Features
America’s 100 best beer bars: 2012

Pubs, dives, taverns, canteens, watering holes and holes-in-the-wall: Once again, we’ve surveyed the lay of the beer-bar land and found 100 one-off spots where there’s a barstool any beer lover can call home.

SKIP TO REGION: WEST | MIDWEST | NORTHEAST | SOUTH

 

WEST

APEX | Portland, Ore.

Cruise down to bike-friendly Apex on your fixie and grab a seat at one of the many outdoor picnic tables: This is the perfect spot to people-watch Portland’s hipster class while sipping on something hoppy from the rightfully named Hopworks Urban Brewery. Plot your next pours with Apex’s sleek, real-time digital tap listing display, which showcases the bar’s thoughtfully compiled selection of 50 regional hop bombs and coveted brews from abroad. 1216 S.E. Division St., apexbar.com

BAILEY’S TAPROOM | Portland, Ore.

Bailey’s exposed brick, timber pillars and windowed exterior give this downtown corner bar a lived-in coziness beyond its four years. It’s not only the perfect location to unwind with Portland’s working stiffs (it opens at 4 p.m.), but also a one-stop pub for sampling the best of Oregon, from Oakshire’s single-batch brews on tap to a healthy collection of Hair of the Dog bottles. 213 S.W. Broadway, baileystaproom.com

BEER REVOLUTION | Oakland, Calif.

Beer Revolution

This low-key hole-in-the-wall is reshaping Oakland with more than 40 incredible taps and a wall of beer fridges housing one of the best beer selections in the city. Grab a spot at a barrel table and strike up a conversation with fellow revolutionaries, or stop by on one of the many brewer nights for special tastings with craft beer luminaries. 464 Third St., beer-revolution.com

BELMONT STATION| Portland, Ore.

Bottle shop, biercafé and locally sourced cuisine: Belmont Station nails the beer geek/foodie trifecta. Nosh on corned beef with organic veggies and a helping of Oakshire’s Overcast Espresso Stout Ice Cream between sips of the neighborhood café’s cask-conditioned offering. Then, roll yourself over to the bottle shop for a bomber to go. 4500 S.E. Stark St., belmont-station.com

BEVERIDGE PLACE PUB | Seattle

Comfy couches, borrowable books and chatty regulars make this sleepy West Seattle tavern more like a living room than a beer bar—but a phenomenal spread of Northwestern beers and bartenders who are generous with samples and hell-bent on finding something you like put Beveridge Place among the beer bar elite. 6413 California Ave. S.W., beveridgeplacepub.com

BLIND LADY ALE HOUSE | San Diego

BLAH is one of those big, cheery places that takes its beer pretty darn seriously. Its state-of-the-art draft system guarantees only the freshest pours from each of the 26 thoughtfully selected taps, and all of the liquid is served up in the right glass. Go for a pint, but stay for a slice; the highly lauded pizza’s topped with organic ingredients from a local farm. Bonus: BLAH’s owners opened sister bar Tiger! Tiger! just across the freeway in the fall. 3416 Adams Ave., blindladyalehouse.com

BLUE PALMS BREWHOUSE | Hollywood, Calif.

This unlikely little spot next to the Henry Fonda Theater has inspired sausage (alligator and pork andouille, anyone?), but it’s really all about doing beer right: The bartenders are all super-knowledgeable, and the brews are served in correct glassware at proper temperatures. You’ll rarely find the same draft selection twice, and with consistent “tap takeovers” and a legion of beer fans parked on the barstools, there’s always a reason to come back. 6124 Hollywood Blvd., bluepalmsbrewhouse.com

THE DAILY PINT | Santa Monica, Calif.

If you’re a jeans-and-T-shirt guy, pool shark, shuffleboard champ and foosball fanatic, then you’re in the right place. But if you also happen to like beer, you’ve hit the jackpot. Daily Pint’s huge selection is “ever-rotating”: Just check out its Twitter account to see the latest local gems on the faucets, which include four cask engines. 2310 Pico Blvd., thedailypint.net

DRAUGHT HOUSE PUB & BREWERY | Austin, Texas

Forty-three years in, and this Texas-bar-meets-Bavarian-looking-chalet is still pouring strong. With 70 taps, including a smattering of pretty darn good housemade beers, it’s got just about something for everyone. While the beer’s flowing over, so is the crowd, but that’s OK: You can grab a stool at the bar or at an outdoor picnic bench; for a sure seat, bring your lawn chair and kick back in the parking lot. 4112 Medical Pkwy., draughthouse.com

FALLING ROCK TAP HOUSE | Denver

The unofficial outpost for Great American Beer Fest goers, the dimly lit, wood-dressed Falling Rock is one of those places that everyone who knows about beer knows about. Seventy-five taps draw a serious selection of the best in the West and beyond; stop in for regular visits by brewers, who know that this is the place to celebrate their beer in Denver. 1919 Blake St., fallingrocktaphouse.com

FATHER’S OFFICE | Santa Monica, Calif.

Open since 2000, Father’s Office is, for this city, an aging starlet, but in a Betty White sort of way. Yes, you’ll still wait shoulder-to-shoulder at the bustling long bar for your pint (36 taps and a super-knowledgeable staff make it worth your while); and yes, though the competition’s fierce, the Office Burger is still one of the best uses of beef in town. 1018 Montana Ave., fathersoffice.com

FREAKIN’ FROG | Las Vegas

No sequins or Bengal tigers in sight, but this off-off-the-strip bar’s 1,000 glorious bottles make it one of the best beer shows in the West. Owned by UNLV beer and wine lecturer Adam Carmer, this bar’s the perfect spot to study up on beer and whiskey, with the latter topping off at 800 selections. 4700 S. Maryland Pkwy., freakinfrog.com

GREEN DRAGON | Portland, Ore.

