Nebraska Brewing Company opened its doors in 2007 in Papillion at the Shadow Lake Towne Center. Within one year’s time, the start of a wonderful line of stouts would soon be released that not only grabbed the attention of local craft beer enthusiasts but of those around the country!
So, what makes a Russian Imperial Stout different than a normal stout? Tyson Arp, Lead Brewer, explained that it is the intense flavors of coffee, dark fruit, and chocolate that present themselves in this decadent, roasty, higher alcohol beer. Arp said he created a base recipe while homebrewing that took on the characteristics of one of the great Russian Imperial Stouts called Old Rasputin from North Coast Brewing Company. The recipe Arp created does a great job with the use of hops to balance out the stout to keep it from getting too sweet.
Paul Kavulak, President and Co-Founder of Nebraska Brewing Company, said he felt right away there was something special about this beer. Instead of bottling or putting it directly on tap, Kavulak wanted to see what it would be like aged in whiskey barrels. The first batch produced in 2008 went straight into four barrels to spend six months absorbing the whiskey and oak flavors from the barrel.
The beer turned out incredibly well and was named “Black Betty.” The name was derived from a couple of different meanings. The first was from the original Lead Belly song about an 18th-century marching cadence with a flint-lock musket with a black painted stock. The “bam-ba-lam” lyric refers to the sound of the gunfire. Another common interpretation is that “Black Betty” refers to a certain bottle of whiskey found in northern England/southern Scotland.
Over the next eleven years the Betty line would expand to include “Little Betty,” “Sexy Betty,” and “Rebel Betty.” A different recipe but still in the Betty series is M.O.A.B—”Mother of All Bettys.” It is brewed with twice as much grain and double mashed to make it a slightly sweeter Betty, bourbon barrel-aged and around 13% ABV. Other M.O.A.B variants include Jack Daniels whiskey, tequila, and cabernet sauvignon barrel aged.
I asked Kim Kavulak, Co-Founder of Nebraska Brewing Company, what makes these beers so unique? Kim responded, “One of our main goals is to make sure that any beer we barrel-age is complemented by the barrel and doesn’t become overtaken by it. Great care goes into the process from the selection of the barrel to the aging and finally bottling.” Kim went on to say, “It has been nice to receive awards over the years for the beer, but true success is seeing our customer’s reaction and compliments.”
The Betty Series is truly something you need to experience. One of my favorite times of year is January/February with the release of M.O.A.B. The Nebraska Brewing Company taproom at 108th and Harrison is full of excited patrons waiting to get their hands on this limited and very special beer. Anytime you have the chance to try a Betty series stout, I encourage you to do so.