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White Elm Brewing

Kolby Wood poses for a portrait Friday outside his newly acquired building at Eighth and Van Dorn streets, where he will be opening the White Elm Brewing Company.

Kolby Wood spent several years years running four Irish pubs in Denver.

It was a job that required 70-80 hours a week, sometimes more, meaning he didn't have time for much else, including his family.

So the Lincoln native and his wife decided to move back to Lincoln a couple of years ago with the long-range goal of opening a brewery.

He found partners, Matthew and Martha Lee Heyne, and after more than a year of planning, that dream is getting closer to reaching fruition.

White Elm Brewing Company is under construction in a 4,300-square-foot warehouse space at Eighth and Van Dorn streets.

Right now, it's mostly unfinished walls and concrete. But Wood hopes to move fast to turn into a brewery and taproom.

He goes before the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Wednesday, seeking special permits to sell alcohol both on- and off-sale.

His 15-barrel brewery system and canning line should arrive by the end of the month, and then it will be a mad dash to install the equipment, get it up and running and finish the rest of the space into a 1,000-square-foot tap room with seating for 80 people.

He optimistically hopes to be open by early July.

The location, tucked away in a strip mall whose other tenants include a government office, a dance academy and a cross-fit gym, doesn't seem ideal, but Wood insists it is.

It has large docks and close access to the Interstate, which is important for a brewery that plans to do distribution.

Plus, "There's not a ton of places (in the area) you can go to grab a beer," said Wood, who lives just over a mile away.

Wood, who has been home-brewing for 15 years, is the brewmaster and general manager of the operation. He said he plans to do 12 different beers, with four of those pegged for distribution. He plans farmhouse ales and pale ales, with other permanent and seasonal brews sprinkled in.

He hopes to start distribution within three months after opening the brewery, concentrating mainly on Lincoln and Omaha.

White Elm, which is named after a huge, ancient white elm tree that overhangs Wood's yard, will be the second brewery to open in Lincoln this year, following Boiler Brewing Company, which opened last month.

Also, at least two other local breweries are in the works. Backswing Brewing Co. is moving into the former Blue Blood Brewing space at 500 W. South St. and hopes to start producing beer sometime this summer. Another brewery, called Code Beer Company, has filed a building permit for a space at 200 S. Antelope Valley Parkway.

If all those make it open this year, it would be as many as have opened in Lincoln in the past five years.

Despite that, Wood sees plenty of room for more new breweries in Lincoln.

"I don't think market saturation is a huge concern at this point," he said.

He attributes that largely to Lincoln's appetite for craft beer as well as the cooperation and camaraderie among local breweries.

"If there's any community that supports local beer more than Lincoln," Wood said, "I'd like to see it."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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