Located on the fringe of Portland’s warehouse district, the urbanesque Green Dragon tempts patrons through its garage door entrance, and keeps them hanging around with more than 50 ever-rotating taps—probably none fresher than offerings from Buckman Botanical Brewery, a small-batch brewery set up inside the Dragon. From regular meet-the-brewer nights to the annual Great American Nano Fest, this bar is one of the most craftbeer-centric venues you’ll ever find. 928 S.E. Ninth St., pdxgreendragon.com

HAMILTON’S TAVERN | San Diego

The oldest beer and wine bar in San Diego is one of the best: This classic alehouse is barn-big and doesn’t take itself too seriously, just lying low as a beloved neighborhood joint that honors its hometown with several of the 27 taps dedicated to SoCal favorites while the more than 200 bottles lean Belgian. The adjacent café serves tasty eats (don’t miss the grilled cheese), and two sister bars (Monkey Paw and Small Bar) let you keep your drinking in the family. 1521 30th St., hamiltonstavern.com

HOPVINE PUB | Seattle

This quiet Capitol Hill bar is one of those spots that’s ideal to visit alone; you can talk shop with even-keeled staffers over a small-batch Hilliard’s saison from across town, or read a book at the counter with a schooner of Hale’s Supergoose. The small but well-curated beer selection leans local and changes daily, but somehow, every pint goes with the superb seasonal meatloaf sandwich-and-soup combo. Watch for a cask on most Mondays. 507 15th Ave. E, 3pubs.com/hopvine

HORSE BRASS PUB | Portland, Ore.

When founder Don Younger, who passed away last year, claimed, “If it were any more authentic, you’d need a passport,” he wasn’t kidding: Bric-a-brac adorns the nicotine-stained walls (from the old smoking days) of this dimly lit, wood-paneled pub, perfectly re-creating the neighborhood haunts of England. Horse Brass has championed the craft beer movement since 1976, and with its legacy still intact as perhaps the best bar in the nation, it isn’t just a destination in Portland, but a bucket-list item for any beer lover. 4534 S.E. Belmont St., horsebrass.com

HUMPY’S GREAT ALASKAN ALEHOUSE | Anchorage, Alaska

This iconic bar boasts a patio that breathes in gorgeous Alaska scenery and the largest selection of draft beer in the snowy state. Here, you can nosh on fresh-from-the-sea eats while lingering over a slew of local brews. If you’re less “tundra” and more “tropical,” there’s a sister spot a few thousand miles away, in Kona, Hawaii. 610 W. Sixth Ave., humpys.com

LA TRAPPE CAFÉ | San Francisco

While there’s an upstairs bar, the dimly lit, intimate basement of this San Fran haunt is the best place to experience a taste of Belgium: 19 taps lean toward the motherland, with lovely choices from Cantillon and Affligem making frequent visits, while the twice-cooked frites are accompanied by your choice of 10 inspired dipping sauces. 800 Greenwich St., latrappecafe.com

THE MAYOR OF OLD TOWN | Fort Collins, Colo.

Fort Collins is famous for its homegrown crafts; now, The Mayor of Old Town ups the “beercentricity” with 100 globe-spanning taps, about 30 of which favor northern Colorado’s best. The selection rotates pretty rapidly, but fear not: Every time a new brew’s put on tap, the list automatically updates (presto!) on three enormous HD projection screens above the bar, and on the bar’s Twitter feed and Facebook page. 632 S. Mason St., themayorofoldtown.com

NAKED CITY BREWERY & TAPHOUSE | Seattle

Naked City unselfishly turns the spotlight away from its own worthy beers and dedicates most of the nearly 30 taps to brews that give a lesson in current Northwestern beer—think brand-new Sound Monk’s Indiscretion and Seattle stalwart Big Al IPA. The kitchen expanded in the fall, making more room on the soup/salad/sandwich menu—though you should still head straight for the crunchy-sour pickled hop shoots. 8564 Greenwood Ave. N., nakedcitybrewing.com

O’BRIEN’S AMERICAN PUB | San Diego

The unadorned, “regular Joe” vibe is part of O’Brien’s charm, but you have only to look at the tap and bottle lists to know that this is no ordinary strip-mall dive. Owner Tom Nickel is a San Diego beer legend who draws local breweries to regularly unleash their latest small-batch wonders on his taps and favorite patrons to hop off the barstools and follow him on his Belgian beer adventures. 4646 Convoy St., obrienspub.net

PAPAGO BREWING CO. | Scottsdale, Ariz.

Newly expanded Papago celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year by hosting Hoppegeddon, dedicating all 30 taps to stellar IPAs. One of the first bars in the Valley to embrace craft, it’s the place where die-hard locals, brewers passing through and a young crowd converge to share a pint. The tap selection is always tempting, but drink local and dip into the house brews. 7107 E. McDowell Rd., papagobrewing.com

SARAVEZA | Portland, Ore.

Saraveza

Fresh-baked beef pasties, kitschy vintage beer decorations, the Packers on TV: Saraveza is a Midwesterner’s bar away from home. This quaint northwest Portland pub may seem homely, but its nine taps and more than 200 bottles pack a big beer punch. Come on the second Monday of each month for Free Bacon Night, when your beer’s paired alongside house-smoked pork. 1004 N. Killingsworth St., saraveza.com

STUMBLING MONK | Seattle

Cavernous lighting and utterly bare décor don’t do this place justice; then again, the hipsters and beer geeks who fill the stools are too absorbed in their Duchesse de Bourgogne to care. A whiteboard seduces with a treasure trove of straight-from-Belgium saisons, lambics, dubbels and tripels, plus American-made homages to the Belgian greats—all priced to sell and served in proper glassware. It’s a raw, rare place for passionate drinkers. 1635 E. Olive Way, 206.860.0916

THE SURLY GOAT | Hollywood, Calif.

