- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2016

Its nickname is the Cornhusker State, so perhaps it was little wonder — and a matter of time — before someone took the opportunity to utilize the state’s most famous crop to return distilling to Nebraska. Craft brewer and distiller Zac Triemert of Brickway Brewery & Distillery in Omaha has done precisely that.

Mr. Triemert is but one sailor on the ongoing voyage of craft beer’s attempts to dent the market share of the Big Three. But Mr. Triemert decided to take it one step further and return distilling to a state where it had effectively been banned since Prohibition.

Mr. Triemert wrote a bill to reintroduce distilling to Nebraska himself.

“Every [state lawmaker] I spoke to said it was a great idea,” Mr. Triemert told The Washington Times recently, adding that many legislators even asked him, “Why has no one done this before?”

As the state capital of Lincoln’s legislature is unicameral, Mr. Triemert needed only to get enough support for the single chamber to vote on it. It passed handily — with but a few dissenters — and distilling returned to Nebraska for the first time in nearly a century. Mr. Triemert sold his original distillery before starting Brickway, the fourth in the state and the first in Omaha. He brought over a distilling pot from Scotland and got to work.

Not only is Mr. Triemert the 37th state’s first distiller, he continues to brew. At Brickway Mr. Triemert offers up distilled liquors as well as quality brews for enjoying on the banks of the Missouri. His vodka is excellent, but the whiskey is divine, offering a complex taste profile with an after-experience that lights up the senses.

Of Brickway’s beers on tap, special mention must be made of the delicious pilsner and the vanilla coffee stout, which will please even though who dislike that style of beer (this reporter among them). The barley wine boasts a tremendous flavor profile, and the Hefeweizen is pleasantly enjoyable. The small batch American wheat is also refreshing.

Mr. Triemert, a Minnesota native, also offers Omahans who venture to his Old Market neighborhood the opportunity to trade in “crappy beer” for some of Brickway’s brews in a program he founded last September called “Beer Amnesty.” Residents of Nebraska’s largest city are invited to bring in their less desirable offerings — typically leftover from friends — and trade up for Brickway beer, no questions asked.

One for a good laugh, Mr. Triemert and his team use the less-desirable swill for all manner of gag such as a beer slip and slide and even “watering” a community garden, seen on the website for Beer Amnesty.

The website even offers the frustrated drinkers of Omaha a take on the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, enticing one and all to utilize the freedom to drink better beer:

Give us your tired swill,
your weak beer,
your cheap beer,
your huddled masses of forgotten brew in the back of the fridge,
the wretched refuse of teeming cookouts past.
Bring these all, the undrunk castaways, tempest-tossed, to us!

• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

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