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Best beer bars 2016: West

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Barrel Republic - Paul Body - 006

Barrel Republic, photo by Paul Body

Aces and Ales – Tenaya
Las Vegas, Nevada
acesandales.com
Far from the shining lights and broken dreams of the Strip, this low-key spot offers a different kind of jackpot. Sample from the menu of 50 drafts on which Stone always has a strong showing (owner and former Alice Cooper guitarist Keri Kelli collaborated with the brewery on last year’s Collective Distortion IPA), peruse the vintage bottle list with sample-sized servings of Sam Adams Utopias and other cellar gems going back to 2004, and hang out gambling on the bar’s built-in poker machines until the sun comes up—this is Vegas, after all.

Bailey’s Taproom
Portland, Oregon
baileystaproom.com
There are many ways to enjoy this venerable downtown Portland pub: at the brick-and-timber main bar, which features 24 taps and a cask engine; at the speakeasy-esque Upper Lip, whose six drafts are only accessible around the corner and up a clandestine flight of stairs marked with a beer bottle; and at Brewed Oregon, the across-thestreet retail space opened this year featuring cans, bottles and march exclusively from Oregon breweries. No time? Order Crowlers of draft beer online and Bailey’s bartenders will have them ready for pickup in about an hour.

Barrel Republic
San Diego, California
barrelrepublic.com
Behold the extreme beer geek’s dream bar: After a quick checkin with the “bartender” on duty, you’re given a futuristic bracelet that grants access to the large selection of taps (45 at the Pacific Beach location; 48 in Oceanside) labeled with electronic screens that detail each brew’s ABV, ingredients and flavor. Select a flute, mug, tulip or otherwise from the racks of glassware, raise your nifty wristband to a sensor to activate the faucet, then get to pouring and drinking— because you pay by the ounce, you could tick the bar’s entire lineup in a night, if you felt so inclined.

Bazi Bierbrasserie
Portland, Oregon
bazipdx.com
Come for the 114-inch HD screen, around which rabid fans of the Portland Timbers MLS squad gather and roar regularly; stay for the Belgian-leaning food (we like the Stoofvlees, a beer-soaked beef stew served over fries) and reliably excellent 17-draft, 40-bottle beer list that features Belgian classics alongside beloved locals like Pelican, Upright and Double Mountain.

Beer Bar
Salt Lake City, Utah
beerbarslc.com
The younger brother to next-door, cocktail-focused Bar X, Beer Bar is as cool as its name is succinct. The 30 beers on draft adhere to the Beehive State’s strict 4.2% ABV limit, but those looking for something more substantial will find the 100-plus bottle list—peppered with rarities and high-gravity options from locals Epic and Squatters as well as farther-flung breweries like Hopworks Urban Brewery and Jolly Pumpkin—plenty intoxicating.

Beer Revolution
Oakland, California
beer-revolution.com
You say you want a revolution? Well, you know this low-key beer bar/bottle shop is the place to start one. With 50 taps constantly rotating between Cali classics and sought after specialties on one side of the bar, a flotilla of fridges stocked with 100-plus take-home bottles on the other, oak barrel tables in between and sustenance available at The Annex burger bar next door, all the tools of beer-soaked rebellion are at your disposal.

Belmont Station
Portland, Oregon
belmont-station.com
Once upon a time, when the world made sense, Belmont Station was actually located on Belmont Street, serving as the bottle shop side of the legendary Horse Brass Pub. The Station has done just fine for itself since striking off on its own in 2007, luring beer fanatics with rotating drafts (20 beers, two ciders and a cask), a retail side stocked with more than 1,300 bottles, and annual events like PuckerFest, a celebration of sour and wild ales that’ll be held for the
10th consecutive year July 19 to 25.

