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Best beer bars 2016: South

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The Hay Merchant - Julie Soefer - 036

The Hay Merchant, photo by Julie Soefer

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden
Austin, Texas
bangersaustin.com
Aside from the occasional cast-iron pot or taxidermic pig head, you won’t find many frills at this picnic table decked downtown beer hall. The focus is on 30 housemate sausages (which include exotic links like duck, antelope, rabbit and wild boar) and 104 rotating drafts. Feel daring? Let a bartender pluck out a random draft using the metal Bingo roller packed with 104 numbered balls.

Beer Run
Charlottesville, Virginia
beerrun.com
Fifty percent bar, 50 percent bottle shop and 50 percent restaurant, Beer Run is the place to go when
you need to make a … well, you know. Rarities can almost always be found among the 700-ish bottles on the location’s retail side, and the pub half’s 17 taps regularly feature locals like South Street, Starr Hill and Blue Mountain. If the small spot’s full (it usually is), head two miles down the road to Cardinal Hall, a 200-seat beer garden Beer Run’s owners opened inside an old Coca-Cola plant last October.

Brick Store Pub
Decatur, Georgia
brickstorepub.com
Bring a pair of reading glasses to this nearly two-decade-old Decatur institution; the bar’s Bible-sized bottle list requires intense study. You could, of course, simply select from one of the upstairs bar’s eight Belgian-only taps or the 21 mostly American drafts available at floor level, but wouldn’t you rather find out what kinds of special-release rarities are aging in the underground bank vault?

Busy Bee Cafe
Raleigh, North Carolina
busybeeraleigh.com
If this buzzing (get it?) craft beer hive hadn’t already earned its way onto this list through its innovative barrel program in which the bar donates casks to local breweries so they can age their beer and sell it back to the Bee exclusively, the Belgian-only restaurant and bar opened on the second-floor in January, Mash & Lauter, would’ve sealed the deal.

Closed for Business
Charleston, South Carolina
closed4business.com
We can’t decide which seat is the best here: one of the wellborn leather chairs next to the faux fireplace that draws warmth and character from the rest of the kitschy, lodgelike interior, or the bathroom’s single, private porcelain throne, where beer-focused articles and reviews act as wallpaper. Choosing from the selection of 42 Carolina-leaning drafts—almost all of which can be purchased in 10-ounce, 16-ounce and 1-liter pours—is a much simpler prospect.

Craft and Growler
Dallas, Texas
craftandgrowler.com
Most bars allow you the option of filling a growler for take-home drinking; none are as committed to beer-to-go as this filling station. Founded in November 2012 by a pair of patent attorneys, C&G features 42 draft lines, every single one of which is equipped with a specially designed beer gun (the same device used for packaging at many breweries) that injects growlers of Deep Ellum Numb Comfort or Dogfish Head Choc Lobster full of flavor-saving CO2 before the first drop of beer flows. Left your growler at home? Just pick one out from the on-site selection, purportedly the largest in the world.

Craft Brewed
Nashville, Tennessee
craftbrewednashville.com
“They have a great patio outside, and they’re always pouring lots of great drafts from my brewer friends. The atmosphere is just awesome. Plus, I’m a big fan of Nashville hot chicken, and there’s a hot chicken place right down the street that makes stuff that they let you bring into the bar. Any time I can have craft beer and hot chicken, that’s a good day for me.” – Brandon Jones, Yazoo Brewing Co.

Craft Conundrum
Charleston, South Carolina
craftconundrum.com
You will never experience a draft beer like one you’ll get at Craft Conundrum. That’s because owner Richard Easterby holds the patent on the mad-genius draft system he developed seven years ago, which matches the pressure of each of the 100-plus available kegs and shoots hot water through the draft lines at the completion of every pour. Every glass you enjoy while you sink into the bar’s cushy leather couches and eye the hundreds of bottles lining its grocery storelike shelves is like the first pull off a fresh keg through a just-cleaned line.

Craft Pride, photo courtesy of Craft Pride

Craft Pride, photo courtesy of Craft Pride

Craft Pride
Austin, Texas
craftprideaustin.com
With 54 taps, Craft Pride doesn’t have the largest selection of draft beer in the city (thanks to the 100 faucets at Banger’s down the road, it doesn’t even have the largest selection on Rainey Street). But it does have a menu of exclusively Lone Star State-brewed beers, a pair of cask engines for drawing off special one-off kegs, and the option to get many of those 54 brews in a 20-ounce “Texas Pint” that proves everything really is bigger in Texas.

