Tag Archives: Dylan Longwell

Fireplace & Chill

December 28, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As the sun slowly sets beyond the horizon, the circadian rhythms of Dean and Robyn Powell signal their descent into the basement of their home. Lambent flames from the fireplace deliver a comforting invite to linger in its warmth on chilly nights.

A street view of the Powells’ home could certainly fool the naked eye into believing it has existed for a century or longer. External stone walls and dark wooden beams give the illusion of a classical house rooted within Omaha’s history, yet it was erected less than a decade ago.

During summer 2015, the Powells excitedly began renovating their new home near 90th and Farnam streets. Without uprooting the original creation by the initial owners and builders, the Powells set out to personalize their living space. Together, they remodeled the interior structure in a way that harmonizes their lifestyle and aesthetical preferences while respecting the existing architecture.

The main floor comes to life during the daytime hours. Natural light peeping through the massive windows accentuates the classically designed wood floors, vaulted ceilings, and white furnishings.

The remodeled house called for a new seasonal routine after completion of the magnificent basement fireplace. When darkness falls upon the Powell home, the main floor retires its duties to the basement, and the fireplace becomes the focal point of household activities.

Similar to the home itself, the fireplace is a result of multiple forces cooperating to create a fresh design. After sketching the project for the new basement addition, the Powells contacted Claxton Fireplace Center and Flair Custom Cabinets in February 2018 to implement their vision.

The Powells were accustomed to media rooms; indeed, a media room was their original plan for the basement. While they ultimately decided against this idea, the urge to incorporate an immense television for entertainment remained. The classical integrity of the architecture played a pivotal role in their planning, and they wanted to match stone from the home’s exterior. Finally, they desired the basement to offer a comforting, evening oasis with warm, earthy tones. The challenge became how to incorporate a big-screen television without sacrificing their other needs.

“Let’s put a fireplace in. That way we get the best of both worlds,” Robyn recalls saying.

For Dan Claxton, president of Claxton Fireplace Center, the puzzle was how to prevent damage to the television caused by the fireplace. Claxton and his team designed a venting system to guide the heat behind the television cabinet instead of directly through the vertical face of the fireplace. After months of laborious collaboration, the heart and soul of the Powells’ basement was finished.

An 86-inch television fills the wall, framed with towering Birchwood cabinets. But onlookers’ eyes are drawn below to the 6-foot-wide natural stone veneer fireplace. It is an incredible display of symbiosis between old and new technology.

Prior to the fireplace, the Powells seldom used their basement. Once the project was complete, that all changed.

“The fireplace creates an ambiance that gives the feeling of a multi-purpose space where we can relax by the fire and read a book, watch a movie, write, or even entertain family and friends,” Robyn says.

It is this indulgent glow of flames coming from the basement that contributes to the living quality of the Powells’ home. When the sun ceases to bless the main floor with life, the softly lit basement offers comfort and a place to unwind.

The Powells see endless opportunities hidden within the glimmering fireplace. It represents an area to celebrate the holidays surrounded by the warmth of family. Soft flames dancing beneath the television allow them to watch a movie or enjoy their favorite sporting events in a relaxed environment. The fireplace acts as a centerpiece to work around in their continued creative effort to blend classic and modern styles into a harmonious living environment. Most importantly, it is a vital part to the rhythmic balance of the home that will be a reflection of the Powells for years to come.

Visit claxtonfireplace.com for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

November/December 2018 Between the Lines

October 29, 2018 by

Dylan LongwellEditorial Intern

Dylan Longwell is an Omaha native with a passion for writing and exploring. He aspires to connect with others beyond the superficial level, as he believes that’s what drives culture forward in a positive way. At his job at Blue Moon Fitness, Longwell is exposed to the diversity of Omaha and strives to continually broaden his perspective on the city. He will earn a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in December 2018. Upon graduating, he hopes that his writing can help bring Omaha’s sometimes divided segments of the society closer together. Easier said than done, right? If Longwell isn’t working or studying, then he is probably spending time with family, friends, or lounging around the house with his cat, Slim.

Dylan Longwell

Kate LoeckeManagerial Assistant

If you’re looking for Kate Loecke, check the racetrack. Loecke grew up in a family with more than 50 years of experience in competitive driving. She became active in the sport competitively about a year ago after her mother passed away. Nowadays, she travels and races with the Cornhusker Corvette Club. The (thus far) undefeated driver has broken multiple records and claimed the title of “Overall Top Competitor” in one of her family’s 15 Corvettes. But she hasn’t done it alone. Loecke says her mother is always there with her in the car in spirit. Although Loecke feels at home behind the wheel of her favorite yellow ’67 Corvette, she hopes to one day take a break from racing to visit Ireland—her dream vacation—before getting back to the track.

