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A skeptic’s un-guide to beer bars

Are “craft beer bars” even a thing anymore? Aaron Goldfarb has the counterpoint to our 100 Best Beer Bars list.
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Craft beer bars don’t exist anymore. But wait a second… Weren’t you just at a Ballast Point tap takeover at Hamilton’s over the summer? And, yes, you’re absolutely right that when your date tried to order pinot grigio at Tørst last weekend, a few customers snickered because everyone knows Tørst only serves beer.

But, didn’t you also find some Cigar City the last time you were at an airport, and Dogfish Head at your favorite team’s stadium club, and, whoa, was that seriously Founders Breakfast Stout on draft at the gas station?

I live on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and just a couple years back, when I’d asked a local bartender what beer was available, I was always met with that same refrain: “We have everything. Bud, Miller, Coors, Corona…”

Back then, if I wanted my kind of beer, I had to completely leave my neighborhood, or simply suck it up at one of the many Irish pubs that dotted the uptown landscape. You see, as recently as 2011, my part of town didn’t have a single “craft beer bar.”

For a long time craft beer bars were easily recognizable. They were those places with dozens of taps, a constantly updated chalkboard menu, and a bottle list broken down into more categories than merely “domestic” and “import.”

Amazingly, just three years later, almost every bar in my ZIP code now sells craft beer.  Sure, some spots are better than others, and a few truly exceptional places like Bondurants, The Pony Bar and The Jeffrey are quite literally raising the bar for craft. But pretty much all my local joints, no matter what type, now serve quality beer, even those cookie-cutter Irish pubs. And this is increasingly true in neighborhoods that weren’t exactly craft beer hotbeds during Obama’s first term.

I suppose that what any bar that likes to make money has finally realized is—aha!—today’s drinkers want (demand!) craft beer with their dinners or while on a nice date or even when they’re watching sports on the bar’s 32 TVs. These bars might not have a beverage director putting together elite reserve bottle lists, or a certified cicerone working the taps, or anything on cask (“You mean dat flat, lukewarm stuff?”), but in the year 2015, it’s become damn near impossible to enter a watering hole in America and not find at least one IPA or stout on the premises.

So craft beer bars don’t exist anymore because, thrillingly, most all bars have begun to serve craft beer. I’d say that’s a good thing.

 

Author
Aaron Goldfarb lives in New York City and is the author of “The Guide for a Single Man” and “The Guide for a Single Woman.”

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