Holy Grale
Louisville, Kentucky
holygralelouisville.com
“It’s quality of service and the quality of the products they sell. They have an incredible beer list, and to cap it all off it’s a neat place. The proprietors were instrumental in the maturity of the beer market here. They were the first on the scene to open a beer-centric place of that caliber. Ultimately, they set the stage for my company to open, and for this new wave of breweries to open up.” – Sam Cruz, Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse

Hops + Crafts
Nashville, Tennessee
hopscrafts.com
If you’re from out of state, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single beer you recognize among the 36 rotating handles here (ever heard of Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch, Jackalope Bearwalker or Mayday Evil Octopus?). The industrial-style stools facing the taps and the TV are the place to be on Tennessee Tuesdays, when all beers made in the Volunteer State are half off, but weekends are when you’ll want to park it on the patio and scope the Gulch neighborhood nightlife.

Kickbacks Gastropub/Goozlepipe & Guttyworks
Jacksonville, Florida
kickbacksgastropub.com
Who needs wallpaper? Pennies— more than a million of them, each hand-adhered over a 10-month period—act as the paneling for the steampunk half of this multifaceted beer compound. Aboveground, 180 different beers flow from standard draft towers and reimagined copper stills; below, another 24 taps feature exclusively Belgian brews while thousands of bottles and kegs slumber in temperature-controlled catacombs. Nearly 200 lockers, rentable for merely $1 a day, allow beer fans to add their own bottles to the collection.

Mahogany Bar
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
mahoganybar.net
“The Hog” could refer to this place’s nickname among locals just as easily as it could reference the massive boar’s head that hangs above the doors. It keeps a watchful eye on the bar’s squadron of Cicerone Certified Beer Servers as they move about the dimly lit, mahogany-laden space to dole out pints of Chandeleur, Slow Boat, Lazy Magnolia and Southern Prohibition from 45 stellar taps.

Mr. Beery’s
Sarasota, Florida
mrbeeryssrq.com
Yeah, its name is like something you’d get if you tried to crowdsource the title of a beer bar on Twitter. But that’s sort of the point—with mismatched couches for seating, skeeball and the option to bring in any outside food you want, this is a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Drop by often to see what new concoctions are flowing through the bar’s two flavor infusion towers, the Hopinator and the Infusinator.

Oak and Ore, photo by Eric Peyton

Oak & Ore, photo by Eric Peyton

Oak & Ore
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
oakandore.com
When owner Micah Andrews discovered that most bar draft systems are designed mainly for mass-market lagers and not the nuanced brews he wanted to sell, he decided to call in some experts and build a better one. The result: a 36-tap setup that enables Andrews and his staff of Cicerone Certified Beer Servers to dispense a worldspanning variety of kegs at different temperatures and regulate the flow rate of each faucet, ensuring a perfect pour with every glass.

Petrol Station
Houston, Texas
facebook.com/petrolstation
Beer and Star Wars geeks alike are welcome at this converted gas station tucked inside a quiet Houston neighborhood: The 35-tap draft menu of the best beer available in Texas is separated into “Youngling,” “Padawan” and “Jedi” categories by ABV and intensity. There’s always something new and exciting to try out on tap, but it’s the killer burgers and huge patio that make this the best place in the city to fill up your tank, so to speak.

Redlight Redlight
Orlando, Florida
redlightredlightbeerparlour.com
Take a massive, airy warehouse and plop a badass beer bar right in the middle of it: That’s Redlight Redlight. Now more than a decade old, the Orlando beer geek haven keeps intriguing brews flowing from 24 seriously considered taps, two beer engines and more than 300 bottles. A new 50-liter brewhouse in the back churns out befuddling brews like the dry-hopped sour Space Oddity and Black Orange Sun, a dark saison, but you can be sure the staff will do a good job of describing them—they’re all at least Cicerone Certified Beer Servers.