Sprung from the great minds behind legendary Verdugo, Surly Goat is a cool, dimly lit West Hollywood haunt where sometimes the music can get loud and sometimes the crowd can get thick. The 27 well-chosen taps give this place staying power, even if the beers themselves delightfully come and go as quickly as reality stardom. 7929 Santa Monica Blvd., surlygoat.com

TONY’S DARTS AWAY | Burbank, Calif.

Tony’s Darts Away is just so California, and we’re not even talking about the 38 taps wholly dedicated to the best of Cali brew (though that certainly helps). Its environmentally friendly ethos hugs every part of the place, from tap-only beer, soda and wine (not a bottle or can in sight), recycled napkins and hyperlocal, Cali-sourced fare. 1710 W. Magnolia Blvd., tonysda.com

THE TRAPPIST | Oakland, Calif.

A slice of Belgium is tucked away in Oakland; this quaint hallway-esque bar has all the charm of an Old World café, with all the beer that makes its homeland the toast of connoisseurs. Find Belgian rarities on more than two dozen taps, served exactly as they are supposed to be (right down to the brewery’s own glassware), or linger over the impressive beer list that boasts more than 100 bottles. 460 Eighth St., thetrappist.com

TASTE OF TOPS | Tempe, Ariz.

Phoenix’s swiftly escalating enthusiasm for craft beer is best observed at Taste of Tops, where 24 taps pour from around the world—if beers like Odell Hiveranno don’t do the trick, mosey over to the adjacent shop and choose from more than 1,000 bottles to pop open in the bar. Legendary beer characters like Fritz Maytag, Ken Grossman and Jake Leinenkugel have all tipped back beers here, proof that you should, too. 403 W. University Dr., topsliquors.com

TORONADO | San Francisco

This crown jewel of American beer has been visited by every brewer you’ve heard of, and most of the guys seated at the bar, ogling the inimitable tap selection, are proudly wearing beer shirts. There are countless examples of what makes Toronado a pioneer, but we especially love that it’s hosted a Barleywine Festival for 18 years and been unwaveringly dedicated to quality craft before it was cool or profitable to do so. 547 Haight St., toronado.com

BEER-BAR CHAINS: The beloved Flying Saucer Draught Emporium’s (beerknurd.com) empire stretches from Raleigh to San Antonio, with 15 locations and more than 240 beers at every one of them; the original still presides over Ft. Worth, Texas. Meanwhile, the original Ginger Man (gingermanpub.com) outpost in Houston just celebrated its 25th anniversary; there are five more in the Texas family, while a cousin location (gingerman-ny.com) whets palates in NYC. Another Lone Star State favorite is Little Woodrows (littlewoodrows.com), which boasts eight locations in Houston and Austin and more than 100 beers—or, as Woodrows puts it, “Mucho Cerveza, baby.” In the beery Northwest, the all-encompassing McMenamins has more than 50 incredible beer bars, plus its own breweries, winery, distillery and hotels. Cathedral-themed newbie chain Congregation Ale House (congregationalehouse.com) has three SoCal locations and a veritable Bible of beer for each; go during “mass” for happy hour specials.

 

MIDWEST

ASHLEY’S | Ann Arbor, Mich.

Bangers & Lace

Since 1983, this classic U of M hangout has been as smart as the grad students who frequent it. The 70-plus taps reflect a vast beer landscape, pouring local favorites like Founders Breakfast Stout, new releases like Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout and Belgian beauties like Tripel Karmeliet. 338 State St., ashleys.com

BANGERS & LACE | Chicago

Barely a year old, this Wicker Park lounge teeming with young, suds-savvy patrons jettisoned to the top of the Windy City beer scene with a 32-beer tap list that not only hits trends (de la Senne Equinox, BrewDog/Mikkeller collaborations), but starts them (France’s Pietra Colomba Chestnut). A sausage-laden menu—think rabbit links, veal brats and foie gras corn dogs—complements the beer beautifully. 1670 W. Division St., bangersandlacechicago.com

BOMB SHELTER | Milwaukee

Only in Beer City does a bar proudly stick a Schlitz Gusto spout next to an O’so Dominator Doppelbock handle. This dive pays homage to Milwaukee’s storied brewing history with a solid collection of local breweriana, and carries the city’s tastes forward with more than 360 brews and a weekly beer-tasting club. 1517 S. Second St., bombshelterbar.com

BRIDGE | St. Louis

A minimalist design concept starring warm wood and an eclectic collection of chandeliers and lamps sets an upscale tone and seals Bridge as one of the world’s prettiest places to drink. Two hundred worldly bottles and 55 Midwest-heavy taps give the place serious beer cred, and the elevated menu of cheese, charcuterie and creative snacks lets foodies play with pairings. 1004 Locust St., thebridgestl.com

BUCKEYE BEER ENGINE | Lakewood, Ohio

This tried-and-true tavern gets better with age: The 200-plus beer list has grown in diversity (a zwickelbier on cask!), a sign this old haunt isn’t past its prime. A topnotch burger menu keeps things interesting with wacky specials like the Xmas Dinner: a patty piled high with ham and sweet potatoes. 15315 Madison Ave., buckeyebeerengine.com

CRESCENT MOON ALE HOUSE | Omaha, Neb.

The corner of 36th and Farnam streets (aka Beer Corner, U.S.A.) boasts a German beer hall, a Belgian tavern and a 600-bottle beer shop, but the crown jewel is the 50-tap Crescent Moon. The handles pour a little bit of everything: cask ales and nitro pulls, seasonals and regulars—and best of all, an excellent sampling of Nebraska’s notoriously limited-reach brews. 3578 Farnam St., beercornerusa.com

EL BAIT SHOP | Des Moines, Iowa

Totally hodgepodge yet utterly homey, this mural-and-taxidermy-clad pub’s a place you can (and should) spend entire days in. More than 100 taps and just as many bottles make the place a beer oasis, but 26 bike racks and a working shower draw in a chill crowd of cyclists who don’t mind if you can’t tell a stout from a wit. 200 S.W. Second St., elbaitshop.com

THE FOUNDRY AT MCCOY’S | Kansas City, Mo.