Beveridge Place Pub
Seattle, Washington
beveridgeplacepub.com
Touches like a reclaimed and resurfaced 100-year-old Brunswick back bar, antique furniture and a bartop constructed from an old bowling alley lane give this warm West Seattle den a cozy, carefree feel, but its laser-sharp craft beer focus emerges daily on the 36-tap draft list; weekly at Thirsty Thursday brewer spotlights, blind tasting and bottle releases; and annually at events like Cask- O-Rama, Hoptoberfest and the Barleywine Bacchanal.

Blind Lady Ale House
San Diego, California
blindlady.blogspot.com
The locals may call it BLAH, but this 7-year-old spot is the opposite of boring; communal tables fill quickly with cheerful folks eager to sip on one of 26 drafts, several of which are made on-site by Automatic Brewing Co. The bar recently cut its weekday lunch hours so it could open Mondays, giving patrons the chance to admire the vintage beer can and bottle collection seven days a week.

Brouwer’s Cafe
Seattle, Washington
brouwerscafe.blogspot.com
A bar that takes beer quality seriously will clean out its draft lines every couple of weeks to remove any dirt or bacterial buildup. This dungeonlike beer hall from the owners of renowned beer shop Bottleworks ups the ante, replacing each of its 64 incredible draft lines with a brand-spanking-new one every time a keg is tapped.

Churchill’s Pub & Grille
San Marcos, California
churchillspub.us
Hunters of rare beer descend on this authentic British public house for its annual Renaissance festival held each March to sip on bottles of Churchill’s Finest hour—an 11% barrel-aged imperial stout crafted for the pub by Port Brewing Co.— and 50 special drafts. Winston would approve.

City Beer Store
San Francisco, California
citybeerstore.com
“City Beer Store is the original. Before there was a craft beer bar in the city, there was City Beer. The owners, Craig and Beth, care about their customers and carry world class examples of pretty much every style. Brewers know that they really take care of the beer, so they’re willing to send their best.” – Philip Emerson, Almanac Beer Co.

Falling Rock Tap House
Denver, Colorado
fallingrocktaphouse.com
Proprietor Chris Black is one of America’s pioneering bar owners, having opened this institution in 1997. It’s since expanded to 92 taps from its original 69, and while the number of beers in the market has exploded in that time, the bar’s commitment to high-quality, balanced and fairly priced beers remains the same. The vintage bottles and breweriana knickknacks stuffed into every corner of the room are a visual example of how much brew knowledge has passed through its four walls. When in Denver for Great American Beer Festival, a pilgrimage here is practically required.

Freshcraft
Denver, Colorado
freshcraft.com
That amazing, super-rare keg you can’t find anywhere else in the Mile High City? Somehow it always seems to show up at Freshcraft, appearing on the bar’s constantly updated electronic roster of taps. The killer food menu—and the fact that the bar is mere blocks away from the downtown tasting rooms of Wynkoop and Great Divide—is just a plus.

Hamilton’s Tavern
San Diego, California
hamiltonstavern.com
You could plan out an entire month of drinking around the events at this neighborhood focused South Park pub: brewery tap takeovers go down every second Saturday, the third Wednesday Drinkabout connects pub crawlers to seven other beer bars via free buses, and specialty casks are smacked open on Firkin Fridays.

Mikkeller Bar
San Francisco, California
mikkellerbar.com
Run, don’t walk, to Mikkeller Bar. It’ll be good practice for the polished pub’s monthly Mikkeller Running Club meeting, which follows a 5K or 10K route back to the “clubhouse” for free beer. You’ll also need to burn off some calories after the bar’s third-anniversary celebration in August, which will feature crazy-rare beers from across the world—including several made at Mikkeller’s San Diego brewery, which opened in April.

Mohawk Bend
Los Angeles, California
mohawk.la
Beer baron Tony Yanow (former owner of Golden Road Brewing and still the head of bar-slash-your-cool-uncle’s-den Tony’s Darts Away) opened this large, super hip spot inside a 100-year old vaudeville theater in 2011, giving East-siders 72 taps of California-brewed beer within walking distance of Dodger Stadium.

