Tag Archives: Marines

Brew Almighty

January 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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.

vismajorWith 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.

After the Storm

September 22, 2014 by
Photography by Sara Lemke

Justin Niss spent the day before the Fourth of July out in the sunshine. But he wasn’t hanging out with buddies or lounging at the lake. Niss spent a long, hot day volunteering to clean up tornado damage in Pilger, Neb.

“I just wanted to help,” says the 17-year-old aspiring Eagle Scout from Troop 558, who has also signed on with the United States Marine Corps. With a group of fellow recruits, Niss worked hours in the heat wearing long pants, work boots and heavy gloves, tearing down a partially destroyed storage structure piece by piece.

“There was some pretty heavy metal,” says Niss, a senior at Elkhorn High School. “There were ceiling braces, and those were really heavy.”

His Boy Scout experience helped prepare him for the task, he says.

“I knew the basics on how to clean something up and fix things and put new things in spaces,” he says. “So I just kind of put that experience in a new context.”

District Executive Tracy Yost, with the Diamond Dick District (part of the Boy Scouts of America Mid-America Council, the same council Omaha-area troops are part of), says volunteering is second nature to a Boy Scout.

“We go back to, ‘Do a good turn daily’—one of the Scout mottos. We leave no trace. That’s a Scout concept: Leave the place better than we found it,” says Yost, who oversaw the Pilger volunteering efforts of the region’s Boy Scouts. “These kids have such a sense of giving back to the community at such a young age.”

Yost’s district serves an eight-county area in northeast Nebraska, including Pilger and other communities and rural areas affected by the June tornadoes.

“Some of these places have been wiped clean,” she says. “It’s so emotional, everybody in the community seems to know somebody who has taken a direct hit and a loss.”

Yost says that Scouts from the immediate area stepped up to help right away, quickly followed by out-of-towners like Niss.

“In a situation like this, they don’t care what they’re earning for badges; it’s kind of like an instinct in them,” Yost says, adding that organizers were able to find work for even the younger Scout volunteers.

“There are fields that have debris spread all over and they have to be walked,” Yost says. “It’s getting your hands down and dirty. You just have no idea until you actually, physically go see it in person what damage has been done. The debris—everywhere.”

Niss, who says his parents “were all for it” when he asked for their consent to volunteer, went willingly into Pilger despite not knowing exactly what would be asked of him.

“I’d seen the pictures right after (the tornadoes) happened, so when we actually got there, it looked a lot better than I thought. There’s like nothing left of the town, but there’s not rubble everywhere. It’s a lot of plain lots,” he says. “They’re making progress, but there’s still a lot left to do,” he says.

Niss says he feels good about helping in Pilger, and was also pleased to find himself in good company.

“While we were there, there were always people driving around and helping others; there were five or six people who stopped and helped us take the building down. We had people stop and give us water while we were working,” Niss says. “It was surprising how many people were there helping. It was amazing.”