A handful of house-made session brews joins a who’s-who list of global artisan beers; they show up in pints as well as flights and quirky beer cocktails. The clean, retro-modern-styled setting makes a nice departure from the beer-signed and Belgian-inspired haunts you’re used to. 424 Westport Rd., foundrykc.com

THE HAPPY GNOME | St. Paul, Minn.

Regardless of your stature, you will indeed be happy at this former firehouse that now herds about 475 American craft beers and global delicacies. Exclusive pours, beer dinners and regular drop-ins by big-name brewers put the Gnome in the upper echelon of beer bars, but an energetic patio and chatty Midwesterners make the place feel like home. 498 Selby Ave., thehappygnome.com

HEOROT | Muncie, Ind.

Valhalla exists in the middle of Muncie, where this low-lit, Viking-inspired pub boasts one of the world’s greatest collections of beer, period. Scaldis Prestige, Viking Blod mead, multiple batches of BrewDog’s Paradox beers—they’re all there with a few hundred top-shelf friends that together make the middle of Indiana a serious beer destination. 219 S. Walnut, 765.287.0173

HOPCAT | Grand Rapids, Mich.

Never has a beer bar with so many offerings (about 200 here) been so unpretentious. Sure, the lineup’s stellar—think brand-new Greenbush brews on tap and bottles the likes of Norway’s HaandBryggeriet Dark Force—but beer dinners, group trips to area beerfests, Sunday jazz jams and a dog-friendly patio make it clear the place puts community before snobbery. 25 Ionia Ave. S.W., hopcatgr.com

INTERNATIONAL TAP HOUSE | St. Louis

I-Tap’s Soulard location’s an ideal library for beer tickers: 40-plus taps and more than 500 bottles collect of-the-minute releases (Boulevard Tank 7 Saison) and the so-new-you’ve-never-heard-of-it stuff (Charleville Hoptimistic), plus all the classics you can think of. The bar’s Passport Program helps drinkers keep track of what they’ve sipped, and throws a party when they hit the 500-beer mark. 1711 S. 9th St., internationaltaphouse.com

LA CAVE DU VIN | Cleveland Heights, Ohio

This dark basement beer bar’s a stop on every brewer’s itinerary, so the taps are always spilling limited editions and rarities. Cellarmasters, take note: La Cave’s got an impressive vintage list that runs deep; visit often to make sure you’re there when the management decides to dip into the archives. 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., lacaveduvin.com

LOCAL OPTION | Chicago

Each year, this hard-edged bar gets geekier, and proudly so. Thirty taps round up some of the world’s strongest, from a 10.5%-ABV Struise St. Amatus 12 to a nearly 12% De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis. (The selection’s balanced by a wide-reaching bottle list and DAB tallboys.) Po’ boys and tacos give the hard crowd a base for all that booze. 1102 W. Webster Ave., localoptionbier.com

MAP ROOM | Chicago

Billed as a traveler’s tavern, the Magellan of beer bars warns patrons “don’t be lost”—but you never will be, even among more than 200 global brews; bar manager Jay Jankowski (a certified Cicerone) makes sure of that. An exploration theme keeps the small bar worldly, and the mind-blowing selection (De Struise Pannepeut on tap, Three Floyds Zombie Dust on cask) keeps it world-class. 1949 N. Hoyne Ave., maproom.com

MCNULTY’S BIER MARKT | Cleveland, Ohio

Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews remain the focus of this sleek, bare-bulbed bar, but the 20 taps also serve to test-drive beers from owner Sam McNulty’s Market Garden Brewery across the street. The crowd’s young and cool, the bottle list is long, and the prices are on point: $24 for a 10-beer sampler? Yes, please. 1948 W. 25th St., bier-markt.com

MICHAEL & LOUISE’S HOPLEAF BAR | Chicago

A $1.4 million expansion (the paint’s still wet) doubled the space and added 20 taps to this Chicago icon—although how a tap list that already includes Goose Island Green Line and Dilewyns Vicardin Tripel Gueuze can be improved is beyond us. The kitchen’s bigger, too, which means more elbow room for chef Ben Sheagren and his outstanding Belgian cuisine. 5148 N. Clark St., hopleaf.com

THE MITTEN BAR | Ludington, Mich.

By dedicating its beer list solely to Michigan-made brew, The Mitten Bar (named for the shape of its home state) has single-handedly developed an area culture centered on drinking local, all before its first birthday. And with New Holland firkins, Short’s special releases and mug-club-members-only locavore dinners, it’s an easy movement to get behind. 109 W. Ludington Ave., mittenbar.com

MONK’S HOUSE OF ALE REPUTE | Sioux Falls, S.D.

More than 200 bottles and 40-plus taps ranging from South Dakota’s Crow Peak to Norway’s HaandBryggeriet is a windfall anywhere, but in the middle of the Great Plains, it’s a godsend. A cozy fireplace and comfy couches make it the ultimate spot to wile away the winter. 420 E. Eighth St., monkshouseofalerepute.com

THE MUDDY PIG | St. Paul, Minn.