N.W.I.P.A., photo by Michael Row

N.W.I.P.A., photo by Michael Row

N.W.I.P.A.
Portland, Oregon
nwipa.beer
On any given night, 66 percent of the draft lines at this FoPo focal point will be pouring IPAs. That may seem less impressive when you learn that the place has just six taps, but consider this: To earn a spot on so-limited a list—in Portland—a hop-forward beer has to be one of the best in the whole damn country. Not a fan of IBU bombs? Rarely seen barrel aged stouts and wild ales make regular appearances on the other two taps, and the spread of 250-ish refrigerated bottles includes one of the better cider selections in the city.

Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern
Portland, Oregon
saraveza.com
Wisconsin transplants rejoice at the Midwest-inspired fare (the summer sausage with cheese curds is a must) and Packers viewing parties hosted at this homey corner bar run by former Hair of the Dog intern, Lompoc Brewery cellar woman and cheesehead Sarah Pederson; beer geeks celebrate the spot for its selection of 10 diverse rotating taps and more than 250 bottles (many of them vintage and oh-so-rare). Head in every second Monday for Free Bacon Night, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Stumbling Monk
Seattle, Washington
(206) 860-0916
“It’s a very Belgian-inspired bar: no frills, very little decoration. They keep 12 beers on tap, half of which are traditional Belgians and half of which are interesting American brews; they do cask tappings once a week and they have a really insane bottle list. But there’s zero website, zero advertising. The bar just is exactly what it is. It’s been an inspiration to the Seattle beer scene as a whole in the quiet way they stay true to themselves.” – Mike Murphy, Holy Mountain Brewing Co.

Tap & Bottle
Tucson, Arizona
thetapandbottle.com
Rare is the bar more sincere in its love of beer than this 3-yearold located a few blocks from the University of Arizona. Chalkboard menus, exposed beams and raw brick walls lead the eye to text—Yay Beer!—marking the 650-bottle-strong cooler section, while above the 21-tap lineup a handwritten message announces the date of the last thorough line cleaning (it’s always recent). Stop in during one of T&B’s many special events and you’ll probably find owner Rebecca Safford singing the praises of the newest release from Dragoon Brewing Co. or Arizona Wilderness with her daughter Baby Bjorned to her chest.

Tap and Handle
Fort Collins, Colorado
tapandhandle.com
You want your beer bar to come with a good pedigree? Okay—this one was founded in 2012 by Jeff Willis, formerly of Austin’s The Ginger Man, and was bought earlier this year by the folks who run beer magazine Craft Beer & Brewing. That industry expertise is apparent in Tap & Handle’s 74 rotating drafts, where uber-rare brews like Perennial Abraxas and Hill Farmstead Dorothy are not uncommon finds. A newly renovated, hop bine-trimmed patio provides the best venue to drink such wonders in all of Choice City.

The Mayor of Old Town, photo by Caron Nicole

The Mayor of Old Town, photo by Caron Nicole

The Mayor of Old Town
Fort Collins, Colorado
themayorofoldtown.com
Plan your trip to FoCo now: This 100-tap stalwart celebrates its five-year anniversary on July 15. Take a few minutes to peruse the auto-updated taplist projected above the clean, white-tiled bar when you go, but don’t take too long—the weather on the just-opened back patio will be too perfect to miss.

The Pine Box
Seattle, Washington
pineboxbar.com
“Pine Box is one of the best pure craft bars in the Northwest. It’s located inside a former mortuary, and they have relationships with a wide range of breweries. They’re going to be the bar that gets that one-off nitro sixth-barrel of coconut beer that only three kegs of were shipped to the state. It’s that great spot where you want to go just to focus on craft beer.” – Matt Lincecum, Fremont Brewing

The Surly Goat
West Hollywood, California
surlygoat.com
The Surly Goat’s a loud, dimly lit haunt that doesn’t even drop its own name on its facade, choosing instead to draw drinkers in with an image of the same glowering Capricorn that hangs over the bar’s 27 taps. Sign up for the beer passport, which entitles drinkers who collect enough stamps to special discounts and release party invites (Pliny the Younger, anyone?) and can also be used at The Goat’s sister bars Verdugo, Little Bear and Blind Donkey.

