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Paying a visit to Omaha, Nebraska, reveals a thriving beer scene. Plus: love for fruit-infused IPAs, the great concept of "local" tags at area bars, and Sugar Maple celebrates eight years.

I headed back to my home state of Nebraska over Easter weekend and am proud to say the beer scene there is thriving.

I talked up Farnam Street breweries last year and on this trip I paid a visit to Omaha’s Infusion Brewing Company. The brewery was founded by Bill Baburek, owner of the amazing beer bar Crescent Moon. The spot occupies an old butcher shop in Omaha’s hip Benson neighborhood. The Camaraderie Blood Orange IPA is a delicious take on the style and Love Drug Golden Blonde combines refreshing peach flavor with Belgian malts. The most daring was Vanilla Bean Blonde, a session beer with a big vanilla finish. It wasn’t overpowering and reminded me a bit of cream soda—in a good way.

After my visit to Benson I stopped at Beertopia, a fantastic beer store next to Crescent Moon, where I found a smattering of people eagerly awaiting the delivery of The Lord of Ord Imperial Oatmeal Stout, a limited brew from Scratchtown Brewing in Ord, Nebraska. I’ve been to Ord. I had no idea that the town was responsible for a sought-after brew. Of course, I bought a bottle (limit one). I also bought some brews from Kinkaider Brewing, which is on a farm near Broken Bow. The small town in the Nebraska sandhills is close to where I grew up (I even played high school basketball in the Broken Bow gym on a couple of occasions). I wasn’t a big fan of their basketball program, but I’m thrilled that the town has a brewery.

The craft beer explosion is clearly happening everywhere, and that’s a good thing to see.

Barley Pop of the Week

It’s well documented that I’m a big fan of the “let’s add fruit to IPAs” movement. Knoxville, Iowa’s Peace Tree Brewing takes the grapefruit IPA up a notch. The cloudy brew doesn’t have hints of grapefruit, rather it employs massive grapefruit flavor. The result of this citrus bomb is an amazingly refreshing IPA with a bitter finish that is due more to the grapefruit and less to the hops. It’s a bold beer, but one that works very well.

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Local omaha _ brewcityQuick Taps

Another cool thing I noticed at bars in Omaha was the “Local” tags hanging from the taps of brews from Nebraska breweries. Apparently the tags are the idea of the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild to increase awareness of Nebraska breweries. What a great concept.

The craft beer scene has its devoted followers. It’s fitting that the there are a few craft breweries residing in old churches. CraftBeer.com has some amazing photos of a few of them.

Events Brewing

Wednesday, March 30: Milwaukee Brewing is taking over the taps at Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave.) and they’re bringing gin barrel-aged O-Gii Wit, which snagged a gold medal at the 2015 Festival of Barrel-Aged Beer.

Wednesday, March 30: Champps (1240 S. Moorland Rd.) is tapping 2014 and 2016 barrels of Avery Tweak Barrel-Aged Coffee Stout, an Uncle Jacob’s Barrel-Aged Stout and a Samael’s Oak-Aged Strong Ale at 6 p.m. Those are some seriously rare brews. They’re also some seriously high ABV brews, so plan accordingly.

Wednesday, March 30: Ambers and reds are the highlight at the weekly Milwaukee Beer Society tasting at Best Place (901 W. Juneau Ave.) from 6 to 9 p.m. Cost is $10.

Thursday, March 31: Pizza Man (11500 W. Burleigh St.) hosts a beer dinner with Hinterland Brewery. The cost is $50 and reservations can be made by calling 414-249-2000. Check out the menu on Pizza Man’s Facebook page.

Friday, April 1: Fittingly, Draft & Vessel (4417 N. Oakland Ave.) is hosting North Coast PranQster Day at 6 p.m. A slate of North Coast brews will be available and they’ll have a photo booth with complimentary jester hats. Nice.

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Friday, April 1: Try Milwaukee Brewing beers at Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.) from 4 to 7 p.m.

Friday, April 1: Potosi Brewing comes to Discount Liquor Waukesha (919 N. Barstow Ave.) from 4 to 6 p.m.

Saturday, April 2: Discount Liquor Waukesha hands out samples from Milwaukee Brewing from noon to 3 p.m.

Saturday, April 2: Hoppy beers are the theme at the weekly tasting at Three Cellars (7133 S. 76th St.) from 1 to 4 p.m.

Sunday, April 3: The Sugar Maple (441 E. Lincoln Ave.) is hosting its eight year anniversary party from noon to 5 p.m. The event is also a benefit for the Mitchell Park Domes. Bottle share starts at 2 p.m. and there will be both silent and live auctions. I’ve been to a charitable event at The Sugar Maple before, and it was pretty amazing. Expect great beer on tap and a few rarities in the auctions. Bring your checkbook.

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