The Foundation is a new bar in downtown Omaha. It’s trying to do the very difficult job of creating a place with character in the downtown core while still paying rent. It’s a difficult proposition given that serving up thousands of $4 Bud Lites to the anonymous masses is the easiest (and often the only) way to a find a profit margin.
Luckily for the cultured men and women of vice and leisure, The Foundation is slowly carving out something different than a typical O’Someone’s Generic Irish Pub. In point of fact, the previous tenant of the building was a generic Irish pub, complete with green walls, green ceilings, green furniture, and green carpet (!). It’s always St. Patrick’s day somewhere, I suppose, and it wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s day if spilled beer wasn’t rotting in your carpet. Thankfully The Foundation has done a complete remodel with a kind of comic-book theme that works really well. They even hang local art on the walls like a lot of Omaha bars and coffee shops.
The Foundation has an interesting vibe that’s evolving nicely. During our first few visits we were treated to someone’s terrible taste in music pumped through an extraordinarily loud soundsystem that was all bass and treble. In subsequent visits we commandeered the jukebox, the better to foist our terrible taste in music on everyone else (this is the reason bars should have CD jukeboxes). Going on weeknights helps with the volume of both music and people.
Going on weeknights is also a good way to talk to the owners and staff to find out more about the place. They told us all about the history of the building (green carpets, etc), and the huge Vegas-style sign that hangs above the bar. They found it perfectly preserved in the building and it was an impetus to start the bar in the first place. We also talked to the guy who manages their beer selection. Because they’re a new place they’re still learning the ins and outs of the beer distribution game. Apparently it’s pretty complicated. Scoring a really rare beer is difficult for a bar to do by itself. Often a brewery won’t bother shipping beer to a city unless they can send an entire semi full of kegs. This usually requires all the bars in the area to pitch in, something that’s quite difficult to make happen. And a lot of distributors think of Omaha as a podunk cow-town with only Generic Irish Pubs, instead of the wonderful beery paradise it actually is (See also: Jake’s, the Crescent Moon and company, the Brass Monkey, Dundee Dell, etc, etc).
Distribution politics aside, with 25 taps they have some really interesting beer available. There’s all the old standards of course, plus a few rare beers from the big regional breweries (Boulevard, New Belgium, and Sierra Nevada). One night when we went they even had a barleywine on tap (Weyerbacher QUAD). Not for the faint of tongue.
I’m glad to see The Foundation doing something unique in downtown Omaha. I hope they resist the temptation of $4 Bud Lites and keep at it. Outside of the brewpubs, The Foundation is really the best place to get interesting beer downtown. And no, I’m sorry, Old Chicago doesn’t count.