The Trappist
Oakland, California
thetrappist.com
Twenty-first-century Oakland, meet 19th-century Belgium. Housed in a 100-year-old Victorian, The Trappist recreates the classic pubs of Belgium with a quaint, brick-laden interior and 25 eclectic drafts that combine European classics with celebrated domestic newbies, 10 of which are in a back bar reminiscent of a Brussels biercafe. Enjoy the back patio picnic tables, then head a few miles north to the tavern’s Provisions, its well-stocked sister bottle shop that also offers 12 more taps.

Tiger!Tiger!
North Park, California
tigertigertavern.blogspot.com
Beer and doughnuts are a combination we’ll never get tired of, and this dark, kitschy hipster hangout’s housemade, coconut glazed versions are a worthy match for any of the 23 carefully selected brews on draft. On Fridays and Saturdays, hopheads can skip the main bar’s often-long wait entirely by heading to the eight-tap IPA Bar out back.

Victory Bar
Portland, Oregon
thevictorybar.com
“Victory is my favorite bar to go hang out at. It’s just a cool place. They have an interesting tap selection—not too expansive, but cool stuff that trends toward Belgian. The owner, Yoni, and his wife treat the bar like their art project; they’ve designed everything in there. There’s custom-made wallpaper that’s kind of anticapitalist, and candleholders that have Chairman Mao and Stalin. It’s just something you’ve got to see.” – Ben Love, Gigantic Brewing Co.

 

See the other regions’ best bars here.

 

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12 Comments

  • Tim says:

    Great list, but where’s APEX in Portland? It’s amazing. Much better than Bazi or NWIPA

    • Brad Kaye says:

      I was surprised to see Apex fall off the list this year. Has been on previous years, that’s actually how I found it

    • Kevin says:

      I agree 100% . I like NWIPA but with only 6 taps and one being a cider vs over 50 taps at Apex it seems more political than properly vetted. And you left out Tornado? Wtf guys?

  • Todd says:

    no Toronado in Haight St, SF? That’s a glaring omission.
    http://www.toronado.com

  • Richard Weiner says:

    And the Midwest? We do drink beer here, too. Otherwise, this is not a list. I don’t know what this is, but you can’t advertise it as “Best 100″ anything. Bad journalism.

  • Justin says:

    Toronado is not listed here because they are now listed in a new category – Best beer bar chains – now that the T has three locations. I also agree with almost every selection on this list, but, APEX not being on this list is a shame because that bar is worthy.

  • Eric Seelig says:

    Hey;
    You guys have to get down here to the South Bay Area in LA (South of LAX to Palos Verdes) Torrance and Redondo Beach especially have a very active Craft Beer and Brew Pub Scene. Just south of LAX are The Tripel(really awesome Beer Centric Brewpub in Playa del rey) , and El Segundo Brewing and Rock N Brews in El Segundo, 3 Weavers Brewing in Inglewood, Smog City, Monkish, Strand and too many others to name in Torrance, Phantom Carriage in Carson. Lots of good bottle shops including 3Ten in Torrance and Select Bottle Shop(my favorite hang) Lots of Beer Centric Restaurants including Hop Saint in Torrance, Hudson House and Sophie’s Place in Redondo Beach to name a few. Then the Queen of all Beer Bars, Naja’s Place in King Harbor/Redondo Bch, not a better place to get one of 100’s of choices of beer on a beautiful Cali Summer day! We’re turning into friggin SAnDiego.

  • Ryan says:

    No Toronado or SD TapRoom? Could list a million reasons why those 2 should be on that list.

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