“We felt like we were on the cusp of something really great happening in the Omaha metro area…We knew education and exposure were the keys to the growth of craft beer in Nebraska.” Thanks to the efforts of passionate supporters and activists such as Kim Kavulak, owner of Nebraska Brewing Company and founder of the Great Nebraska Beer Fest (GNBF), Nebraska’s craft scene has truly become something special. Now in its fifth year, GNBF stays true to its mission to provide the community with an amazing selection of world-class beer while giving fans countless opportunities to interact and learn from the brewers themselves.
The Great Nebraska Beer Fest will take place on Saturday, August 24, in the Shadow Lake Towne Center across the road from Nebraska Brewing Co. at 72nd & Hwy 370 in Papillion, NE. The doors for the now sold-out VIP ticket holders will open at noon, with general admission entry beginning at 1:00 PM. Breweries from at least 18 states will be in attendance – from Maui Brewing in Hawaii to Deschutes Brewing in Oregon, all the way to the East Coast with Shmaltz Brewing from New York and Cigar City Brewing from Florida – not to mention the plethora of great brews coming from the best local Nebraska and Midwest breweries.
According to Kim, GNBF has grown from the first year’s 20 breweries and 100 brews to four times that size because of the support of the local craft beer community as well as the relationships built in the years since Nebraska Brewing Co. started. “We bring a unique aspect to a beer festival, in that we are also brewers. We’re not just festival organizers who come in to make a quick buck,” says Kim. I have to agree that the passion, excitement, and knowledge Kavulak and her colleagues bring make the GNBF stand out.
An interesting feature of this year’s GNBF is that the Nebraska Hop Growers Association provided some hops to four local breweries – Lucky Bucket Brewing, Zipline Brewing Company, Upstream Brewing Company, and Nebraska Brewing Company – for them to use in creating a featured beer for the event. The GNBF also showcases several local homebrew clubs from throughout Nebraska and Iowa. At previous beer festivals in Nebraska (last year’s GNBF included), the lines for these homebrew groups were often the longest, as the groups bring interesting and uniquely crafted beer to an excited and passionate audience.
Another great feature of this year’s GNBF is the inclusion of four seminars by nationally respected folks from the craft beer industry, which brings the education piece to the forefront of the festival. This year’s seminars feature Jeff Pohl from Schell’s Brewing, Dr. Bill Sysak from Stone Brewing Company, Gordon Schuck from Funkwerks, and Stephanie Meyer from Victory Brewing Company.
Perhaps most importantly, portions of the proceeds from the GNBF will benefit two groups – the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild and the Histiocytosis Foundation. Though the disease may not be a well-known one, it is one that has affected the lives of close friends of Kim and Paul Kavulak. Histiocytosis is a disease that occurs in 1 in approximately 200,000 children born in the United States, and usually presents itself before the age of nine. In the case of the Kavulak’s family friends, their son fell and broke his back at the age of nine. After several tests, he was diagnosed with Histiocytosis. Now, having gone through chemotherapy, he is in remission and the doctors have cleared him to wrestle and play football again. This story has a happy ending, but more research needs to be done – which is why the Kavulak’s chose the Histiocytosis Foundation to receive portions of the proceeds from the GNBF.
There are still regular admission tickets available at $40 per ticket – the VIP early admission tickets sold out last week – so if you’re in the area this Saturday, I would highly recommend checking out the Great Nebraska Beer Fest. With more than 400 brews from 80 craft breweries, you’ll quickly see why it’s one of the region’s premier beer festivals.