KEARNEY — The owner of the newest Thunderhead Brewing Co. taproom in Omaha said the popularity of the Kearney brand is spreading so rapidly he’s planning additional locations in Lincoln and West Point in northeast Nebraska.
“The first location hit our expectations in two years. We were expecting five,” said Beau Starkel, who this week announced his plans to open a second Thunderhead taproom in Omaha just south of the Old Market district.
Starkel’s first Thunderhead taproom is at 13304 W. Center Road in west Omaha.
He said his business relationship with Thunderhead Brewing Co. owner Trevor Schaben formed about six years ago when Starkel’s girlfriend was attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“It all started with a girl. I was cruising out there on the weekends, and, you know, a man likes to find a nice watering hole,” he explained.
Starkel teaches at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and owns several businesses, including a social media company and wine business. He scouted for about two years to find the location for Omaha’s first Thunderhead taproom. He said he’s using Thunderhead logos and brands in marketing the taprooms. “You’ll swear it’s no different than Kearney’s.”
Schaben opened Thunderhead Brewing in Kearney 20 years ago. He said he’s pleased that his beer is being enjoyed across Nebraska.
“It’s been fantastic. We have a presence in Omaha and that’s where the bulk of the people are,” Schaben said.
Schaben said the volume of Thunderhead beer being sold in Omaha is about equal to what he’s selling at his original location at 18 E. 21st St. in downtown Kearney.
Schaben is surprised to find Thunderhead beer on sale at so many places in Nebraska. He’s uncertain how many outlets there are because much of his product is sold through distributors, in accordance with state liquor laws.
Schaben said he’s planning to open a tap room in Axtell in the same building where he’s been brewing for the past several years.
He arrived in Kearney 20 years ago, about one year after his military career ended. He said during his service he sampled many varieties of beer overseas, and took up home brewing.
“When I got back to Nebraska I noticed there really wasn’t very much interesting beer,” he said, so he decided to begin brewing in Kearney and opened the first Thunderhead Brewery.