When it comes to classics, what are the first things that pop into your head? Is it a '57 Chevy, a book like "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", a movie - "The GodFather" or something else? There is always a special thing that makes a classic stand out like its style and eloquence.
Scriptown Brewing Company from the day they open their doors in December of 2014 was destined to be a classic. From the taproom that takes you back as if you were in the 1920's to the traditional craft beers that are brewed with excellence, this is the experience you will have every time in this Blackstone District brewery in Omaha, Nebraska.
John Fahrer, a homebrewer with over 30 years of experience knew where his passion was in life but had to wait for the right time to pursue having his own brewery. Let's see how it all came together!
John grew up in South Omaha where he enjoyed all of the great cultural diversity of the area. My mother and grandparents also were from South Omaha, so we chatted about some of the familiar Czech and Bohemian dishes like kolaches. I can almost taste them now! We talked about how our mothers and grandmothers could make some of the best, traditional dishes that are so hard to find now. I think you can definitely see this influence in the beers that John brews. More on that a little bit later.
John spent many years as a hardworking, family man raising 3 children with his wife Debbie. During those years, John enjoyed his hobby of homebrewing. He explained that it was as much fun researching about brewing as it was to brew in the early days back in the 1980's. Back then, the only source of information was books. Finding a good book and applying everything you could learn from it before moving onto another was key. The other difficult part about being a homebrewer was finding decent ingredients. Locally, there were a couple of brewing supply stores where you could get what you needed but nothing like what is available today.
John told me about some of the styles of beers he started with which included British Bitters, German Lagers, and others. One that he remembers well was a British Pale Ale he brewed in 1989. The ingredients were getting better and there was more information about brewing that kept John's passion growing year by year.
In the 1990's, John's recipes continued to evolve and by 1994, it was time to see what others thought of them. John entered the Homebrewer Competition at the state fair that year. Anxious to see what others that of his beer, one of the comments from the judges really stood out. That comment was, "Commercial quality." This was exciting to see and fueled the fire for more entries into other competitions. In 1995, John received a silver medal for his Fall Fest beer. Then in 1996, John won the NHC in New Orleans. His Muddy Mo Amber Ale was named Best of Show out of 3,300 entries that year. John earned the title of Homebrewer of the Year!
In 1997 while John was in Denver, he met John Hickenlooper. Mr. Hickenlooper co-founded Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988. He also has been a mayor of Denver and governor of Colorado. John was very curious to get any kind of information from Mr. Hickenlooper on what it takes to start a brewery. In the 1990's, there was boom for craft beer breweries in a Colorado. For those in it for a quick buck, they soon found themselves out of business before 2000. For John, this conversation helped him decide that it was too risky especially when raising a family to start a brewery at this time.
The 2000's were a decade of homebrewing competitions both as a competitor and a judge. John's desire to open a brewery continued to grow. It was in 2011 when John would meet Scott Stephens. Scott had been living in Portland, Oregon where craft beer became an interest. When coming back to Omaha, Scott felt there was an opportunity and he loved what John was brewing.
The two began to think about the business plan. At first, the plan was leaning towards more of a distribution model with less emphasis on the taproom. The research began for potential sites around Omaha. In the meantime, Scott owned a restaurant in Benson call Lot 2. John began brewing small batches of beer for the restaurant and they were a hit!
Timing is very important and so is location. Scott had found out that Farnam street was changing in the 35th to 40th street area. Farnam would no longer be a one-way street. Doesn't seem like a big deal, but in reality it was a driving force for the revitalization of the area known as the Blackstone District.
GreenSlate was the company working on the development plan for the area. They showed John and Scott a couple of properties and the former Piggly Wiggly at 3922 Farnam was the one! The space was perfect for a nice, large taproom and had enough room for the brewery also. John could produce his traditional craft beers and build a brand before diving directly into distributing his beer. Now all that was needed was a name.
One of the hardest parts about creating a business is coming up with the name. John said they had an idea about Lone Tree because it was the Lone Tree Ferry Company that had founded Omaha. The name didn't pan out because it had already been taken from a brewery in Colorado. The name needed to reflect something historically about Omaha. John said they started thinking about the first subdivision which was named Scriptown. Scriptown was the area roughly around 30th from Cuming to Fort Street. The name reflected that fact that scrip was used as a way to make payments. Scriptown was a great choice to relate to Omaha’s historical past!
Next to name, logos are really important so that people can relate to your brand. The special font for Scriptown is perfect for reflecting who they are. I love the classly, old-world style. This truly adds to the vibe of the taproom and the experience when having a Scriptown beer!
I remember in February of 2015, I was on a bus tour for Omaha Beer Week. The bus pulled up in front of Scriptown. We got off the bus and walked into the taproom. Everyone on the tour were intrigued by the taproom and even more when John told the story of how he got the brewery started. That day I was thinking that area seemed kind of quiet and was wondering how a brewery would survive.
John said it was tough the first couple of years. Thinks were tight, but he felt with the area growing that it was only a matter of time for things to take off. Scriptown indeed has played a big role in the growth of the Blackstone District and the craft beer community in Omaha. As you walk around the Blackstone District today, it is a vibrant, fun place that continues to evolve into a place that has something for everyone.
John spoke of some of the fun events that they have with their neighbors. For example, they had a beer float night recently with Coneflower Creamery. Out of the roughly 170 floats, here were some of the favorites:
Intensity Stout with Vanilla Bean
Nut Job Brown Ale with Malted Milk Chocolate
Yotus IPA with Passion Fruit Sorbet
Petal Pusher Hibiscus Ale with Tart Cherry Crumble