The other day I was talking with some friends and we started to discuss some of the crazy town names that you might have never heard of in Nebraska. I few of my favorites are "Surprise" named in 1881 by George Miller who built a gristmill on the Big Blue River. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that so much water power was available so close to the river's headwaters, and this led him to name the mill "Surprise". "Friend" was named for Charles E. Friend, who homesteaded the land and initially named the community Friendville. He operated a dry goods store and post office. In 1873, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad named its new train station there - Friend. Last but not least and one of the most unique names of a town in Nebraska - Ohiowa. A majority of the early settlers being natives of the states of Ohio and Iowa which caused the name to be selected. The name of the village is unusual in that it contains the complete names of two states. All city name information provided by Wikipedia.
Making a drive out to Ohiowa wasn't by chance. A few weeks back, I had met Jim and Julie Stutzman at a "Meet the Brewer" event at the Local Beer, Patio, and Kitchen in Millard. The event was such a great time! With over 30 craft beer enthusiasts, Jim had a captive audience waiting to hear all about Lazy Horse and the beers we were about to sample.
The beers in the flight included:
Rode Hard Pale Ale
Rebel Horse IPA
Jim took us through each of the beers explaining the the type of beer and asking the everyone for the flavor they were getting out each of the brews. The Rebel Horse IPA and Milk Stout left quite the impression, so I knew I had to make it out to the brewery and winery to see all of the good things being created there!
My destination on a fine Saturday afternoon wasn't Ohiowa itself, but just a few miles outside of the town. I had my sights set on Lazy Horse Brewing and Winery. From Omaha, the drive was only about an hour and a half. As we got off of the interstate, the highways led us past Ohiowa and onto a country road leading up to the beautiful property. As you drive in you see horses, grapevines, and the tasting room. The country charm is everywhere and a relaxing feeling overcomes you as you pull up the drive and open your car door. The tasting room is amazing! As I opened the door and walked in, there were so many things that caught my eye including the windmill on the wooden wall. For me, I felt like I was at back home when I was growing up in the small town of Manley, NE that is a farming community and also at one time had a very large cattle feedlot. Jim told me that the windmill came from a friend's ranch near Hyannis, NE. A great display of the charm and history of the rural communities of Nebraska. Whether you are a cowboy on a ranch or a banker from the city, you will feel that this is the place for you.
You can tell a lot of thought and hard work went into creating the tasting room. The warmth you feel from the wall where the windmill is hung is from hours of hard work breaking down pallets. The wood from pallets that no longer were being used could easily have been tossed away. That never happened because Jim and Julie have great vision in turning raw materials into great things. That is why you see things like huge wire spools turned into tables.
On the other side of the wall is an incredible patio. The view from the patio is so relaxing as you see the grapevines, prairie, and crops growing across the countryside. One thing I noticed that Saturday, is that the group of people that I was with wasn't the only one taking in the atmosphere of Lazy Horse. Everyone there was having a great time talking, relaxing, and enjoying the wine and craft beer.
Jim is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. Getting to have a conversation with him over some of his wonderful brews was incredible! We talked about how Jim got into the wine and beer making business. Jim started out his career as a rancher. Jim did this for about 16 years before him and Julie decided to try something different. They came up with the idea of growing grapes to sell with the possibility of making wine. Jim then decided to take some fermenter classes in Wamego, KS. As the grape plants matured and Jim finished his classes, the beginnings of a winery started to take shape. One thing you have to appreciate about the wines made at Lazy Horse is that they are made with 100% Nebraska grown grapes! I don't know much about wine, but Lazy Horse has a great selection of white wines including: Brianna (sweet), Sweet Edelweiss (sweet), Trail Buds - (sweet white blend), Summer Girl (semi-sweet white blend), and Stoney's Blend (semi-dry). For red wines, they have a Frontenac which is a semi-dry wine.
So now I was really curious how the craft beer came into play. Jim said that he noticed when some of the guys would come into the tasting room that they were not sipping the wine but shooting it. This observation led Jim to believe he needed other choices. Adding craft beer would give everyone something they could enjoy when they came out to visit. So Jim started to learn how to brew beer. Patriot Homebrew Supply in Elkhorn, NE helped Jim get started along with some of Nebraska's finest home brewers. The goal for the first year of brewing was just to produce enough to have in the tasting room. Jim was able to produce 35 kegs of beer thinking that would get him through the summer. Within 3 weeks there were only 5 kegs left. Wow that is a great testament to the beer Jim is producing! Well that quickly changed the game and got Jim back in brewing more beer to keep up with the demand. News travels quickly and places like the Local Beer, Patio, and Kitchen started the line of places that wanted to be able to provide Lazy Horse beers from their taps.
I completely understand the demand for the Lazy Horse brews. Though being honest, I was surprised that a winery was producing such incredible beer! Beer with so many wonderful flavors - that is one thing I never get tired of with craft beer. Lazy Horse brews are top notch and each one has an outstanding flavor profile. For example, at the "Meet the Brewer" event, I had several people around me say they weren't IPA fans. After tasting all of the beers in the flight, the favorite of many turned out to be the Rebel Horse IPA. This imperial IPA has rich flavor and a smooth finish not a bitter bite which you would expect from an IPA with over 100 IBUs! Each beer I tried that Saturday in the tasting room was amazing! So Jim gave us a sneak peek of the Octoberfest coming out soon pictured below. The beautiful copper color and perfect head grab your attention right away. The malt complex used in this beer is wonderful - so much flavor and just a great beer for the fall. Speaking all great things about the fall like campfires and s'mores. The beauty below pictured next to the Octoberfest will put our taste buds into a frenzy! The combination of graham cracker and vanilla in this Porter is so delicious. I told Jim that this is a beer I could enjoy throughout the fall and winter. Jim, I don't beg often, but please keep making more of this one!
One of the other things you will notice when you visit Lazy Horse is how friendly everyone is. From the moment we walked into the tasting room until the time we left, we were treated as though we were the only customers there. When we first arrived, Jim was tending to business, so Kim who as been at Lazy Horse since it had opened gave us a tour of the brewing operation. Kim did a wonderful job answering our questions about the facility, beers being made, etc. She showed us the canning operation and the cool designs of the Lazy Horse labels.
As the afternoon progressed, hunger started to set in a bit. At the tasting room there are several food choices on the menu. I had my youngest son with me who is a little bit of a pizza connoisseur (ok he eats a lot of pizza) and said we had to try one of the them. In the tasting room, the wood fire pizza oven is definitely an attention grabber. While we were there, I would say almost everyone was getting a pizza. So we got the Chicken Alfredo pizza and it was the best pizza I can remember having in a long time. So pizza and beer, what more could you ask for.... Maybe a couple of cabins so I could stay the whole weekend - just a thought.
With the afternoon winding down, it was time to grab a crowler and a six-pack and head back to Omaha. Always good to plan in advance to have a designated driver if making a road trip.
It was a great day and I recommend that you get out to visit them soon. It really was no surprise how great their craft beer is and I truly enjoyed the hospitality! So sometimes it might be a unique name of a town that peaks our interest of checking out an area - but believe me there is a whole lot more just outside Ohiowa, NE. Don't wait, plan your trip soon so that you too can experience all that Lazy Horse Brewing and Winery has to offer.