Kate Loecke

Sandra MartinContributing Writer

Sandra Martin is no stranger to Omaha Magazine. In her early days as a freelance writer, Martin’s many articles for the magazine featured offbeat topics such as a local coven of witches (“Do a Few Rites Make It Wrong?”) and what it’s like to be imprisoned in the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Martin has also written local and national ad copy and a weekly newspaper column focusing on human-interest stories, or “whatever was going on in my life at the time.” A later freelance assignment to write a video script opened up a whole new world and led to her not only writing but producing videos. In the early 1990s, she achieved her dream of producing a documentary collection titled “View from the Inside,” to help people better understand various life experiences.

Sandra Martin

Sol MarburgMarketing Intern

Sol Marburg is a junior pursuing his bachelor’s degree in marketing at Drake University in Des Moines. When not studying or working at Omaha Publications, Marburg does marketing work for the Jewish Federation in Omaha and is involved in the community it serves. He is also a passionate car enthusiast, and he organized the monthly Countryside Cars & Caffeine car show at Countryside Village during the summer. Aside from his time studying in Des Moines, Marburg has lived his whole life in Omaha and loves it here—though he also enjoys traveling whenever he can. His other hobbies include biking and writing. He hopes to pursue a career in advertising or possibly open his own vintage car dealership.

Sol Marburg

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Hard Cider, Easy Drinking

October 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The story of hard cider in Nebraska is tangled in the vines of local wine production. 

In the spring of 2003, Mike Murman planted his first grapes on recently acquired rural property on the outskirts of Palmyra, just southeast of Lincoln. As his vines slowly spread across the land, Murman’s winemaking hobby grew into the family-owned Glacial Till Vineyard & Winery. The vineyard’s name is derived from the rocky soil deposited by glaciers that occupied eastern Nebraska thousands of years ago. Within three years, Murman and his three sons were producing more wine than they could drink, and they opened their winery to the public in the summer of 2009. 

After winning several awards for Glacial Till’s wine, the Murmans faced a harsh reality—Nebraska weather. The winter of 2014 took a major toll on grape yields and destroyed their chambourcin grape harvest. With a 1,000-gallon tank absent of fermenting wine, the youngest of Murman’s three sons, Craig, suggested venturing into the red-hot market for hard apple cider. 

That fall, the Murmans contacted Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City with Glacial Till’s first order. Murman’s eldest son, John, the winemaking aficionado of the family, began tinkering with recipes as soon as the raw, cold-pressed cider arrived. The result was their “Original” hard cider. 

The Original offers a crisp balance of sweet and tart apples and a hint of citrus flavor. The recipe hasn’t changed since their first successful batch in 2014. Six-pack cans became available at local grocery stores in 2017. 

“Any time you’re first to market everyone else is playing catch up” Murman says, an enviable position that he admits was possible due to capital from other entrepreneurial successes—including his Lincoln-based wiretap software company Pen-Link, which Murman sold to employees in 2007.

Glacial Till’s initial and ongoing relationship with Kimmel Orchard connects the hard cider producer to the historic heartland of Nebraska apple production. 

Back in the days before Prohibition, hard cider was a common beverage made by farmers with apple trees, and the southeast corner of Nebraska was once one of the nation’s major apple-producing regions between 1860 and 1940, says Vaughn Hammond, orchard operations and education team leader at Kimmel Orchard. 

In fact, during the early 20th century, more than 90 orchards were situated between Plattsmouth and the Kansas state border. The apple market continued to flourish in Nebraska until the devastating Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 that wiped out nearly every existing orchard. Kimmel Orchard was fortunate enough to avoid any detrimental damage and is now one of the few remaining orchards in the area.

“I’m sure hard cider was consumed during that time,” Hammond says. “I don’t know of any established industry [for processing and marketing hard cider from the region in the past], but with apple orchards comes hard cider.”

Currently, apple trees cover 40 of Kimmel Orchard’s 96 acres. Rows of fruit trees stretch across the seemingly endless horizon.

Orchard staffers harvest tree-ripened apples for cider production, but they must retain enough supply for visitors wanting to handpick fresh apples directly from the trees (one of the major tourist draws at the location). In spite of this limitation on their cider production, Hammond says Kimmel Orchard still produces 25,000-30,000 gallons every year.

