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What makes a beer bar great?


It’s that time of year again, when our editorial staff starts compiling notes of past bars visited, new bars to walk into and how we’re able to parlay our new influx of frequent flier miles into a much-needed vacation—hopefully in a place that has a decent beer bar. Of course, as we prep to pitch (sometimes argue in favor of) our favorite watering holes, we always asks ourselves “What makes a beer bar great?”

Not surprisingly, that answer evolves just like the selection of bars itself.

Only a few years ago, a bar simply needed quantity in order to be considered a must-visit, but times are changing. So, with that in mind, what do you think gives a beer bar credibility? Here are some things I factor in:

1. Thoughtful selection: It doesn’t matter if the list of draft or bottles is 20 or 2,000, when I walk into a bar I want to see a curated list that sets it apart from everyone else. Whether it’s a focus on vintage bottles, Belgian-style brews or simply dedicated to local flavor, the beer list should add to the bar’s identity. And please, rotate taps often.

2. Education: This can be as simple as bartenders who’re willing (and patient enough) to consult newcomers on styles or as intense as inviting local homebrewers to demonstrate—or discuss—the nuances of beer and brewing. Education equals dedication, and any bar that showcases that passion wins my loyalty.

3. Proper servings: Don’t pour my barleywine into a 16-ounce glass. Stick to proper glassware with reasonable pricing and you’re winning the battle.

4. X-Factor: This hard-to-define quality can range from décor to setting to the general feel. I want a bar to feel magnetic, even if I can’t pinpoint why.

What is it about a beer bar that makes you go back again and again?


Chris Staten is DRAFT’s beer editor. Follow him on Twitter at @DRAFTbeereditor and email him at

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One Comment

  • Bru Review says:

    Number 1- beer list.
    Number 2 beer temp- I don’t like spending $8-10 on a cold beer- and wait for it to warm up.

    Number 3- music is fine-
    not too loud.
    Number 4- not too fancy. Semi-dive is fine, as long as the beer is good.
    Number 5- knowledgeable bartenders-servers.

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