The Muddy Pig

A stop on every brewer’s trip to the Twin Cities—not just for the expertly pared-down selection of about 100 Belgian-leaning brews priced to sell, but for the easygoing, board-game-playing crowd of beer hobbyists that fill the friendly little dive. 162 Dale St., muddypig.com

PALM TAVERN | Milwaukee

More than 250 of the world’s best artisan beers and an intimate setting that lets you discuss them in-depth are draws enough for beer lovers—but all a true geek needs to know is that Palm Tavern was the only Wisconsin bar to score a keg of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout. 2989 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 414.744.0393

ROMANS’ PUB | Milwaukee

Surly beer geeks will find a friend in owner Mike Romans, who skips the frills and funny business and focuses squarely on tapping good beer (and cellaring some, too). The bar’s lined with working-men regulars whose after-5 beer just happens to be a local gem like New Glarus Chocolate Abbey Ale. 3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., romanspub.com

ROYAL MILE | Des Moines, Iowa

At street level, the Royal Mile’s the spitting image of a British-born pub, with firkins full of Scotch ale and English pork pie; upstairs, the bar goes Belgian with 90 Belgo brews and abbey-style stained glass windows to match. Geeks and novices alike will appreciate the bar’s thorough digital beer library—photos, stats and descriptions for every beer served—visible on Royal Mile’s website and touchscreen ordering system. 210 Fourth St., royalmilebar.com

SHEFFIELD’S BEER & WINE GARDEN | Chicago

At this Chicago institution, young Lakeview patrons tailor their drinking seasonally: On a humid summer day, it’s pitchers of Half Acre Daisy Cutter in the beer garden; come winter, it’s a bomber in the cozy front bar. The rest of the year, finger-licking barbecue and brewery nights (North Coast beer and slider pairing, anyone?) keep the crowd coming back. 3258 N. Sheffield Ave., sheffieldschicago.com

SUGAR MAPLE | Milwaukee

Rebelling against its worldly sister bar, Palm Tavern, Sugar Maple pours strictly American-brewed craft: 60 on tap, and heavy on Wisconsin brews. The clean, modern environs host weekly local music acts, and a cool crowd of beer-smart Bayview regulars each night. 441 E. Lincoln Ave., mysugarmaple.com

BEER-BAR CHAINS: Aside from huge beer lists at 14 locations throughout Ohio, Winking Lizard Tavern’s (winkinglizard.com) claim to fame is its World Tour of Beers; drink 100 brews from the chosen 250 and earn the coveted World Tour jacket. Beer Sellar’s (beersellar.net) Indianapolis and Cincinnati locations (plus a Nashville outpost) each boast more than 100 bottles and 50 taps and pour the best of the Midwest, including top-shelf pours like Boulevard No. 2 White IPA.

 

NORTHEAST

THE ARMSBY ABBEY | Worcester, Mass.

A lengthy beer list is always impressive, but Armsby Abbey’s collection of bottles is a beer nerd’s wet dream. BrewDog Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label, Avery Dépuceleuse, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout 2008—the selection rivals even the rarest of rare beer festivals. 144 Main St., armsbyabbey.com

BEER TABLE | Brooklyn, N.Y.

Proprietors Justin and Tricia Philips operate this tiny establishment with the care a couple gives their newborn. The rare beers such as BFM Abbaye de St. Bon Chien and Hitachino Commemorative Ale Zymatore, along with a selection of cellared brews, change daily; there’s always pairing fodder for impeccable fare like butterbean stew with bacon, scallions and mayonnaise, or pickled peanuts with red chilies and chives. 427B Seventh Ave., beertable.com

BIER BARON | Washington, D.C.

Formerly the famous Brickskeller, this bar’s ownership may have changed hands last year, but the vast beer selection (50 taps and roughly 500 bottles) remains the same. Located in the heart of Dupont Circle, this bilevel bar offers a world tour of beer, but you’ll always find a healthy selection of seasonal and local pours. Hint: Book a room in the Bier Baron lodge upstairs, and last call is just a few steps away from your bed. 1523 22nd St. N.W., bierbarondc.com

BLIND TIGER | New York

Blind Tiger

One of New York’s first beer bars (named after a synonym for “speakeasy”) remains one of its best. The West Village spot  is packed with everyone from NYU students and businessmen to tourists and beer geeks, but it’s worth the fight to get at one of the best-curated lists in the city. 281 Bleecker St., blindtigeralehouse.com

THE BREWER’S ART | Baltimore

From the award-winning house beers brewed on-premises to the phenomenal guest beer list, everything you’ve heard about The Brewer’s Art is true—but you have to go there to really fall in love with it. Located inside a Baltimore townhouse, drinking here is like imbibing inside an eccentric millionaire’s front room: The bar’s situated in front of a fireplace, and home-cooked fare like Chipotle Mac-n-Cheese is rib-stickingly delicious. 1106 N. Charles St., thebrewersart.com

BUKOWSKI TAVERN | Boston

Don’t expect to be coddled at this cash-only, hard-nosed watering hole. Like its namesake, this tavern is rough around the edges (the food menu reads “Today’s fucking specials”), but that’s part of its charm. Tip back The Buk, the house pale ale, then work your way through the locally minded 20 taps and cask. If you drink 120 different beers in six months, you win a spot in the Mug Club—but chances are, no one’s going to be impressed. 50 Dalton St., bukowskitavern.net

CHURCHKEY | Washington, D.C.

Without a doubt, the chic Churchkey is the capital’s premier location for beer. About 50 taps pour local and nationwide favorites, and 500 world-wide bottles are divided by style into three coolers, each set at different temperatures. Come with an appetite: Churchkey sits above the renown Birch & Barley gastropub, so upscale-casual fare like fig-prosciutto flatbreads is just an order away. 1337 14th St. NW, churchkeydc.com

DEEP ELLUM | Allston, Mass.

