The Happy Raven is a downtown haven for Lincoln’s persnickety beer geeks. Heartland versions of Napa Valley’s famous wine sommeliers, everybody on staff is a certified beer server by Cicerone.
Happy Raven owner Matt Myers said each employee is trained and tested so that they are prepared to serve anyone who may wander through the front door.
“A certified beer server is basically like a level-one beer sommelier,” Myers said. “We try to get the employees as educated as possible so they can keep the beer geeks happy as well as recommend good beers to the newer people.”
Along with a well-educated staff of experts comes a little recognition. For the past two years, the Brewer’s Association has designated The Happy Raven as the top beer spot in Nebraska, according to the association’s internet poll.
Myers said he was surprised to have earned the recognition so soon in the bar’s infancy, and previous winners had usually been top craft brewers in the Omaha area.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Myers said. “It speaks to the loyalty of our customers. They love what we do, and we’re lucky to have them.
Ales, lagers and stouts, Oh my!
Given Happy Raven’s status as a joint that serves solely craft beer, Myers said it attracts a large number of craft brew enthusiasts, even on weekdays. The Happy Raven keeps up a constantly rotating 18-tap menu, and Myers said he keeps around 100 aged bottles ready to go in the cellar.
“We have some local stuff, but we try to keep a pretty wide variety of aged stuff from all over the place,” Myers said.
A loyal crowd
The Happy Raven offers regulars a loyalty program that awards them points for each beer they buy. After accruing enough points, they’re awarded T-shirts, stickers and other merchandise to show off. At the top of the rewards tier, requiring someone to drink 1,250 beers, Myers allows the winner to throw a party and select beer for each of the 18 taps.
“It drives people to try new things they haven’t had before,” Myers said. “People experiment with new beers, they get more points and we get to sell more beer. We’ve been open for around 3 1/2 years now, and we’ve sold way more than 2,000 beers just going off of our rewards program alone.”
Myers said the program keeps a regular crowd of familiar faces coming in, though the bar’s downtown location allows younger crowds of curious beer drinkers to try out something different than Bud Lght.
“It gets pretty crazy on football gamedays, too,” Myers said. “People always come in asking for the regular stuff like Bud, Miller and all that. On those days, we kinda have to be the one to direct all of them around.”
Not just content with selling craft brews, Myers said he delegates his managers to coordinate events to bring in crowds. The Happy Raven hosts a monthly book club, poetry readings, writer’s groups and other events to act as a creative outlet for artists around the Lincoln area. Events are regularly posted on the bar’s Facebook page, and generally garner positive responses from attendees.
“Obviously we’re all about the beer, but we try to do a lot of creative events,” Myers said.