Nebraska gets its very own birthday beer

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LA VISTA, Neb. (WOWT) -- This week as Nebraska turned 150, a business in Plattsmouth and a business in La Vista marked the birthday with a new beer.

“Cheers. Happy birthday Nebraska,” said a number of people who had gathered inside the tap room at the Nebraska Brewing Company.

“It’s got a deeper flavor this year,” said Annette Wiles with Midwest Hop Producers.

“And a stronger profile coming through,” said Kim Kavulak with the Nebraska Brewing Company. “Not as floral as other Cascades, but still really, really nice.”

The key ingredient – the Cascade hops – came from the Wiles farm in Plattsmouth, built on the former Plattsmouth Country Club.

Most brewers buy their hops from the Pacific Northwest, but now half of the brewers in Nebraska (20 of them) are experimenting with hops grown here.

“It’s really a goal for quite a few of them,” said Paul Kavulak with the Nebraska Brewing Company. “We’re all Nebraskans. We want people to understand the uniqueness of Nebraska. And the way to do that is to source local ingredients.”

Nebraska Brewing Company’s flagship beer – the Cardinal pale ale sparked an idea: what if it took the same recipe and incorporated Nebraska-grown hops?

“This is Meadowlark, 150,” said Kavulak. “The dates were lining up with the sesquicentennial and we thought what a perfect moment to unveil this.”

The meadowlark is Nebraska’s state bird. Meadowlark 150 tastes more earthy than floral said the brewers. “And that’s what we’re after," said Paul. "We’re not looking for hops that clone our beers, we’re looking for hops with unique character and we can create something new and really unique to us.”

The sesquicentennial celebration could have had a double purpose.

“We sent a lot of beer – a forty foot container,” said Kim Kavaluk.

As of this week, Nebraska Brewing Company is now selling its beer in China.

“China is a burgeoning market so to be on the forefront of that effort is really exciting,” said Kim.

The learning curve isn’t just a cultural thing -- especially when it comes to cans versus bottles. “We’re educating them on why canning is a better way to package the beer and protects the beer. There’s no chance sunlight can permeate the beer.”

It’s also a different way for the world to learn about us. “With a can, you have 360 degrees on that can to tell your story,” said Kim. “You can tell everything you want about that beer. How to serve it – what kind of glass – you can’t really do that with a label on the bottle.”

The Meadowlark 150 isn’t one of the beers they sent to China -- because brewers only brewed 10 barrels. There are 31 gallons in a barrel of beer.

Midwest Hop Producers in Plattsmouth – the farm that provided the key ingredients of Cascade whirlpool and dry hop and Galena bittering hops – is proud that Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is scheduled to tour their operation later this month.