Nightlife review: This bar will satisfy your craft beer cravings

By Ashley Strehle Hartman/World-Herald correspondent
Published in the Omaha World-Herald, July 26, 2018

The Happy Raven Craft Beer Bar

Where: 122 N. 11th St., Lincoln

Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight Monday to Thursday; 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday; 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday

Info: 402-742-0004 or thehappyraven.com

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The Happy Raven in Lincoln loves craft beer. If you do too, you should check it out — like now. You should go now.

On its surface, The Happy Raven appears to be just another laid-back, low-key place to grab a beer. But don’t be fooled by the bar’s unpretentious vibe — The Happy Raven is actually a pretty big deal.

For two years in a row, The Happy Raven has been voted as the best craft beer bar in the state by Craftbeer.com readers. The website called the Lincoln bar a “destination for independent craft beer and conversation.”

And The Happy Raven is indeed serious about its independent craft beer. In summer 2017, the bar made the news when its owner, Matt Myers, decided not to sell Anheuser-Busch products. The large brewing company has caused controversy by buying smaller craft breweries and then allegedly promoting them as though they’re still independent brewers — not part of Anheuser-Busch’s brewing empire.

With that in mind, you’ll find no Budweiser products at The Happy Raven. There’s no Goose Island Brewery beers, either – since that is one of the breweries under Anheuser-Busch ownership.

But there’s nothing lacking at The Happy Raven. Because the bar doesn’t carry some of these usual brews, its menu is well stocked with many different, and arguably better, brews instead.

The day I visited, The Happy Raven had about 20 craft beers on tap, including several beers I hadn’t seen before.

I ordered one I hadn’t tried before — the Kriek Brut from the Belgian brewing company Liefmans, which specializes in what it calls “craft blends.” The brewery uses a variation of malts and combines mature and less mature beers to make truly unique brews.

If Liefman’s other beers are even half as good as the Kriek Brut, you should probably find them and drink them all. The Kriek Brut was one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Brewed with cherries, it’s a flavorful, delicious mix of sweetness and tart. It’s so good.

If you’re normally a wine drinker, the Kriek Brut is for you. It’s one of those special brews that proves that craft beer can be just as complex and sophisticated as wine.

In addition to its generous list of craft brews on tap, The Happy Raven has more than four dozen craft beers available in the bottle or can.

All of the usual Lincoln and Omaha metro breweries are represented: Zipline, Infusion, Nebraska Brewing Company, Kros Strain, Brickway and Blue Blood. Ord’s Scratchtown Brewing Company is also well represented on the tap and bottle and can beer menus.

If you want to branch out from your Nebraskan favorites, there are dozens of other craft beer choices on The Happy Raven’s menu, including beers from around the country and the world.

The Happy Raven also caters to wine lovers with a list of about 10 wines, most available by the glass or bottle.

Sure, you can order the wine, but I really encourage you to get beer instead. That’s what The Happy Raven does best. And it does it so well.