The desire to create a better beer.
With a foundation in homebrewing in 1992, Paul Kavulak set about to experiment within a hobby that would prove both entertaining and, at times, refreshing. Over a period of roughly 13 years, and with the able assistance of his wife Kim, this was a hobby that had moments of brilliance coupled with the occasional moment of panic and forensic science. One constant drove the momentum forward – the desire to create a better beer with each and every Sunday spent laboring over a recipe geared for greatness.
Fast forward to 2005 and yet another effort to brew a batch of Cardinal Pale Ale with a Cascade nose that should be truly noteworthy. Every good scientist changes a single variable and tests results against a control. In this case, the control was the nose of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – a bright beer with a somewhat striking aroma of Cascade hop. Unfortunately, for Paul the changes were too slight and yielding results that were much too subtle to create a beer that fell into this zone. After a somewhat stressful day spent at the day job, and returning home to check on the progress of this particular batch, Paul was struck with total disgust with a beer that was going nowhere relative to his goals. In a fit of rage, and just prior to dumping the batch of beer, Paul grabbed the 1 large bag of Cascade leaf hops that he had on hand and dumped the entire contents into the now open fermenter. To seal his disgust and end the effort on that beer he tossed the lid on top of the fermenter and walked away.
2 weeks later, and in a better frame of mind, Paul returned to the scene of the crime to dump and clean the equipment. Upon removing the lid from the fermenter, the air was filled with the aromas that Paul had been hunting for. After determining that no harm was actually done to the beer in that moment of hatred, Paul decided to finish and carbonate the beer to test the outcome. It was in that moment of evaluation that when held to the light triggered the brain cell to think, “I’ll bet I can sell this beer”. And then in the next moment, sheer panic set in as the realization set in that there was no record of how many ounces had been dumped into the beer to create the finished product. A bit of math against previous batches that had used hops from that bag revealed the amounts and the drive turned to creating the venue to create and sell this and other beers commercially.
Over the next two years, Paul and Kim worked to create the plans to open a brewpub which they felt was the best springboard to someday opening a production brewery – at that time. Sometime in 2006, Paul felt it necessary to express to Kim that if he didn’t fully concentrate on this project as he’d done with so many others in his day job, that they’d ultimately get nowhere with it. As Paul expressed these concerns to Kim over lunch – Kim foolishly agreed and Paul immediately pulled out his cell phone, called his boss, and resigned. This feat absolutely pushed them forward albeit without a finished business plan, a location, and without a bank fully on board. In spite of these small gaps, a used brewing system was purchased out of Sasebo, Japan and on November 17, 2007 Nebraska Brewing Company’s brewpub opened its doors in Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion, Nebraska.
On board at the time were a collection of Kim’s family, eager employees and an assistant brewer by the name of Tyson Arp. Within a few days (although it may have been moments) the team realized they truly only understood the basics of running this business and there was a very steep learning curve to get through – and to get through rapidly to succeed.
It was during year 1 that the Great Recession began to be felt in the area which, when coupled with this start-up learning curve, was difficult to determine which issue(s) were more profound and required action. The learning curve was dealt with immediately and as the Great Recession began to grind more and more deeply into the fabric of NBC, it was determined that something more dramatic must be done than changing a few team members and general improvements.
The resolution path chosen was to focus on external sales of the beer being produced in the brewpub. Paul felt that the beer was being made in a manner suitable for some outside markets and the goal was to sell every ounce they could make in the brewpub independent of how many customers walked through the front door each day. Additionally, the barrel aging program which was still in its infancy was showing some amazing results and given the higher margins associated with these brands, a heavy investment was made into this area which could literally make, or break, the business while struggling to overcome to negative aspects of this Recession.
It was also during this difficult period that immediate attention was required toward making those good beers great. While every brewery feels that his or her creations are the best on the planet, the truly great ones know this can’t be the case. During the effort to begin taking apart the current beer lineup and recipes for reassembly in the best fashion possible, it was determined that a course correction in the brewer lineup was required. Tyson Arp inherited the helm as the Lead Brewer and was rewarded with nearly a solid year of working alone in a brewery that was gaining steam. As Paul continued to work on shoring up the cracks and plotting a course through the recession, it was obvious that he couldn’t work in the brewery and must focus on the business. Tyson took on his challenge and emerged not only as the Lead Brewer at the brewpub but ultimately as the Overlord of Brewing for both the brewpub and the Brewery which would come online in 2014.
While all of this sounds fairly academic and easily done, it must be pointed out that these days, and nights, were some of the most stressful the team would be asked to endure. Kim found herself in direct control of the brewpub as the General Manager and worked quickly to come up to speed on every facet of the restaurant, customer service, and the team itself. No small task considering the breadth of the issues at hand. And again. The clock was ticking.
Throughout the years of to 2009 to 2011, things began to improve dramatically through a very detailed and hands-on approach in all of the areas requiring attention. The brewpub was beginning to shine on its own and the brewhouse had hit capacity. Every ounce of beer that could be made was being sold – either in the brewpub or in those early outside markets. It was at this time that the new observation was made – this was the most we could do in this location. It was the most beer we could make and try as we might, we can’t force people to walk through the front door – they’ll find it over time. Which takes us to our next chapter.
Given the successes achieved, and the heavy demand for beer we couldn’t yet produce, the business plan for the packaging brewery was undertaken beginning in 2011. We knew we wanted to can beer and we knew we needed to make a lot more of not only the beer itself but the barrel aging program needed to expand as well. The goal was to create a packaging brewery and a tap room located within about 6 miles from the existing brewpub to allow for quick movement between the 2 facilities. A suitable building was found in the adjoining town of La Vista and after securing investment capital and all of the associated permits and licenses, work began on this new facility.
Work completed and the production of beer at the new brewery began in January of 2014. The expansion of outside markets began well in advance of this date such that when beer began to flow, the outlets would be ready and waiting. The tap room opened roughly 5 months later and provides the ease of interaction and tours that our public is looking for. We’ll continue to grow in this facility for quite some time.
Nebraska Brewing’s successful growth could not be possible without an incredible Team of talented, motivated, and all-around-better-than-average craft beer fanatics dedicated to making the world safe for awesome beer. YOU are a part of that proud and victorious tradition. We expect great things from you, and for you!