Food isn’t an afterthought during a tour of Lincoln, Nebraska. It is the tour. Groups can sip on a local beer inside a cave that once sheltered outlaws at the Blue Blood Brewing Company. They can meet the cows that provide the creamy milk at Prairieland Dairy.
Citizens of Lincoln take their reputation as a thriving culinary destination seriously and offer tours surrounding many of their local eateries. Dinners on the tours come with either a history lesson at the Historic Haymarket District or a sustainability lesson at the Prairie Plate Restaurant.
Each foodie destination not only provides the necessary calories but also serves as a delicious way to become better acquainted with the capital city of Nebraska.
Blue Blood Brewing Company
According to legend, Jesse James hid inside a 5,000-square-foot underground complex known as Robber’s Cave during one of his bank robbery sprees. Though the story’s veracity is debated, groups love to hear the lore of the cave while sampling popular brews from the Blue Blood Brewing Company.
Founded in December 2011 by three buddies from the Lincoln Police Department, the Blue Blood Brewing Company offers 20 taps: 15 of its own beers and five from other Nebraska brewers. In 2016, the local craft brewery moved to a 12,000-square-foot brewery and taproom that sits above Robber’s Cave.
Today, groups can learn about the background of the brewery, dine at the full-service restaurant, sample some of the flavors and tour the man-made sandstone-cave tunnels from an entrance inside the brewery. Originally created as a place to brew lager in 1869 by Lincoln’s first brewery, Pioneer Brewing Company, the cave houses little beer these days. Instead, guides lead groups through the tunnels that recount its history and show messages left by generations of locals who used the cave for parties.
“You wouldn’t think about visiting a cave in Nebraska or guess how large it is,” said Kelsey Meyer, sales development manager for the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a really fun and unique interactive experience for groups. They love to take the full experience of dining in the restaurant, sampling the beers and walking through the cave while listening to stories about what happened there.”
In 1998, four families joined together to rethink the dairy farm model. They wanted to create a new kind of dairy farm that prioritized sustainability.
Just outside Lincoln, Prairieland Dairy offers 60-minute to 90-minute group tours explaining how the milk starts from happy and healthy cows and ends up in the grocery store. Tours also showcase the farm’s innovative sustainability measures, such as the efficient facilities and composting system.
“You can smell the aromas and see where the cows live,” said Meyer. “It’s a very interesting experience for a group that has never seen the process of a working farm. The tour guides are the actual farmers and are really great at answering all the questions that groups come up with.”
Visitors meet the cows while learning how they are fed, milked and kept comfortable. Then the tour illuminates the process of filtering milk, storing it and bottling it. Guides also explain the complicated equipment needed for each step to keep the operation sustainable and manageable.
The site operates an extensive composting system that collects manure, community yard waste and food waste to produce more than 20,000 tons of compost per year. Guests learn how the compost is used on the farm and sold to divert waste from the landfill.
After seeing a day in the life of a dairy farmer, groups can experience the taste of an all-natural dairy product with milk and cheese tastings.