What defines a great beer bar? There should be an excellent beer list, first and foremost, whether that means extensive and esoteric or small and containing only old standbys. There should also be a welcoming and knowledgeable staff who are eager to offer advice and espouse the industry’s creativity and flavor-first focus to their thirsty disciples, spreading the gospel of great liquid and the passionate, purposeful people behind it. Important, too, are the atmosphere and the sense of community and camaraderie found among its patrons. You do want to go where everybody knows your name, right? There may even be a wild bathroom that begs for a selfie, purely icing on the cake (that will eventually go into your pastry stout).
Recently, we chatted with some of the most exciting and influential beer bars in the U.S. about the one brewery they consider a no-exceptions fixture on their menu and how that loyalty developed. Now, we’re asking brewers from around the globe to give us the lowdown on their favorite beer bars and what elevates these establishments to worldwide drinking destinations in their eyes. How many have you visited?
The Best Beer Bars, According to Brewers:
- Ebenezer’s Pub
- The Cask Cafe
- Naja’s Place
- Gold Star Beer Counter
- In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst
- Krause’s Cafe
- The Craven Arms
- Delaware Supply
- Monk’s Café
- Brick Store Pub
- Max Taps
- Publick House
- Buckeye Beer Engine
“Ebenezer’s Pub has absolutely incredible tap and bottle lists in what feels like a slice of Belgium in the woods of Maine. The first time I ever had Taras Boulba was there, and that’s become one of my favorite beers of all time. Owner Chris Lively does not spare any details when it comes to the beer, food, or environment at this Lovell bar. Frites are stellar.” —Randy Booth, head brewer, Twin Barns Brewing Co., Meredith, N.H.
“If I am getting a beer with another person in the industry, we go to The Cask Cafe in Richmond. There is a lot to love about the place: the atmosphere is laid back, the space is airy, the draft list is extremely well-curated, and the food is the perfect pairing to the beers available. The draft list changes frequently, but is a thoughtful mix of American craft beer and hard-to-find classics, like Schlenkerla’s Helles and Old Speckled Hen. The food menu is simple but features a selection of phenomenal house-made sausages, cheese plates, sandwiches, soups, and stews. It captures the feeling of drinking in a corner pub in England or small beer bar in Belgium while still maintaining a modern, welcoming atmosphere.” —Brian Mandeville, head brewer, Fine Creek Brewing, Powhatan, Va.
“Anytime I can steal away an hour or so for a great beer and house-made kielbasa and bratwurst, best believe you’ll find me at The Cask Cafe in Richmond. This spot is a hidden gem to me. Quaint and quiet, but bursting at the seams with character and class. It’s the perfect stop for any beer enthusiast looking for traditional ales and lagers, but who also appreciates some of the new-world beer.” —Eric Jackson, founder, Capsoul Brewing Collective, Richmond, Va.
“Naja Place’s may look like an unassuming, divey, crusty fisherman’s tavern, but the Redondo Beach bar’s 88 taps and bottle list offer everything from old-school mainstays to hyped hoppy beers and crispies. This is the final destination with collaborating breweries after a long day of brewing, and it’s a short ride down the Strand.” —Logan Smith, head brewer, El Segundo Brewing Company, El Segundo, Calif.
“If Belgian beer is your thing, it would be hard to find a better beer bar than Hopleaf in Chicago. It always takes me way too long to decide on which beer to get, as the beer list features over 60 taps and over 400 bottles, many of them quite rare. The walls are decked out with antique Belgian beer tackers and advertisements. There are no TVs or distractions, so the focus is on the conversation, the beer, and the food. It’s not just Belgian beers like Kwak or Dupont’s Avec Les Bons Voeux either; the craft section of the tap list features some of the best beers from around the country.” —Jeremy Anderson, quality control manager, New Holland Brewing, Holland, Mich.
“Gold Star Beer Counter is my favorite bar. The staff and owner Josh [Van Horn] go out of their way to get to know you and make you feel at home. It also doesn’t hurt that the menu is always incredible, with beers from the likes of Fox Farm, Schillin, and Prairie. I actually went there on a first date and they had a collaboration beer of ours on tap. On the night I got engaged to the same person, we went there to celebrate with friends and family. Gold Star will always have a little place in my heart.” —Eric Ruta, founder and owner, Magnify Brewing Company, Fairfield, N.J.