Such a large production allows them to sell their raw cider to regional vineyards that want to experiment with apple wines or ciders. Glacial Till hard cider is on tap at the gift shop, and Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery (located in Brownville, Nebraska) bottles two flavors of apple wine for Kimmel Orchard. The orchard’s other Nebraskan vineyard clients include James Arthur, Mac’s Creek, and Cellar 426. But none of these customers have ventured into the scale of production displayed by the Murmans at Glacial Till.

In their first year of production, every drop of Glacial Till cider was sourced from Kimmel Orchard. But their production grew rapidly to meet demand (outpacing local supply and affordability). “The first year was about a 1,000 gallons, the next year was around 9,000 or 10,000, then 19,000, and this year is going to be 30-40,000 gallons,” Murman says.

Nebraska’s hard cider market is unique compared to other states. Under state law, hard cider is considered as a craft beer and is taxed and regulated accordingly. However, federal law classifies hard cider as a wine and requires a federal wine license to produce it. This excludes craft breweries from producing hard cider unless they apply for a federal wine license, which limits the accessibility to the market. The executive director of the Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Association, Lori Paulsen, estimates that six to eight Nebraska wineries (out of the 34 total) are experimenting with hard cider. 

Industry standards distinguish between hard cider and apple wine. Paulsen says it is not unusual for regional vineyards to experiment with apple wine (which comes with a higher alcohol content than hard cider).  

Keeping up with demand is the only problem that Glacial Till has encountered since that devastating winter of 2014. “It’s a great problem to have,” Murman says, surrounded by the family’s new brewing equipment and new canning line. 

In 2017, Glacial Till nearly doubled the size of their Palmyra facility. The Murmans expected to grow into the space over the next three to four years, but they have already hit a wall. The decision to expand production into aluminum cans allowed for Glacial Till to rise, quite literally, to the ceiling of production capacity. Empty cans, awaiting cider, are stacked from floor to roof.

With Glacial Till cans now reaching grocery stores, bars, liquor stores, and events (on top of the kegs they had previously distributed to bars) the company is surpassing the 30,000-gallon volume limit that would bump them from farm to commercial winery. Fortunately, Nebraska’s unique liquor laws have allowed them to stay local and continue to self-distribute their wines. 

“That’s why we got the craft brewery license in the state, because then they would allow us to have that volume fall underneath the brewery license,” Murman says. 

After the first year of producing hard cider sourced from Kimmel Orchard apples, Glacial Till began seeking additional suppliers. Though the Nebraska orchard still contributes seasonally, the Murmans needed more. So they turned to established apple markets in New York. 

At Glacial Till’s remote facility outside Palmyra, tanker trucks full of raw and unfiltered apple cider arrive year-round. Though he values the local relationship, Murman says “the cider we buy from New York is every bit as good of quality as Kimmel’s.” Meanwhile, his eldest son, John, uses the steady flow of cider to continue experimenting with new hard cider flavor varieties.

For curious drinkers in the Omaha area, the latest inventive flavors can be found on tap at Glacial Till’s taproom in the heart of downtown Ashland. The cozy space occupies the first floor of a renovated, historic brick building with an art gallery upstairs.

During a visit to the Ashland taproom in August, there were four ciders on tap. Along with the Original, there was Hibiscus Ginger, a subtle ginger spice paired with sweetness from the hibiscus flower; Hopito (an homage to the classic mojito cocktail), a blend of hard cider, hops, and fresh mint; and Passion Pineapple, a fusion of apple and tropical sweetness perfect for counteracting the scorching Nebraska summers.

Seasonal and experimental small-batch flavors rotate with John’s inspiration. Another of his popular concoctions was Cold Brew—a sweet apple cider balanced with hints of black coffee, chocolate, and caramel.

So far, only two flavors have transitioned into Glacial Till’s six-packs: the Original and Hibiscus Ginger. Other new varieties are in the works. Having tracked the success of new flavors in the tasting room, Murman says, “The next flavors in line for canning are Passion Pineapple and Hopito.” 

Without a firm timetable for the release of new flavors, the family’s Ashland taproom remains a welcoming place to sample the latest innovative ciders to come out of Glacial Till. 

Visit glacialtillvineyard.com for more information about Nebraska’s first commercial hard cider. Learn more about the historic Nebraska City apple orchard that got them going at kimmelorchard.org.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

From left: Craig, John, Mike, and Tim Murman at Glacial Till in Palmyra, Nebraska