Across from Allston’s Union Square Plaza sits Deep Ellum, a quaint watering hole that washes down its throwback-meets-steampunk décor with 28 well-curated taps and one cask spotlighting the best local brews. From proper glassware and a knowledgeable staff down to the housemade sausages, this quiet pub pays close attention to detail. 477 Cambridge St., deepellum-boston.com

EARL’S BEER AND CHEESE | New York

A simple premise: four carefully selected new drafts a night paired with less than 10 cheese-based entrees. The execution: the type of perfection you’d expect from a chef who previously served on the USS George H.W. Bush. 1259 Park Ave., earlsny.com

EBENEZER’S PUB | Lovell, Maine

Ebenezer’s stocks a gigantic number of beers—we’re talking more than 700 bottles. Yet the number isn’t as staggering as the selection: A comprehensive list of abbey ales shares space with more than 20 gueuzes and lambics, while vintages like 2006 Gouden Carolus Cuvee de Keizer add extra cause for excitement. 44 Allen Rd., ebenezerspub.net

EULOGY BELGIAN TAVERN | Philadelphia

A stone’s throw from Independence Hall, Eulogy is an undisputed hub for Belgian beer in Philly’s Old City. Navigate 21 taps and more than 300 bottles, or let the friendly staff and regulars guide you in the right direction—order a Dock Street Belgian Cowboy Saison and a steaming pot of mussels, and you’ll fit right in. 136 Chestnut St., eulogybar.com

THE FARMHOUSE | Emmaus, Pa.

The Farmhouse’s 19th-century farmhouse setting is utterly vintage, and so is the beer: Inside this English-style pub you’ll find Anchor Our Special Ale dating back to 1992, a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot vertical starting in 1988 and J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ales dating back even further. 1449 Chestnut St., thefarmhouse.com

THE GREAT LOST BEAR | Portland, Maine

Not many bars can claim a more thoughtfully designed tap list than this 30-plus-year-old institution with four cask-conditioned pours, a revolving list of Belgian and extreme beers, old favorites like Shipyard Export Ale, and a slew of taps in “Allagash Alley,” a set of faucets dedicated to the brewery’s rarer offerings. From day one, this bar promoted locally crafted beer, and with roughly 75 percent of its 60-plus taps dedicated to regional breweries, it remains the most loyal pub around. 540 Forest Ave., greatlostbear.com

THE GREY LODGE PUBLIC HOUSE | Philadelphia

Far from the downtown bustle, this northeast Philly bar’s ’50s Elks Lodge vibe feels like your grandfather’s dive, but its beer selection is of the moment. If you’re an out-of-towner, stick with local taps like Victory Village—that, plus the inevitable conversation you’re bound to fall into with the regulars gives the out-of-the-way Lodge its charm, whether you’re imbibing in its first- or second-floor bar. 6235 Frankford Ave., greylodge.com

LYON HALL | Arlington, Va.

This swanky bar serves serious French cuisine, but it’s still the epitome of cool: Its intimate atmosphere’s scored with a hipster soundtrack, its bartenders have a passion for of-the-moment beer, and no one will care if you drink your 21st Amendment Back in Black straight from the can. 3100 N. Washington Blvd., lyonhallarlington.com

MAX’S TAPHOUSE | Baltimore

Max's Taphouse

At first glance, this Inner Harbor bar may seem like a place to toss back shots, but beer nerds take note: Roughly 150 taps (including 5 casks) and more than 1,000 bottles give this spot serious beer cred. Max’s sits on the convergence of all bar cultures: good beer, sports, games, music and, yes, shots, making it the perfect place for craft-minded people to let loose without sacrificing selection.  737 S. Broadway St., maxs.com

MEMPHIS TAPROOM | Philadelphia

Hidden deep within a classic Philly working-class neighborhood, Memphis Taproom’s an oasis from the light lagers at nearby dives. The tap list is short, but the choices are phenomenal (Pliny the Elder’s been spotted next to Port Old Viscosity on cask); an equally thoughtful selection of nearly 100 bottles rounds out the list. 2331 E. Cumberland St., memphistaproom.com

THE MOAN AND DOVE | Amherst, Mass.

Every college town has one great bar, and in Amherst, it’s the Moan and Dove. From tap to bottle, this college hangout takes an even-keeled approach to curating its comprehensive list: On tap, local session beers are as prevalent as West Coast hop bombs, while its Belgian-style quad list is as long as its roster of IPAs. 460 West St., moananddove.com

MONK’S CAFÉ | Philadelphia

Monk’s Café’s place in the upper echelon of watering holes is well-deserved. Its Beer Bible, which covers style guidelines, brewing 101 and an intoxicating list of more than 300 beers, acts as a visitor’s guide for patrons packed into the venue’s two intimate bars. The selection makes ordering tough; have a pint of the house brew Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Red and a pot of award-winning mussels while you sift through the list. 264 S. 16th St., monkscafe.com

NOVARE RES BIER CAFÉ  | Portland, Maine

Ever find yourself choosing between a night at an English-style pub, German beer hall or Belgian café? At Novare Res, you get three in one trip. Here, you’ll find no fewer than 13 Cantillon labels, rauch and altbiers, and a lengthy list of English-style barleywines—plus delicious culture clashes like the Novare Belgian Waffles with Young’s Chocolate Stout ice cream. 4 Canal Plaza, novareresbiercafe.com

THE PUBLICK HOUSE | Brookline, Mass.

With a highbrow lineup and casual décor (think abbey furnishings and gnome figurines), here, you’re just as likely to sit next to a doctor as you are a college student. Thirty-four taps pouring the best Belgian selection in town are split between “Here” (Belgian-style) and “There” (actually Belgian), while a stunning bottle list with no fewer than six Flanders reds is drool-inducing. 1648 Beacon St., eatgoodfooddrinkbetterbeer.com

RATTLE N HUM | New York

This Midtown spot features a brew for everyone, and educates the suited masses who pull up to the long bar with RnH suggestions, a list of alternatives to the big brands. There’s also the Brewers Wall of Fame, where visiting craft brewers sign their names, and maps on the wall with flags marking brewery locations. If you can, go before the end of the workday and snag a corner of the communal tables. 14 E. 33rd St., rattlenhumbarnyc.com

SPUYTEN DUYVIL | Brooklyn, N.Y.

