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McCook's Loop Brewing Company is off the beaten path but on the right track
by Pam Soreide, Betty Sayers and Phil Soreide
The quote, “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” although erroneously attributed to Benjamin Franklin, nonetheless speaks to an emerging culture of microbrewery aficionados. Although we ourselves are perhaps not among the true beer cognoscenti, we have friends who brew it in their basements as a hobby and others who are as knowledgeable — and picky — about different varieties of beer and ale as the most snobbish oenophile is about wine.
One of the things that has driven the rise in popularity for small, handcrafted beers is a growing number of brewpubs. Although the history of these establishments — where beer is brewed on the premises — can be traced back hundreds of years, their recent resurgence is attributed to a renewed appreciation for the freshness of locally produced beer as well as a desire for something more real than Budweiser and Coors.
The Loop Brewing Company in McCook is an enterprise that has been on our radar for a while, not least because one of the partners is Adam Siegfried, the owner of McCook’s popular Coppermill restaurant, but also because it’s housed in a former icehouse, only feet from an active railway. So on a recent Thursday evening, we decided a cold brew and pizza sounded like just the thing to satisfy our cravings.
Off the main drag
Once we got to McCook, we all looked at each other and realized that we didn’t know exactly where we were going. We thought we remembered hearing it was close to the train tracks and when our slow drive down the main business street yielded no results, we pulled out a trusty smart phone. It turned out we were pretty close, so it only took a moment to get there, but you do have to know Loop Brewing Company is south of the highway. Obviously, lots of locals knew where it was as the parking lot was almost full.
The Loop is housed in an old ice house from the turn of the century, immediately adjacent to the BNSF train tracks. From the outside, it is a squat, solid rectangular brick building with the Loop logo prominently painted on one wall. Inside, it’s a pleasant blend of old and new, with refinished original floors, exposed beams, and brick walls. The lighting is modern, and the bar is made of glass bricks lighted from within to provide an attractive focal point. A large mural of a steam engine graces the long wall parallel to the tracks and big windows look out on the trains that rumble by almost constantly. I say rumble, but there is virtually no noise from the railway itself —modern windows combine with the thick brick walls of the old icehouse to make a comfortable place to watch the freight roll by.
An uncomplicated menu
The menu is short and the offerings are designed to pair with a beer of your choice — appetizers, pizza, sandwiches — the kind of informal food we love to share and pick at after the first pangs of hunger are appeased.
We started with the peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. We chose it because it’s not the kind of appetizer you typically see anyplace in Western Nebraska, but in this case it was very well executed and delicious.
We ordered a flight of beers to see which ones they did best, and seriously tasted and discussed each of them between bites of cheese-laden peppers. An IPA is admittedly an acquired taste, but Loop’s was crisp and clean tasting. The Brown Ale was chewy with an almost molasses overtone, but the Irish Red and the Stout were clear favorites at our table. We also ordered their root beer, which, although nonalcoholic is fermented in a process similar to beer. We found Loop’s to be the equal of any we had tried.
Time to try the food
After sampling the beer, we had to decide on food. The longer we Rural Foodies work together, the more comfortable we are with assigning menu choices to each other and freely sampling each other’s meals. It might not be the best table manners — well, it’s certainly not the best table manners — but it is lots of fun to be able to try a variety of different items on the menu.
We settled on a Naples pizza, the basic burger and a polish sausage sandwich, each divided into thirds. The burger and sausage each came with fries and a pickle, and we decided we didn’t need any vegetables to alter the party-food approach.
The pizza arrived first, and was just what we were hoping for. An artisanal crust lightly drizzled with roasted garlic olive oil, and topped with prosciutto ham, bruschetta tomatoes, fresh basil and provolone cheese. Yum.
The Classic Burger and Polish Sausage baskets were brimming with freshly cooked fries, the kind that are really crispy, like they have been battered before frying. There’s nothing worse than a limp French fry in our estimation. We chose the sausage because it was reputed to come from “our local butcher on top of the hill — Willow Creek Meats”. We found it to be well-seasoned and juicy, and topped with onions and peppers. The burger was a fine example of the genre and came with lettuce, tomato and onion, so we did get a few vegetables after all. The wait staff was young and enthusiastic and everything was served with a smile.
We get in the loop
As we worked our way through the feast, we speculated about the name of the place, the Loop Brewing Company, and wondered if it might be a railroad term as we were looking directly out to where trains passed in a steady stream. When our server stopped by to remove plates and refresh drinks, we asked about the name. Turns out, while we knew one of the partners in the enterprise, Adam Siegfried of the Coppermill, the other was Adam’s high school friend and his wife, Taylor and Taylor Sue Loop. Now we get it.
Taylor and Taylor Sue are the brewers, while we presume Adam brought his experience to bear on the smooth operation of both the kitchen and the front of the house. Both couples are young, which contributes to the casual, upbeat atmosphere. We are told that they have had live music a couple of times since opening last August, and plan to do more in the way of live entertainment.
All the way around, we found the Loop Brewing Company to be a vibrant addition to the restaurant scene in southwest Nebraska. Even if you aren’t a big beer drinker, the food alone is worth a visit.