Last week, I went out for Thursday night drinks with some of my new coworkers. One of them, a friend since college, asked me if — as the new girl and nightlife reporter — I had a preference on where to go.
Someplace I've never been, I said.
He suggested the Brass Monkey Sports Bar at 36th and V Streets, and told me he thought it might appeal to me.
He was totally right.
I'm from a really small town, and I've always had an affinity for good, no-nonsense bars. Non-fussy interior, straightforward name, cheap drinks, good crew of regulars. The Brass Monkey is exactly that. Bonus points for the Thursday night karaoke that started up halfway through our visit.
But the Brass Monkey sets itself apart from the typical neighborhood bar. The huge number of craft beers on tap surprised me. I ordered my drink, a draw of Delirium, and the cost amazed me even more.
Are you kidding? What is this giant, super-cheap selection of beers doing here, on South 36th Street, right across from Mr. Butt's liquor store?
I asked owner Maria Tworek for some background.
Tworek and her husband, Kevin, opened the spot on election night 2008 after buying the building several years before. The space had been a neighborhood bar for years, she said. In fact, both her parents and Kevin's parents hung out there, and Tworek thinks it's possible that she crossed paths with her future husband when they were kids.
They opened it as a regular neighborhood bar, except with 20 craft beers on tap. Very quickly, she said, they realized that wouldn't be enough, so they added more. Current count: 39, including lots of stouts and IPAs, and beers from many Nebraska and Iowa breweries.
The combination of neighborhood bar/craft beer spot draws a mix of people, she said — neighborhood regulars, college students, beer enthusiasts and bikers. But it has remained an unassuming place, in part because of its corner bar history, in part because of the prices.
"I love our bar," she said. "I love that our bar is like that."
The next night, I decided to continue my tour of fancy beer bars, and I met up with my beer connoisseur friend Stephen at Crescent Moon Ale House, 36th and Farnam Streets, where the gigantic selection quickly overwhelmed me. Bartender extraordinaire Chris Bettini asked me what I liked, gave me a few samples, and warned me of the high alcohol content (12 percent) in one that I tried (I stayed away from that one).
By chance, that night I also covered the opening of the Beercade in Benson, 6102 Maple St., owned by the same guys who run Jake's just down the street. What sets the Beercade aside from, oh, pretty much every other bar in Omaha, are the arcade games and pinball machines that line the walls. But owners John Larkin and Alex Roskelly are serious about beer, too. The Beercade features 25 beers on tap, which will be rotated seasonally.
I am far from a beer connoisseur, but I have a feeling that living in Omaha might change that.
On a completely different note, another new club also held its grand opening last Friday night — Rehab Lounge, 2615 S. 120th St. Rehab Lounge is a lot of different things — it's a dance club Thursday, Friday and Saturday; an acoustic music venue on Sunday; and on Wednesdays, owner Tommy Nguyen is hoping to start a margaritas and manicures promotion in which patrons who buy drinks can get their nails done for free.
What interested me, though was the name.
Rehab is named "Rehab," after all. Waitresses wear T-shirts emblazoned with the word "therapist." The words, "Hello, and welcome to Rehab - choosing a treatment clinic is difficult and often daunting," greet visitors to the website, though Nguyen said those words will soon be replaced with the more succinct "admit yourself."
Do you really want your bar that closely associated with addiction?
"I definitely think that using this name pushes the envelope," Nguyen said, though he said he hasn't received any complaints and he's trying not to take things too far.
"I didn't want anyone to think that this could be an actual treatment facility, but I definitely played along with the word and used it to our advantage."
Care to see for yourself? Check out dance nights — Addiction Thursday, Peer Pressure Friday and Relapse Saturday — or take in some acoustic music therapy on Recovery Sunday.