What this narrow, tin-ceilinged Williamsburg staple lacks in number of draft lines, it makes up for in the rapid rotation of taps. (A bottle list numbering around 150 doesn’t hurt, either.) The narrow main room gets packed with crafties seeking a new beer, but come summer, the large, Christmas-light-strewn backyard might be the happiest place on Earth. 359 Metropolitan Ave., spuytenduyvilnyc.com

STANDARD TAP | Philadelphia

If you’re looking to confirm the hype over Philly beer, head to Standard Tap, where 20 spigots (including two casks) pour only local beer. Study the chalkboard for what’s pouring, but don’t overlook the bar’s endearing décor, from its old-timey tin ceiling to its 1950s-style kegerator behind the bar. 901 N. Second St., standardtap.com

SUNSET GRILL & TAP | Allston, Mass.

Nowhere else can a drinker find a selection so rife with rauchbiers, eisbocks, gluten-frees, steam beers and 30 meads alongside en vogue styles and seasonals. This laid-back college hangout may have a casual sports bar atmosphere, but the beer is serious business: A strict 13-day keg rotation policy guarantees your draft beer’s always fresh—all 112 of them. 130 Brighton Ave., allstonsfinest.com

THREE PENNY TAPROOM | Montpelier, Vt.

Vermont’s premier beer bar may reside in the U.S.’s smallest capital city, but its passion for craft is colossal. Sip on a Farnum Hill cider or take a draw from The Alchemist Heady Topper tap, delivered fresh every week, while nibbling on rustic small plate items like horseradish pickled beets. While the beer and food is decidedly of the moment, the storefront bar’s checkered floor, soda shop stools and tin ceiling inspire a trip through time. 108 Main St., threepennytaproom.com

BEER-BAR CHAINS: Virginia powerhouse Capital Alehouse (capitalalehouse.com) opened its fifth location in Harrisonburg last year; each spot features at least 60 taps, 250 bottles and 2 casks. Up in Pennsylvania, Sharp Edge (sharpedgebeer.com) now mans three taverns and three bistros. The taps are heavily Belgian, but before diving into Petrus, Piraat and Silly, sip on Over the Edge, the house triple IPA made for the bar by Belgium’s Brouwerij Van Steenberge. In Philly, Tria (triacafe.com) rounds up the best of local brew and schools drinkers on beer, wine and cheese at its three bars and Fermentation School.

 

SOUTH

THE AVENUE PUB | New Orleans

This rickety, two-story Garden District house is a true NOLA find. Nearly 50 of the city’s finest taps from Lazy Magnolia to Hopfenstark Berlinerweiss are running 24/7; come in on Firkin Fridays, sit on the balcony and kick back with gems like Brooklyn Pennant on cask. 1732 St. Charles Ave., avenuepub.com

BREWMASTERS BAR & GRILL | Raleigh, N.C.

Brewmasters knows how to keep the party alive, from discounted canned beers on Mondays to make-your-own beer flights on Wednesdays. And it’s not just about the pros: Wednesday’s Homebrew Humpday features pours from local homebrewers. Of course, if you’re just looking for a pint, this joint has them in spades—its 66 taps (four on nitro) spotlight the best brews North Carolina has to offer. 301 W. Martin St., brewmastersbarandgrill.com

BRICK STORE PUB | Atlanta

The patriarch of Southern beer bars proved it still has swagger when it unleashed a menu of 200 vintage bottles in fall; add to that nearly 20 beauties on tap, a couple hundred bottles and a handful of heavy-hitters in the separate Belgian Bar, and there’s no shaking this neighborly powerhouse from the top. 125 E. Court Sq., brickstorepub.com

BUSY BEE CAFÉ | Raleigh, N.C.

Busy Bee

What makes the Bee so great? We could say it’s the perfectly curated 15 taps split between two bars, its lengthy bottled sour list or its website’s homebrewer interview series. But what really puts it over the top is the bar’s barrel program: The owners donate barrels to local breweries, who then age their beer and sell it back to the bar. 225 S. Wilmington St., busybeeraleigh.com

CLOSED FOR BUSINESS | Charleston, S.C.

Closed For Business opened in 2009, but the warm pub feels like Southern beerophiles have been burrowing there for decades. Forty-two taps hit all the right notes, and provide a home base for local breweries like Palmetto, Holy City and Westbrook. 453 King St., closed4business.com

GROWLERS POURHOUSE | Charlotte, N.C.

It’s easy to see why Growlers has become a hit with locals in just two short years. Craft beer shines in its modest dozen tap list—don’t miss offerings from local NoDa brewing—while enlightened bar fare, like homemade sausage, inspires the perfect pairing. Come for a pint and leave with an education during its regular classes, which teach everything from making cranberry beer sauce to breaking down smoked beers. 3120 N. Davidson St., growlerspourhouse.com

HARRIKA’S BREW HAUS | Swansboro, N.C.

This quaint store-and-bar combo’s something you’ll only find in a small vacation town: It’s located in a seaside beach house, surrounded by a lawn peppered with art installations, and the beer selection, including the store, tops 300 varieties. Come for a game of chess and $9 patio pitcher, or grab a mixed sixer, beer soap and soothing teas to enhance your beach-bum bliss. 911 Cedar Point Blvd., teaandbeer.com

HOLY GRALE | Louisville, Ky.

Local bottle-shop owners Lori Beck and Tyler Trotter shook up Louisville’s sleepy beer scene when they opened Holy Grale last year, and hooked up 20 taps to stuff you’ve always wished you could try (Goose Island Pepe Nero, Three Floyds Broodoo) and pours you’ve never heard of (Alvinne Kerasus). Genius takes on traditional pub grub—think Scotch Kentucky Quail eggs covered in farm-fresh bratwurst—always manage to lure you away from a totally liquid lunch. 1034 Bardstown Rd., holygralelouisville.com

THE J. CLYDE HOT ROCK TAVERN AND ALEHOUSE | Birmingham, Ala.

