The perfect beer bar. It has Heady Topper and every Russian River seasonal on tap. There’s an excellent beer garden out back with a bonfire and lawn darts. Yes, lawn darts.
The bartenders all have PHD’s in hopology management. They’re so smart, that they gauge your mood based on your gait and facial expressions and have the perfect beer waiting for you when you sit down at the bar. Half the time, it’s a new beer you’ve never tried. And they’re hot.
Nobody’s a snob. Well, there’s one dude that’s kind of lame, but he always brings homemade pretzels and fancy mustard his wife crushes by hand for everyone, so you let him slide.
The perfect beer bar goes beyond the traditional beer/food pairings, and offers all sorts of innovative couplings: Imperial stout and bike jousting. Hefeweizens and hot stone massages.
The perfect beer bar texts you first when they get a new seasonal on tap. Before they even update their Facebook page. There’s always a grilled cheese food truck parked out front.
The perfect beer bar is within walking distance of your home and your office. And they have an intern that takes you home in a pedi-cab pulled by a moped.
There’s no dancing in the perfect beer bar—unless it’s break dancing.
The perfect beer bar isn’t really a brewery, but they do brew one small batch beer that’s not on the menu, and only served to their favorite customers. Just you and maybe six other people.
We’re not sure if the perfect beer bar exists, but we know there are some great beer bars out there doing their best, with crazy smart bartenders offering thoughtful, well-curated beer lists in fun, low-stress environments. We’ve pooled the Paste brain trust—reader suggestions, staff recommendations, editorial favorites—and developed our list of the 40 Best Beer Bars in America. They probably don’t have lawn darts, but on second thought, that’s probably for the best.
The J. Clyde (Birmingham)
What we’d order on tap: Avondale Vanillaphant Porter
The pour: Alabama’s craft beer scene is blossoming after a change in beer laws, and breweries new and old turn to the J. Clyde Hot Rock Tavern and Alehouse to peddle their brew.
What we’d order on tap: Firestone Walker 17th Anniversary
The pour: Ostensibly a pizza joint, this pub near The University of Arizona has 46 taps and draft prices to match a college budget. $5.50 for 16 oz. of Nitro Milk Stout? There might just be money left for a pie.
Toronado (San Francisco)
What we’d order on tap: Russian River Pliny the Elder
The pour: California is blessed with some great breweries, and their beers often occupy more than half of the nearly 50 taps at San Francisco’s Toronado. It’s a dive bar—cash only, not much in the way of food, metal music on the juke box—but the selection of American beer is nearly unmatched. And now, there’s a Toronado in San Diego too.
The Monk’s Kettle (San Francisco)
What we’d order on tap: The 2007 Samichlaus Doppelbock Braurei Schloss, which is cellared to age at the pub.
The pour: As amazing as the beer selection is, The Monk’s Kettle has made a name for itself as a foodie heaven.
The Trappist (Oakland)
What we’d order on tap: St. Bernardus Christmas
The pour:The Trappist is the opposite of a hole-in-the-wall. Inside the 1870s Victorian building is a pub modeled after Belgian and Dutch pubs, just like the many of the American beers they serve. And their new Provisions offers the same practically trademarked sense of upscale beer in a sparse taphouse/bottle shop.
Father’s Office (Santa Monica)
What we’d order on tap:The aged 2011 Russian River Sanctification.
The pour:The chef competes on reality TV, because, you know, it’s L.A. The beer is good (36 beers on tap), but it’s the combo of the beer and food that makes this a great beer bar.
Falling Rock Taphouse (Denver)
What we’d order on tap: Avery Old Jubilation
The pour: Falling Rock has been Denver’s favorite craft beer emporium for years. Denver is lousy with hip craft beer bars, but the newcomers haven’t been able to topple Falling Rock for King of the Hill status. Of the 80 taps, you’ll find plenty of Colorado beers to choose from.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Churchkey (Washington, D.C.)
What we’d order on tap: Devils Backbone Swhwartzbier
The pour: My favorite thing about this Capitol City beer monument is that all of their many draft beers are available in 4 oz. servings, meaning I could sample seven different Mikkeller Single-Hop IPAs for $28. If President Obama is going to learn about good beer, someone needs to drag him here after his 33rd round of golf.
Meridian Pint (Washington, D.C.)
What we’d order on tap: Troegs Dreamweaver
The pour: Meridian only serves American craft beers, all part of their low carbon foot print mission. There’s also some composting, and most of the staff walks to work, but more importantly, the 24 taps are user friendly and the 100+ bottle list is really well curated.
Red Light Red Light (Orlando)
What we’d order on tap: Cigar City Invasion
The pour: No offense, Floridians, but it’s refreshing to find a place with this much soul in Orlando. This isn’t EPCOT Belgium; it’s an internationally acclaimed beer bar with a love for farmhouse ales and Flemish sours and 20 well-chosen taps. Just what you need after a trip to Disney World.
Brick Store Pub (Decatur, Ga.)
What we’d order on tap: Evil Twin Hop Flood
The pour: The unofficial pub of Paste magazine, Decatur’s Brick Store introduced our editor-in-chief to the world of good beer, even before the restrictions on high gravity beer loosened in Georgia. The pub is the very beating heart of Decatur, on the downtown square, and you’re likely to see city officials, pastors, artists and businessmen all coming together on a Tuesday afternoon or a Saturday night. There are no TVs except during the World Cup, when three HD screens materialize in the Belgian Bar upstairs.
Trappeze (Athens, Ga.)
What we’d order on tap: Duchesse de Bourgogne
The pour: Athens, Ga., supposedly has the highest per-capita number of bars of any town in the country. But you won’t find $1 Jaeger shots at Trappeze—just a bar full of beer geeks there to discover and enjoy. With nearly three dozen taps, there’s usually more than a couple extra special entries, like a pair of Mikkeller single hop beers from Denmark.
The Porter Beer Bar (Atlanta)
What we’d order on tap: Brouwerij Bavik Petrus Pale Ale
The pour: Some of the best pub food in Atlanta pairs with more than 300 beers, including a carefully curated draft list in the heart of Little Five Points. But then, what beer doesn’t pair well with house-made brats and Belgian fries?