Salud
Charlotte, North Carolina
saludbeershop.com
Tees worn by some of the employees here read: “Sour Beer. Old-School Hip Hop. Nintendo. Wafflewiches. Salud.” You pretty much get all of the above at this bottle shop/taproom, whose walls are crammed with shelves and coolers of lustworthy cans and bottles from around the world, plus some Charlotte Hornets posters from the ‘90s. Area brewers regularly stop in to see what fun beers flow through the dozen taps, snack on delicious waffle sandwiches and chat with the in-the-know staff.

Sergio’s World Beers
Louisville, Kentucky
sergiosworldbeers.com
Sergio’s is easy to miss if you don’t know where you’re going— the windows are blacked out with flags and there’s not even a sign. But this, says owner Sergio Ribenboim, is the point: “Not having a sign helps keep away the kind of people who wouldn’t want to come to a place like this.” The kind of people who would want to come? Anyone who enjoys treasure- hunting through 40 drafts and more than 1,700 bottles.

Strangeways
Dallas, Texas
strangewaysdallas.com
The assortment of cartoonish figurines posed on shelves above Strangeways’ giant cement barter (“art pieces” collected by owner Eric Sanchez) are as eclectic as the crowd that fills the brick-laden space each night. You’re as likely to mingle with the suit-and-tie crowd here as with the ear-gauged and inked types, especially during special events like October’s weeklong Sour Fest, when tart and wild ales take over all 40 of the bar’s rotating taps.

The Avenue Pub
New Orleans, Louisiana
theavenuepub.com
Where else in the Big Easy can you sip on Pappy Van Winkle while lobbing Mardi Gras beads at passersby from a second-floor balcony, then head downstairs for a burger with
goat cheese and candied bacon paired with 12 ounces of Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze? Where else in the country can you do that?

The Birch
Norfolk, Virginia
thebirchbar.com
pLong known for its exquisitely curated, Eurocentric selection of 21 draft beers, The Birch recently installed ve more taps just for ciders and meads. But fear not, staunch beer fans—brews still reign supreme at the bar’s regular “43 Hours Of” festivals, where a single beer style takes over the taps for an entire week. Look for goodies from beer importer B. United in July and an assortment of sours in September.

The Hay Merchant
Houston, Texas
haymerchant.com
The Hay Merchant’s array of 80 unusual tap handles—crafted from curios ranging from owner Kevin Floyd’s family heirlooms to a rusty can of Colt 45—is iconic, but it’s what’s behind them that’s most impressive: a cooler with temperature-regulated zones for ales and lagers that also houses Floyd’s “library” of more than 200 vintage kegs. A program rolling out this summer will enable customers to order bottled beers by the glass.

The J. Clyde
Birmingham, Alabama
jclyde.com
With its cobblestone walls and three beer engines (the only ones you’ll find in the city), a more authentic pub would be hard to find in England, let alone Alabama. But J. Clyde has everything we look for in a modern beer bar: 60-plus taps, split between a U.S.-focused front bar and all-’bama back; a staff of Cicerone Certified Beer Servers; and housemade offerings from Five Points Brewing, opening later this year.

The Porter Beer Bar
Atlanta, Georgia
theporterbeerbar.com
Don’t be afraid to rub up on your neighbor at this brick-lined, boisterous bar with the feel of an old-city alleyway; the space is as narrow as its 50-draft, 800-plus-bottle beer menu is long. You can always rent out the secluded wood-and-brick beer cellar if you want to get away from the crowds—and closer to those vintage brews.

See the other regions’ best bars here.

11 Comments

  • John S says:

    No Dogfish Head in Delaware? Really?

  • Brian Smith says:

    I travel all over the country and been to at least 10 of these bars, so I really thought I’d see the Sugar Land Flying Saucer on the ‘South’ list. (Because it’s a chain maybe?) It has a very friendly atmosphere, great beer selection (On-tap, Bottles, and Promotions), decent food menu, and who doesn’t want to be a Beerknurd?

  • Kevin says:

    No mention of The Ginger Man in Austin?? Y’all are crazy.

  • Rob says:

    Overall a very good list, with one huge, glaring, inexplicable exception. No mekong from richmond????? There’s always gonna be close calls, like not including thirsty monk in asheville or gingerman in austin, and thats understandable, but mekong is a different deal altogether. It is hands down the best beer bar I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to about a quarter to third of all these places in the south and other regions . I’m very curious to see how the authors could justify such an omission.

  • You guys gotta come down to PR and check out La Taberna Lúpulo!

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