Alabama’s emerging beer scene can largely be attributed to the liquid education this stalwart provides in the form of beer dinners, firkin Fridays and a simply stellar global tap list. Don’t be surprised to see Italy’s Almond ’22 Pink IPA alongside pours from Alabama’s Good People Brewing and Straight to Ale. 1312 Cobb Ln., jclyde.com

MR. BEERY’S | Sarasota, Fla.

Less than two years old, Mr. Beery’s is already getting some serious buzz. Not only is the 24-tap selection applause-worthy (and matched by a bottle selection peppered with seasonals, one-offs and rarities), but this place is genuinely dedicated to spreading the good word about craft beer. Attend Beer School and learn how to do your own beer pairings with everything from grilled cheese to sausage, or bring your best bottle and share it during Tuesday night’s Show and Tell. 2645 Mall Dr., mrbeeryssrq.com

THE NOOK | Huntsville, Ala.

“Epic” is the only way to describe the beer selection at the Nook, with roughly 50 beers on tap and more than 300 in the bottle. Rare vintages like Gales Prize Old Ale 1996 and J.W. Lees Harvest Ale 2001 tempt the wallet, while Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale delivers a taste of the South on draft. 3305 Bob Wallace Ave., thenooktavern.com

OLDSMAR TAPHOUSE | Oldsmar, Fla.

This is a classic beer joint with a wooden bar, a top-notch 40-tap selection scrawled on a chalkboard, jam-packed fridges and no blaring TVs to distract you from the task at hand. Grab a cheese-and-cracker plate and get to know your neighbors at this beer-geek haunt. 300 State St., E #107, oldsmartaphouse.com

THE PORTER BEER BAR | Atlanta

The Porter Beer Bar

More than a few Yankees show up on this vintagey bar’s 30 taps, but rare Southern belles (think casked Terrapin one-offs) prove Georgia’s got more than peaches. The flavor-minded staff uses the 500 beers and chef Nick Rutherford’s impromptu seasonal specials to dream up dead-on pairing suggestions. 1156 Euclid Ave., theporterbeerbar.com

RALEIGH TIMES BAR | Raleigh, N.C.

Located inside the century-old former home of the now-defunct Raleigh Times, this swank Belgian-style beer bar is the place for rare beer in downtown Raleigh. Hard-to-find bottles like Hanssens Experimental Cassis share equal billing with the bar’s “All things sour, funky and wild” category, while local offerings from Big Boss and Foothills pepper the draft lineup. And like the paper before it, this bar’s got some pull: It recently tapped North Carolina’s only keg of Avery Wet Hop Pale Ale. 14 E. Hargett St., raleightimesbar.com

REDLIGHT, REDLIGHT | Orlando, Fla.

This concrete dive is a Magic Kingdom in its own way: Educated bartenders, two casks and a separate menu dedicated to vintage brew are highlights. Grab a bottle from the fridge to go, but not before stopping at the food trucks that roll by on the weekends. 745 Bennett Rd., redlightredlightbeerparlour.com

SERGIO’S WORLD BEERS | Louisville, Ky.

With more than 1,300 bottles and about 40 taps, Sergio’s does indeed navigate the world by the glass. The place ain’t fancy, but its sheer dedication to beer—marked by frequent brewery nights, beer dinners and the opportunity to reserve rare releases—makes it an icon. 1605 Story Ave., sergiosworldbeers.com

THE STEM & STEIN | Madison, Ala.

Like the name suggests, wine and beer share equal billing here, a feat considering the gargantuan selection of each. Brews from around the world flow out of the bar’s 11 taps—which is an essential first stop when you’re considering what to purchase from the more than 250-bottle selection. Visit each Friday for special beer tastings, or strike out on your own to discover your next favorite IPA. 10871 County Line Rd., Suite B, thestemandstein.com

TAPWERKS ALEHOUSE & CAFÉ | Oklahoma City, Okla.

Located in the heart of Oklahoma City’s Brickyard entertainment district, Tapwerks is the undisputed hub for beer, with more than 200 taps and 100 bottles. Stop here for local pints from Choc and COOP, or drink your way through the Old World with two pages of Belgians. Bookend your night with stops here—you’re just a few blocks away from restaurants, Oklahoma City Thunder basketball and concerts at the Cox Convention Center. 121 E. Sheridan Ave., tapwerks.com

THIRSTY MONK | Asheville, N.C.

Depending on your mood, sip from the likes of Lamme Goedzak downstairs or Abita Imperial Oyster Stout at the upstairs bar. An exhaustive bottle list includes everything from glutenfree to cider to rare vintages (like Stone Vertical Epic Series 06.06.06), making this the premier watering hole in a city once voted Beertown, U.S.A. 92 Patton Ave., monkpub.com

TRAPPEZE PUB | Athens, Ga.

Sunny and slathered in orange paint, Trappeze is a cheery little spot with big-time beers not usually seen in these parts—Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout included. The roughly 30 taps and 200 bottles (all helpfully divvied up into style categories) make delicious complements to the savory tart that changes daily. 269 N. Hull St., trappezepub.com

BEER-BAR CHAINS: The South’s biggest beer-bar empire is the 29-location Taco Mac (tacomac.com); most pour from at least 100 taps and even more bottles, but all help patrons navigate their famous Buffalo wing menu and the frequent-drinker Brewniversity program. In Florida, 15 World of Beer (wobusa.com) outposts pair nearly 500 beers with a strong live music program that lures local and national acts. Also in the sunshine state, Dunedin House of Beer (dunedinhob.com), founded by two homebrewers in 2009, is now up to three locales boasting 40 craft taps. The multi-tap, cafélike Tyler’s Taproom (tylerstaproom.com) grew its North Carolina family to four with a new Raleigh location last year; meanwhile, James E. McNellie’s Public House (mcnellies.com) has already solidified its place as Oklahoma’s favorite beer bar, with three spots serving 350-plus beers, including the sessionable McNellie’s Pub Ale, a bitter crafted for the bar by nearby Marshall Brewing.

MORE: Read last year’s list

Published January/February 2012
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