Scratchtown Craft Brewing in Ord

scratchtown brewing company
scratchtown brewing company

Founders of Scratchtown Brewing Company.

Have you ever heard of Ord, Neb.? Us either, but we found a cool nano brewery in Ord called Scratchtown.

Why Scratchtown? Check out the following Q&A with brewer and co-owner Mike Klimek:

BM:   How’d you come up with the name Scratchtown?

MK: Scratchtown Brewing Company is located in Ord, Nebraska. Ord is named after General E.O.C. Ord.

General Ord was in our area while he was serving as commander of the Department of the Platte. Our town was just forming and was currently without a name. The townspeople asked General Ord what he thought it should be named. It was September 1874, I believe. Well, the area had a wet spring that year and this was before pesticides, etc., and the biting flies and mosquitoes were very bad. So, when General Ord was asked what to name the new town, he responded, “Name it Scratchtown!,” since he was not a fan of all the bugs.

We wanted a name that had historical ties to the area and would also be memorable to those that didn’t know the back story. After a month or two of not having any luck, we came across a history book titled “Scratchtown: A History of Ord Nebraska,” and we knew we had our brewery’s name.

BM:   Why is Ord, Nebraska a great location for a brewery?

MK: I believe Ord (pop. 2112) is a great location for a brewery for many reasons. We are located centrally in the state with three lakes and multiple rivers within 40 minutes or so. We get a lot of recreational traffic through town during the summer and hope to capitalize on that. Also, since we are not in the urban part of the state with Lincoln and Omaha, there is obviously less competition out here. Which is good and bad. While we have the opportunity to be the only craft brewery within 70 miles or so, we also have to do a great deal of educating our customers. But so far, they have been VERY receptive.

Finally, we are located in the Nebraska Sandhills, over the Ogallala Aquifer. Therefore, our water out here is fantastic. We do not have to treat it in any way prior to brewing. I don’t know too many breweries that can say that.

BM:  What makes Scratchtown unique?

MK: Scratchtown is unique in that we are a nano-brewery. We are only brewing 3 BBL. at a time, and currently only serving out of our taproom on draft and growlers to go. We hope to distribute sometime, but currently Nebraska law does not allow self-distribution, so we are hindered by that. Also, for the time being, we can barely keep up with taproom demand so we don’t currently have the product needed for distribution. We have just purchased six new 3 BBL fermenters to go along with the eight we currently have, so hopefully that will get us in the right direction.

We are also 100 percent family owned by myself and my wife Julie, Caleb and Christina Pollard, and Jade and Michelle Stunkel. That freedom allows me, as the brewer, the creativity to brew whatever we feel like, even on a whim, without having to run things past investors. The homebrewer in me appreciates that freedom.

Finally, we are in a VERY rural setting, which I think is new to a lot of people. Many of our customers have never had a beer that wasn’t a domestic lager. I enjoy getting the opportunity to introduce them to the larger world of what beer is and what it can be.

BM:   What made you want to open you’re own brewery?

scratchtown brewing companyMK:After college, I spent 11 years working in the corporate and technology world, all of those years at the same company. I lost my job during the economic downturn in 2010 and spent a year looking for work. At the same time, any investments I had continued to lose value due to the stock market. Those experiences slowly pointed me toward the path of entrepreneurship and recognizing the value of investing in myself for my future.

Still, I was a very hard sell in thinking a craft brewery could work in Ord. I grew up here, and as far as I was concerned, this was “Busch-Light” country. However, one of my partners (Caleb) was enthusiastic about the homebrews I had been sharing and was also very convincing! Thank goodness he was.

BM:  What is the Scratchtown favorite beer?

MK: A couple of months ago, I would have not hesitated to say that our Sandhills Gold Bohemian Blonde Ale was the favorite beer. It is basically a Czech Pilsner made with 100 percent pilsner malt and 100 percent Czech Saaz hops, but since we ferment with ale yeast we cannot call it a pilsner. We created this beer as a gateway for the domestic lager crowd. Something they would not be scared to try, but different enough to get them to try other beers. Upon opening, this beer was outselling our five other beers combined.

Now, I am proud to say that sales are pretty even across whichever six beers happen to be on tap.

My favorite beer is our Black Eye Imperial porter. It is an 8.5 percent porter, with strong chocolate notes, and a hint of roast and coffee. It’s the first beer I brewed on our 3 BBL system that I really felt was dialed in.

BM:   You’ve got a lot of awards, which one means the most and why?

MK: I got into competitions for judge feedback. When you are giving free beer to friends and family, their feedback can only be trusted so much. I have never been in a homebrew club, so my solution to getting honest feedback was to enter competitions, pretty exclusively on the state level. The feedback not only boosted my confidence, it also provided excellent tips on refining the beers I was brewing.

That being said, I guess the one I am most proud of is from the last homebrew competition I ever entered. I was lucky enough to take the top spot in the Wood Aged and Smoked beer category in the 2012 Indianapolis regionals of the National Homebrew Competition. This was the largest competition I had entered, and to score that well was a surprise.

BM:   Where do you find your inspiration for new Scratchtown beers?

MK: We get our inspiration from other great craft beers we enjoy. We kind of use them as a jumping off point to make our take on the particular style. Other times, I might be thinking of a certain type of beer to fit an occasion. Spring is coming and we like to do a lot of grilling and smoking meats. So we just put out a smoked schwarzbier that goes great with that food.

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