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Restaurant Review: Thunderhead Brewing Company

Written by Jamie Frerichs

Written by Jamie Frerichs

There’s something special brewing on the bricks in downtown Kearney that makes beer lovers raise their “Golden Cans of Goodness” as they make a toast to this exceptional brewery. And it just so happens this purveyor of fine ales and lagers has a menu overflowing with delicious eats. You’ll come to the Thunderhead Brewing Company for what’s on tap, but you’ll stay for what’s being fired up in their stone oven – pretzels, pizza, and perfection.

Since opening their Kearney location in 1999, Thunderhead Brewing has been devoted to crafting excellent beers. They take pride in working with only the best ingredients from as far away as Europe, to as near as Chandler’s Sandhill Honey in Anselmo, NE. Hopefully you won’t need to travel far if you’re thirsting for their brews; you can find Thunderhead where better beer is sold or at locations serving draught beer throughout central Nebraska.

Thunderhead Brewing is – and should be – known for their specialty beers. It’s often said that the success of a well-crafted beer is created when science and art merge together – and I believe they have mastered this in many ways. However, a beer expert I am not. While I’ve done my fair share of 12 oz. curls, I’m here to pour myself over the part of the menu that doesn’t require you to show a valid ID.  Mmmm, let’s eat!

What has everybody talking (and drooling)?

•The Appetizers. I love their Cheese Breadsticks, but they’re very comparable to their amazing pizza (similar crust and cheese). This is not a complaint; it’s simply a warning for those of you who plan to also order pizza – it might feel a little like déjà food. Therefore if you have your heart set on pizza for the main course and are still in need of an app, take a spin in the midsize Artichoke Dip or the oversized Nachos. Both receive a 5-Star Yummy Rating.


•The Pretzels. I think hand-tossed pretzels are often times misunderstood. Are they an appetizer? Are they a meal? Are they supposed to be savory or sweet? Do you rip it and dip it…or keep it whole and use a fork? Is it acceptable to unravel the twisted part or is that like ferociously biting off the limbs of a gingerbread man? Let me be perfectly clear here when I answer with a, “Quit asking all those ridiculous questions and order a delicious pretzel already!  Sheesh!” (But please don’t forget to order a side of spicy mustard, nacho cheese, or marinara sauce. It’s diptastic!)

• The Pizzas & Calzones. I believe it’s their bread and cheese that make their pizzas and calzones so darn good. So. Darn. Good. Their pizzas are made with a thin crust, but not too thin or crunchy – it’s just right. I thought the Hawaiian was my fave, but that was until I met the Thunderpie – their signature pizza featuring Alfredo sauce, roasted chicken, bacon, jalapeños, pepper jack and mozzarella cheese, served with a side of Thunderhead Ranch. Yep, I believe I have a new favorite.

I’ll admit I’m not a calzone kind of gal, but I would be remiss (and facing major disappointment coming from my husband) if I didn’t acknowledge The Usual Zone – a calzone filled with marinara sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, portabella mushrooms, and mozzarella. There you have it, calzone lovers. You’re welcome.

•The Thunder Spud. A baked potato loaded with all of the same toppings you’ll find on the Thunderpie. Enough said.

•The Beers & Other Drinks. In addition to their core of flavorful ales and lagers, they always have several seasonal and brewer’s whims on tap. Be sure to glace at their chalkboard to see what’s currently being offered. My preferred suds from Thunderhead are Golden Frau Honey Wheat – a wholesome wheat beer brewed with sweet Nebraska honey – or Grail Ale Grand Cru – a deep and rich golden wheat ale spiced with hops, coriander, and bitter orange peel.

If beer isn’t your thirst thing, have no worries. You can sip on their unique whiskey Thunderpunch or slurp down one of their Fountainhead Premium Soda creations like root beer or cream soda. You won’t be disappointed and your Thunderthirst will be quenched.

Specials, Promotions, & Events

Like any respectable brewer, Thunderhead offers a Happy Hour, Monday through Friday from 4-6 PM and again from 9-11 PM on Thursdays. They also provide specials such as Logo Pints on Mondays (wear any piece of “Thundewear” and get your beer at half price) or Thunderpunch Tuesdays (all day long you can buy T-Punch for only $1.50). They’re always brewing up a decent deal!

The Good , The Bad, & The Tasty

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Thunderhead ever since my husband and I moved to Kearney. Besides the first-rate beer and food, I also love their all-around reasonable prices (pretzels for $2.49, pizzas for $5.25-$20.99, and calzones for as low as $4.99), their quick turnaround time on takeout orders, and their fun and friendly atmosphere. Thunderhead Brewing has ample seating to accommodate your large party, there are several TV’s to display whatever game you desire to watch, and easy access to pool tables or foosball.

Thunderhead Brewing Company is the complete brewpub package. Superbly crafted beers and fantastic food all wrapped up in a casual, but distinct drinking and dining experience. I find their beer interesting and their grub to be simple and satisfying. Cheers to a job well brewed and baked!

Thunderhead Brewing Company Website: www.thunderheadbrewing.com

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About the author

Jamie Frerichs

I started to crave travel while I was in college, and no, I’m not just talking about Spring Break (although Mazatlan was a lot of fun). What began with venturing to a few away games to cheer on my beloved Cornhusker football team, quickly turned into spending a semester in the college program at Walt Disney World, becoming a nanny for a family living outside of New York City, completing a semester-long linguistic program in France, and eventually flying across the nation while working for a sales and strategic marketing firm.

I’m fortunate to have been a lot of places, but my story is not about where I’ve been – it’s about what I’ve been lucky enough to do. Everywhere I go I seek out the best local eateries, museums, and shops. From food truck to fine dining, from art studios to The Louvre, from farmers markets to high-end boutiques – I love discovering local treasures.

I’m a connoisseur of local culture and I’d like to share with you my culinary adventures. Pull up a chair, grab a fancy glass of whatever you’re thirsting for, and let’s eat. Bon appetit!