Established in the early 1990s, Empyrean Brewing Co. has been brewing craft beers in Nebraska long before the current so-called Craft Beer Explosion, and we are honored to feature their beers at the inaugural Craft Beer & Sausage Fest tomorrow (Sept. 12). Like many brewers, Rich Chapin started out as a home brewer, and when Lazlo's Brewery and Grill was founded in 1990, he began to convert his award-winning recipes for the restaurant, according to WikiPedia. The grand opening of the brewpub took place on March 20, 1991, at 710 P St. in Lincoln's historic Haymarket District. Construction was completed on a new fermentation cellar in the adjacent Coffee and Spice Building at 729 Q St. in 1997, when Empyrean Brewing Company and Lazlo's Brewery and Grill became separate financial entities. Just one year after contracting with the distributors, Empyrean had over 70 draft contracts in Lincoln and Omaha. To meet these needs, brewing capacity was increased to 2,500 barrels. And it didn't take long for the brewers to turn to bottling in order to keep up with demand. In 1999 Empyrean became the first Nebraska craft brewery to bottle its beers, starting with their LunaSea ESB, Third Stone Brown and Chaco Canyon Honey Gold. More of their history can be read HERE, but they aren't the only one who has grown: The Lincoln Haymarket has grown around the brewery since its founding. Today, Lincoln's Haymarket serves as an example of how to reinvigorate a historic part of city and the benefits of doing so. The Craft Brew & Sausage Fest has similar aspirations, with the goal that a reinvigorated Liederkranz could be a crucial element of a revitalized Downtown Grand Island. Come sample some of their beers tomorrow and help us in this goal.
Rich Chapin, head Empyrean Brewer, answers questions during a brewery tour in 2013 Photo by Brianna Soukup, the Daily Nebraskan