2015 BEER DISCOVERY TOUR: Empyrean Brewing Company, Lincoln NE (June 27, Brewery Stop #9) The ninth brewery that we visited on the beer discovery tour (click to read about the whole trip) was Empyrean Brewing Company in Lincoln NE, June 27th, 2015. After saying goodbye to Denver, we drove across Nebraska to Lincoln to visit some family for a few days. Having been born and raised in Lincoln, it’s nice to see the city grow up some, expand it’s food and beer offerings, and be a destination for some and not just a layover for those taking I-80 across the mid-US. We got into town late afternoon on Saturday, spent some time with my family, and then headded out for a drink after dinner at Empyrean Brewing/Lazlow’s.
20 years or so ago I worked at Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill for a summer while I was going to college in Lincoln. Back then, it was the ONLY micro-brewery in Lincoln, and their beers were unique and really stood out. Over the past few decades, a lot of changes have occurred with Lazlow’s including expansions and new locations, the brewery becoming it’s own company, separate brewing facility, and changes in the restaurant to a more corporate vibe. Some may say these changes are for the better, some may say for the worse. I’m sort of torn, I’m happy the business has grown but not so happy with the results. The beer quality has dropped a bit from what it used to be, it’s more about mid-ranged beers as the audience has grown (with bottling and distribution), and they have taken the approach to shoot for the middle, which is safe.
The restaurant in the old historic haymarket part of downtown Lincoln has some of the same food that put it on the map from all those years ago (as a food destination), and with the addition of more seating, and a larger selection of beers, they are now competing with other breweries in the area and many more restaurants as best they can. The quality of food is there, the quality of beer is ‘ok’, but nothing really stood out in the beer lineup. I would hope that as the brewers work on refining the beers, that they get better over time and not get stagnate.
Overall, it was a good visit to an old brewery-restaurant that I have lots of fond memories of. The bar wasn’t that busy, the bartender didn’t really know a whole lot about the beers, but that’s ok, it’s not that type of place. It’s more focused on the food and being a college hangout at this point (at least in the bar side). The reviews of the beer start at the top and go around the sampler tray clockwise in the picture below. If I were to pick out a favorite, I’d go with the LunaSea ESB, as it’s a sweet-malty forward and toasty beer.
|Chaco Canyon Gold
Empyrean Brewing Co. • American Blonde Ale • IBU: 21 • ABV: 4.8% • 4 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Caramel Munich, Caramel 60 and Euro Pils
Hops: Perle and Cascade
Solid yellow draft with a bright white and bubbly head. Some lacing is left as you sip. The nose is a little sweet with honey and bread. The front to mid mouth-feel is a little bit of biscuity malt, bread, slight fruity hop notes, and a mid-carbonation lends to a brighter back end.
|Watch Man IPA
Empyrean Brewing Co. • IPA • IBU: 58 • ABV: 6% • 8 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Caramel 60 and Aromatic
Hops: Nugget, Columbus and Cascade
Lite golden pour, white foamy head that dropped quickly (low carbonation). The nose is a bit of citrus and rind, with a bit of hop oils. The front mouth is thin, slight astringent with alcohol, and earthy hits with the malt on the mid-back. Hops are not as pronounced as we’d like. The slight dry finish is nice for an ale, but this is supposed to be an IPA, and it falls a little short on that.
|Burning Skye Scottish Style Ale
Empyrean Brewing Co. • Scottish Ale • IBU: 13 • ABV: 5.3% • 14 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Honey, Smoked, Biscuit, Caramel 60 and Midnight Wheat
Hops: Nugget and Cascade
Bright orange draft, solid white foamy/creamy head that lingered with nice lacing on the rim. The nose is a bit sweet with bread like qualities and a hit of caramel. The front mouth is a mid-bodied malt-forward beer with solid notes of dried fruit, scotch (alcohol), and the back is smooth and creamy with hints of smoke/toasted grains.
|Luna Sea ESB
Empyrean Brewing Co. • Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) • IBU: 31 • ABV: 6.3% • 18 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Biscuit, Caramel 60 and Aromatic
Hops: Galena and Cluster
Nice amber colored draft with a white frothy head that has nice retention. The nose is a bit of raw wood, malt-bread notes, dried fruit. The front to mid mouth is medium bodied, decent amount of carbonation, hints of hops and bitters with the dried fruit (apples and pears). The mid-back is a bit more crisp and sharper with a dry herbal hop note on the after-taste.
|Third Stone Brown
Empyrean Brewing Co. • English Brown Ale • IBU:13 • ABV: 5.3% • 16 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Caramel 60, Midnight Wheat and Biscuit
Mid-ambered draft with a nice full head that lingered and left decent lacing on the rim. The nose is somewhat grain-forward, hints of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate (raw), hops are secondary. The front and mid mouth are a bit complex, but challenging with a range of flavors from raw vegital to spice, cocoa, and secondary sweet malts with low hops. The hops on this are hidden in the vegital profile. The medium bodied draft has low carbonation and has a slight dry, smooth finish.
|Dark Side Vanilla Porter
Empyrean Brewing Co. • American Porter • IBU:23 • ABV: 5.7% • 38 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Caramel 60, Midnight Wheat, Aromatic and Roast
Hops: Perle and Cascade
Dark brown draft with an off-white tan head that had nice retention and spongy lacing on the rim. The nose is lots of chocolate and vanilla with some malt backing. The front mouth is dry chocolates, roasted malts, some vanilla bean, slight bitterness with the cacao. It has a medium body, slightly dry-chalk like back mouth-feel, but overall decent carbonation and smooth finishing.
|Collapsar Oatmeal Stout (Nitro)
Empyrean Brewing Co. • American Porter • IBU:22 • ABV: 5.6% • 40 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Biscuit, Caramel 60, Midnight Wheat, Roast and Aromatic
Hops: Galnea and Cascade
Nitro creamy tan head with solid retention, black to brown hues and a roasted coffee, chocolate and toffee nose. The front mouth-feel is really creamy from the nitro, with slight sweet and dry cacao hints. The nitro really makes this beer shine, with a slight sweet and rich after-taste.
|Super Nova Summer Fest
Empyrean Brewing Co. • American Pale Ale (APA) • IBU:35 • ABV: 5% • 5 SRM
Malts: 2-Row, Caramel 60 and Biscuit
Hops: Galena, Amarillo and Cluster
Extras: American Corn
Seasonal draft with a orange/yellow/golden hue and solid white frothy head that left minimal lacing. The front mouth is a dry-cracker malt, not much sweetness, slight dry-hopping esters. The mid-back mouth-feel is solid, medium bodied with some lingering malt and fruit-hop bitters.