Crescent Moon is like your favorite pair of jeans, comfortable and reliable. With a knowledgeable staff, tasty pub grub and delicious beers in a friendly environment, Crescent Moon is a suitable destination for causal beer drinkers and beer geeks alike.

Crescent Moon is only 1/4th of the equation. In the basement of Crescent Moon is another world or better yet another country. Huber-Haus German Beer Hall has become one of Omaha’s hottest beer drinking establishments since opening in April of 2005. The walls are covered in rock and wood paneling; decorations are minimal and consist of German bier signs, cans, and neon lights. With eight German beers on-tap the variety rotates readily, there is always at least one Hefeweizen, Helles Lager and Dopplebock but rare styles show up to like Keller Bier, Rauchbier, and Schwarzbeir. Fans of German beer flock to Huber-Haus (and often join the Mug Club) as there is no other place in town to drink Spaten, Weihenstephaner, and Ayinger on-tap (let alone in bottles).

The newest bar to the "Corner" is Max and Joe’s Belgian Beer Tavern. Max and Joe’s opened in November of 2006 and also doubles as Crescent Moon’s party room. When not booked for a private party, Max and Joe’s is opened Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The featured beers are Belgian, five on-tap and another 35 in bottles. The two heavy hitters on draft are St. Bernardus Abt 12 and Delirium Tremens.

The décor is "1950s neighborhood bar" with vintage signs of long past Nebraska breweries like Falstaff and Storz. Max and Joe’s provides a totally unique drinking experience, in comparison to its sister bars. It is more laidback and, often, quieter. The identity of the three bars remains different and yet they are all under the same roof.

All told, Beer Corner USA offers 44 different beers on-tap in three distinct bars. No other bar in Omaha can boast such a quality selection.

Likewise, no package store can boast the bottle selection of Beertopia. This is where I enter the picture. I am the resident beer specialist at Beertopia which is a nice way of calling me a beer geek. Beertopia is home to some 560 beers and as the name suggests there is no wine or spirits sold here (we do carry 6 ciders). Our clientele enjoys craft beer and more obscure imports as such the store carries no Budweiser, Miller or Coors. Inch for inch Beertopia is one of the best beer stores in the Midwest.

However, arguably, the most special aspect of Beer Corner USA are the major beer events. Huber-Haus hosts Omaha’s largest, most authentic Oktoberfest in the fall. The two day event boasts live polka music, German food and lots of German Oktoberfest beer. On a slightly cool fall night nothing tastes better than a malty Oktoberfest beer. Really, there is nothing else quite like it in Omaha. The closest competition is Bockfest in the spring, replace Oktoberfest beer with Bocks and subtract 20 degrees from the temperature add a few fire pits for warmth and welcome to Bockfest!

Beertopia / Crescent Moon co-sponsor three large beer festivals a year, the Holiday Beerfest in the winter which features Christmas and winter seasonals, the Extreme Beerfest in early spring which features beers all above 7% ABV. This summer Sunfest is in its second season. This year the event is being held outside on July 12. Some 36 breweries are participating featuring 125 beers. Those who are attending (and tickets do remain) get unlimited samples from 3pm-8pm.

Frankly, the landscape of the Omaha’s beer scene would be so remarkably different without Beer Corner USA it would be unfathomable. Yes, the Omaha metro area is lucky to have two excellent brewpubs (Nebraska Brewing Company and Upstream) and a handful of bars and restaurants provide a solid selection of beer but frankly, nothing in Omaha compares to Beer Corner USA.

Clearly Omaha residents are becoming more aware of good beer and are demanding a greater selection and better quality. A year from now I expect Omaha’s beer scene to be even better with Beertopia and Crescent Moon leading the way.

For more information about Beer Corner USA visit: www.beercornerusa.com

Introducing: Brent Udron - Beer Correspondent
Bockfest 2007 @ Beertopia
Oktoberfest 2007 @ Beertopia

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