We live in a golden era for beer bars. Every city in the country boasts at least one serious beer bar, the kind of place where there are literally dozens of taps and even more bottles, where the beers are often as hard to pronounce as they are easy to drink. So we’ve picked our 10 favorite beer bars and assembled them in this guide. Note: We followed a few rules. No biergartens. No breweries. No more than one beer bar per city. (Sorry, Portland—actually, sorry to both Portlands.) And we’re capping the list at ten. Because life is about making hard choices.
Proletariat, NYC: Per its motto, this tiny East Village joint specializes in “rare, new and unusual beer”—the stuff you can’t find anywhere else in the country. (At the time of this writing, that includes a bottled 12% ABV Swedish imperial stout.) Get in early and wedge in a seat at the bar, where the uber-wise ’tenders can find you exactly what you’re looking for.
Mikkeller, San Francisco: The left coast’s answer to Proletariat, and the kind of place where the beer list is sorted by serving temperature. If that sounds pretentious, a) it is; b) who cares? The beer here—all 42 taps of it—is one-of-a-kind, leaning heavily on selections from its namesake brewery in Denmark, which specializes in one-off experimental brews.
Novare Res Bier Cafe, Portland, ME: After eight years, Novare Res—the name means “to start a revolution” in Latin—still feels revolutionary. It’s home to the War and Peace of beer lists: a laminated behemoth with detailed notes on the roughly 500 bottles, 30 taps and two hand-pumped brews on offer. So, uh, schedule a little extra time for placing your order.
Belmont Station, Portland, OR: The other Portland has the most breweries per capita in the country, and this where you’ll sample the Beaver State’s finest offerings—they only offer Oregon-brewed beers, a robust 20 or so on tap. If something leaves you thirsty for more, look for it among the 1,200 bottled beers they offer to go.
Craft Pride, Austin: The Texas beer scene has blown up in recent years, with newer breweries including Austin Beerworks, Big Bend and Deep Ellum quickly becoming ubiquitous. There’s no better place to sample the local talent than Craft Pride, a bar that only serves Texas beer on its 54 taps (and two casks). If you can’t get enough, they also have bottles to-go.
ChurchKey, Washington, DC: Churchkey (n): a beverage opener, typically used to unseal a can of beer. ChuchKey (proper noun): a beer emporium on the top floor of Birch & Barley near Logan Circle, and home to 500-plus beers from roughly 30 countries. Here, beer’s even in the food: Both the bread and the pretzels incorporate suds in their recipes.
Avenue Pub, New Orleans: If you want a beer at 3 in the afternoon, 3 in the morning or anytime in between, there’s no better city than NOLA, and there’s no better NOLA beer bar than this one, where locals come for staff with serious knowledge and a beer list with serious cred. Shoot some pool or hit the balcony upstairs to soak up views of the nearby Garden District.
Falling Rock Tap House, Denver: This might just be nirvana in a city that’s already a beer lover’s paradise, with 75 beers on tap and a hundred more by the bottle. Just don’t get too excited by the bottles on the wall—those are from the owner’s personal collection and just there to taunt you. Bonus: It’s near Coors Field, making it the perfect place to pre- or post-game.
Links Taproom, Chicago: Love America? So do these guys—every beer on tap comes from the US of A. They also have a unique system of keg trackers and in-bar TV screens, where you can see exactly how much of each beer is left. (You can get the idea on their site.) Ridiculous? A little. Still kind of awesome? Exactly.
Lord Hobo, Cambridge, MA: Residents of the Boston metropolitan area might… just maybe… enjoy the occasional beer. Well, this is where the experts go: home to 44 beers on tap, including a hefty portion from Lord Hobo’s brewing operation in Woburn roughly a half-hour away. If you dig hops, try the Boom Sauce, an intense double-IPA. Also, it’s called Boom Sauce.