The term “act of God” can conjure images of broken levees, tree trunks on car roofs, or even incredibly bad hair days. But for Belgian farmers, it once signified pints of seemingly heaven-sent brewskis.
After harvest, the farmers crushed and boiled leftover grains, leaving them in open casks. Fast forward a couple of months, and the farmers returned to their casks to find them miraculously filled with beer. We now know it was less miracle and more wild yeast blowing in to ferment the wort that created the beer, but the farmers considered it a brilliant “act of God”—or, in Latin, “vis major.” This history inspired the name of Lindsey and Tom Clements’ Vis Major Brewery, which has been a passion project since its genesis.
The couple met in Omaha in 2008, before relocating to Chicago, where they developed a love of craft beer.
“It quickly grew into a passion,” Lindsey says. “Before long, our interest [in] and love for craft beer evolved into homebrewing for fun.”
The couple married in 2011 and returned to Omaha in 2012. That is when they got serious about homebrewing—getting new equipment and graduating from the typical novice extraction process to mashing their own grain. Within a couple years, Vis Major was serving suds at beer fests and other local events. Now, the Clements are polishing off the plans for their brick and mortar Vis Major Brewery, located at 3501 Center Street and slated to open in spring 2017.
The three-story building on the cusp of the Field Club and Hanscom Park neighborhoods was once Clanton’s Grocery. Tom will make beer in the walkout basement. The main floor taproom will seat about 40 people, with an additional private party space.
“We were attracted to the neighborhood because it’s so community-centric,” Lindsey says. “Families there aren’t just neighbors, they’re friends, and they’re really engaged with each other.”
Tom, a former Marine who works as an aircraft mechanic, is the head brewer, pinning down the technical side of the couple’s craft beer vision and ultimately bringing it to life in the clinking glasses of happy Vis Major drinkers. Lindsey handles marketing for Vis Major and works for a local craft beer distributor, which has provided invaluable experience and knowledge of the industry.
With Vis Major, the Clements aim to “push the palate of the true craft beer drinker” while also offering styles appealing to entry-level drinkers.
“We want to make beer for people who, like us, are passionate about craft beer,” Lindsey says. “We love exploring craft beer, and I think that’s partially why we had such a great response at tastings.”
The five flagship Vis Major beers are Amen American Wheat, Psalm Saison, Convert Citra IPA, 9th Plague Black IPA, and Almighty Stout. Seasonal brews like summer refresher Eden’s Apricot and autumn ace Proverbial Pumpkin, a Let There Be Hops SMASH Series, and several creative limited release beers round out the existing lineup.
In bringing their dream to life as 100 percent owners of Vis Major Brewing, the Clements have faced their share of financial and other hurdles that might have tried even the patience of Job. But if timing is everything, then Vis Major may be right on time in terms of consumer interest. According the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild, in-state sales of Nebraska-brewed beer have grown steadily for years, with nearly a 23 percent increase in 2015 alone.
“There isn’t a brewer out there that didn’t start as a homebrewer,” Lindsey says. “We hope to bring people into the fold of craft breweries. With our location, we see the opportunity to be the neighborhood brewery. Rather than focusing on mass production, we want to create a friendly neighborhood environment that’s welcoming to everyone.”
Visit vismajorbrewing.com for more information.