Wine, dine & more at Village Pointe

Brix at Village Pointe evolves beyond wine

In the 1990s, Dan Matuszek envisioned bringing a retail store to Omaha with a Starbucks vibe and a Barnes and Noble look, and the added bonus of a bistro and party room.

On the shelves? Lots and lots of wine. The twist: Customers at Brix would have the chance to try before they buy with nifty, self-service wine dispensers – making wine a lot less complicated and snobby. “People feel intimidated,” said Matuszek, founder and CEO of Brix. “This makes it easy.”

Since opening in 2010, Brix at Village Pointe has become known as a casual-yet-sophisticated place to taste a wine (or several) and take a bottle home. But in the past four years, Matuszek has steered Brix toward offering experiences outside the wine arena, rebranding it as a place to wine, dine, sip a beer and more.

When it opened, the Brix bistro was a place for tapas only. Today, the bistro offers a full-service menu, including brunch, lunch and dinner and a popular happy hour. The latest change to Brix includes a new 20-draft craft beer bar and a more open layout between the previously distinct bistro and retail store. The changes make the Village Pointe location a bit more like it’s Midtown Crossing cousin – a little less of a wine shop with a bistro, and more like a bistro that also sells wine.

Matuszek said the changes are helping Brix to keep up with the changing palate of consumers. The store still offers hundreds of bottles of wine for sale, and customers can still sample 72 bottles of wine by the ounce from Italian-made dispensing machines. But it is also a place where customers can get a craft beer or cocktail after work or stay for dinner. “It’s evolved from a wine bar to an experience with beer, spirits, food and wine,” Matuszek said.

The craft revolution

The recent renovations at Brix have much to do with the explosion of the craft beer market. Craft beer sales rose 15 percent in dollars and 13 percent in volume in the first six months of 2013, according to the Brewers Association. It’s the fastest growing segment in the alcohol business.

While Brix offers more than 750 bottled beers, true beer lovers want a draft. “To be considered legitimate in that category, you have it on tap,” Matuszek said.

The dramatic beer bar entices craft beer lovers with a casual vibe that mimics the feel of the Midtown location. Making beer a part of the Brix focus is a natural succession to its wine roots, Matuszek said. Consumer interest in the nuances of craft beers is not unlike what the wine industry experienced a few years ago. Like wine aficionados, beer geeks want to learn what makes a great beer different, explore distinct tastes and play with pairing beers with food, he said.

Similarly, consumer demand for craft spirits has evolved, and consumers are diving into the nuances of small batch and artisanal distilleries. Younger Brix customers especially have flocked toward single malt Scotch – made with whiskies from a single Scotch distillery. With more than 110 varieties of single malt Scotches, fans have a good place to start at Brix. “We sell more single malt Scotch than any account in the state of Nebraska,” Matuszek said.

Keeping these trends accessible to customers remains the goal at Brix, and ample meeting space has allowed Matuzek to schedule experts to educate novices and enthusiasts alike about vineyards, fermentation, Scotch and brewing.

Wine in evolution

Matuszek’s introduction to wine came in his adulthood. He got a job working as a sales rep for Ernest and Julio Gallo wines in the 1980s – back when he didn’t really drink wine, he said. In his years in the industry, “I’ve become a wine lover and wine enthusiast,” he said. “It’s a fun industry.”

He has watched with interest as the demand for single malt Scotch has rapidly increased – both globally and locally. “That was surprising to me, being more of a wine guy,” he said.

With Brix, Matuszek is comfortable staying nimble and responsive to consumer tastes, wherever they may take the Brix brand. “Where you start and where you finish may not be the same place,” he said. For the Brix customer, that’s a very good thing.

The craft beer craze

What is a craft brewer?
Craft brewers are small brewers.

What makes a craft beer different?
The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent. Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.

Where can I find craft brewers?
The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.

Source: the Brewers Association

Brix by the numbers

800+ different wines
72 wines by the ounce
750+ different beers
110+ different single malt Scotches

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