“The classic In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst in Belgium is one of the most amazing places I have ever been to. It feels like we have gone back in time, and the selection of gueuzes and krieks is impressive. I drank a dusty and delicious Eylenbosch 88 and other rarities there. They only open on Sundays, church holidays, and when there is a funeral service at St. Ursula Church.” —Maira Kimura, co-founder and brewmaster, Japas Cervejaria, São Paulo, Brazil
“With live entertainment, a selection of over 100 beers, and an impressive German-American menu, Krause’s Cafe in New Braunfels is a go-to spot for many Texans. I noticed on my last visit they have more than a half-dozen German beers on tap. I have been able to work with Weinhenstephan-trained brewers in my career and they had a great impact on my beer designs. In addition to the wide range of beer offerings, Krause’s offers a taste of Germany deep in the heart of Texas, serving schnitzels, bratwurst, sauerkraut pretzels, and other authentic German bites.” —Tom Fiorenzi, director of brewery and distillery operations, Spoetzl Brewery, Shiner, Texas
“My favorite place to drink beer in the world is The Craven Arms, an extremely isolated 16th Century inn located in the tiny English hamlet of Appletreewick. Like a lot of pubs in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this one has stone-flagged floors, cozy open fires, and walls adorned with all manner of antique paraphernalia with a strong leaning towards brass equine appendages. But the real attraction here is the food and drink, comprising hearty dishes of locally caught game and pints of immaculately kept cask ale. If you only drink one thing, make it a pint of Theakston’s Old Peculiar: a traditional 5.6 percent ABV old ale served from ancient oak barrels. It’s clever, classy, God tier stuff with an ethereal flavor profile taking in leather and tobacco through to earth and oaked Bordeaux. But don’t take my word for it — go visit!” —Daniel Tapper, owner, Beak Brewery, Lewes, East Sussex, England
“The only ‘knock’ against Delaware Supply is that it’s not located in New York City. Because if it was located in Brooklyn instead of Albany, it would be talked about in the same breath and with the same reverence as spots such as Torst. It serves not only the best of local New York beers but some of the best in the world as well. If a small renowned producer from New Zealand or Belgium is shipping just a few kegs over to the states, you can bet one of those kegs ends up there. It’s the kind of place I would often find myself going in with the intention of just having a beer or two but always end up staying for six or eight. The offerings are always just that good, and oftentimes you don’t know when you’ll get the opportunity to drink those same beers again.” —Keegan Dombrosky, owner, Haven Beer Company, Hamden, C.T.
“Monk’s Café has a long and storied history in Philadelphia, having been named one of the best beer bars in America by several prestigious publications. From the moment I walked into Monk’s, I knew I had found my new favorite beer bar. The comfortable and inviting atmosphere made me feel right at home, and despite its relatively small size, the space never felt overcrowded. Instead, it felt like I was hanging out with a group of close friends. With knowledgeable and friendly staff, a diverse menu of delicious Belgian cuisine, and a lively crowd of beer enthusiasts, Monks Café is the perfect spot for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the world of beer. Plus, the beer selection is constantly rotating and evolving, so there’s always something new and exciting to try every time you visit. Last time I visited, I enjoyed a bottle of 3 Fonteinen Schaarbeekse Kriek. It was not my first time having Schaarbeekse Kriek nor was it my last, but it was easily my most memorable pour. Monk’s Café is the ultimate destination for beer lovers in Philly.” —Skip Schwartz, head brewer, WeldWerks Brewing Co., Greeley, Colo.
“My favorite beer bar, hands down, is PJD’s in Fernandina Beach, Florida. The name stands for Pajama Dave, the owner who — you guessed it — wears pajama pants every day. It’s a tiny little place in historic downtown that’s easy to miss if you are driving by. They have over 200 different beers, ciders, seltzers, and meads. It’s the place I go to try cool new things. It’s where I found Beat Culture’s Arroz Con Leche, a divinely delicious cinnamon and vanilla cream ale. PJD’s is definitely a hidden gem in northeast Florida.” —Shelly Denis, founder, Disco Witch Brewing, Yulee, Fla.
“Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia is a rare combination that appeals to both a robust and educated local fanbase and visiting industry folk who appreciate the incredible love and attention to old-school benchmarks and European styles. Outside of the pub, craft beer may be crazy and all over the map, but inside, it’s this beautiful thing where people are drinking both contemporary trendsetters alongside cask ales and Belgian stalwarts. It could be a bottle of Taras Boulba, a dry and bitter beer that is a favorite of mine and a lot of other brewery folk, or any of their four cask beers. It’s the type of place that makes you feel like craft beer is alive and thriving.” —Jake Endres, co-owner and production manager, Crooked Run Fermentation, Sterling, Va.
“My vote is Max Taps. They have two locations;: one in Highlands Ranch and one in Centennial. With over 50 taps, they have the best selection of Colorado craft beer anywhere. The owners, Dave and Shelly Gardner, go out of their way to support Colorado breweries and bring great beer to areas that are normally considered beer deserts. Additionally, the Centennial location is right under the flight path of Centennial Airport. It’s the perfect patio for aviation geeks like me to watch planes and enjoy a tasty beverage.” —Eric Serani, co-owner, FlyteCo Brewing, Denver, Colo.
“A place that I’ve grown pretty fond of over the last few years is the Publick House in Brookline, Mass. You can always count on them having a huge variety of styles, from New England IPA to Lambic; it’s going to scratch whatever itch you might have at the moment, and you can bring someone who’s ‘not into beer’ and they’ll always find something they like. The Publick House is the type of place where when you ask what’s up with that random bottle of Cantillon, the next thing you know you are sharing it with fellow patrons in the back bar. That’s just the kind of vibe that the staff works hard on creating and cultivating, and they want to make sure everyone has a top-tier experience. I’ve found that at the Publick House, you can enjoy yourself whether you are there to drink alone, with old friends, or with new friends made there after a long day” —Dan O’Hara, brewer, Foam Brewers, Burlington, Vt.
“Buckeye Beer Engine is my spot. Anytime I stop in, there’s a dozen interesting beers on tap I’ve never had. From fresh European imports to rare kegs of barleywine, it’s hard to narrow it down to a responsible number! Super well-curated. A standout was Schlenkerla from an oak cask. I have memories of going when I was younger in my formative beer years; they used to have a bottle list 100s deep.” —Shaun Yasaki, owner and brewmaster, Noble Beast Brewing Co., Cleveland, Ohio