What we’d order on tap: Founders Sweet Repute
?The pour: Chicago’s Hopleaf boasts a wonderful restaurant in the back, but I’ve never found reason to travel past the bar in the front room, where the draft list is full of surprises and the bottles include “aged” beers. Just be careful with that vintage Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout.
The Map Room (Chicago)?
What we’d order on tap: Three Floyds Permanent Funeral Imperial IPA
The pour: Burning the candle at both ends, The Map Room begins each morning as a coffee shop and transitions into “a traveler’s tavern” at 11 a.m. With a monthly beer school, 26 taps and a rotation of cask-conditioned ales on hand-pump, we think that transition is pretty smooth.
Twenty Tap (Indianapolis)
What we’d order on tap: Bloomington Krampus
The pour: Okay, don’t let the name fool you, there are almost 40 taps to choose from (heavy on the Midwest), most of which are under $5, and you can get halfsies for even cheaper. Think, craft beer house meets dive bar. And they serve fried cheese curds.
Holy Grale (Louisville)
What we’d order on tap: Stillwater Stateside Saison
The pour: The beer bar took over a turn of the century church in 2011, and turned it into a place of beer worship. Go for rare finds, the brewer’s brunch on Sundays, and beer geek events like Saint Sours Day. Then stay in the bar’s new bed and breakfast, the Gralehaus.
Bukowski Tavern (Cambridge)
What we’d order on tap: Lagunitas Brewing Hairy Eyeball
The pour: Right on Inman Square, Bukowski Tavern is a paean to writers like Gertrude Stein, Anais Nin and ol’ Charles B. himself, with an atmosphere to match. And, of course, the pub hosts a “Pint and Pen” essay contest each March.
The Moan and Dove (Amherst)
What we’d order on tap: Allagash Big Little Brother
The pour: Amherst may be off the beaten path, but that doesn’t mean the town doesn’t deserve a world-class beer bar. From the knowledgeable staff to the selection that includes a short list of “Nostalgia Series” beer for the less adventurous (PBR, Schlitz), they’ve got it.
Mitten Bar (Ludington)
What we’d order on tap: Harbor Brewing Hop Town Brown
The pour: All Michigan, all the time, Mitten Bar is an homage to beers produced within the Great Lakes State (aka, the mitten state).
If you’re local, become a mug member for $2 off on Wednesdays.
Hopcat (Grand Rapids)
What we’d order on tap: New Holland Monkey King
The pour: The interior of this upscale Grand Rapids pub is gorgeous, decked out with comfy chairs in the “living room” corner. And the draft list is ridiculous—from “the lawnmower” PBR to J.W. Lees’ Vintage Harvest Ale ’10.
What we’d order on tap: Fulton Sweet Child of Vine IPA
The pour:You’ve got two Republics to choose from (Seven Corners and Calhoun Square), but both have 56 taps, no TV’s, a rotating art program, and the Better Beer Society University, where you can get a legit beer education. It’ high class, without the snobbery.
What we’d order on tap: Brooklyn Fire and Ice (on cask)?
The pour: The idea of a beer pub with retro video games struck me as an amusing novelty, but Barcade takes its beer seriously. Plus it runs fully on windpower and specializes in handcrafted small-batch liquors. And who knew craft beers paired so well with games from our childhood, like Asteroids?
Blind Tiger (New York)
What we’d order on tap: Blue Mountain Blitzen?
The pour: A “blind tiger” was a term for any fake attraction that customers would pay to see in order to get their complimentary beverage when blue laws ruled the land. But craft beer is the main attraction at the Blind Tiger on Bleeker Street. And while the brewers may all look familiar, the offerings tend to the obscure, making it easy to order something you’ve never had before.
Burp Castle (New York)?
What we’d order on tap: Southern Tier 2X Stout?
The pour: “Quiet please,” says the sign on the door of the East Village’s Burp Castle. “Beer Worship in progress.” If you love beer, but don’t like big, noisy places, this is your Temple of Beer. As a Burp Castle bartender says, “Yelling would make your throat sore, and then the beer wouldn’t taste its best.”
Spuyten Duyvil (Brooklyn)?
What we’d order on tap: Freigeist Geisterzug Gose
The pour: I can’t think about the Spuyten Duyvil (pronounced Schpite & Dye’-vul, according to my friends in Brooklyn) without remembering the amazing plate of meats I had with my beverages. But the beer list lives up to the “rare and obscure” boasting with more beers from the Netherlands than the U.S. of A.
The Stag’s Head (New York)
What we’d order on tap: Keegan’s Mothers Milk
The pour: I wasn’t aware of The Stag’s Head—or, frankly, the far east side of Midtown—until the pub contacted us about a party celebrating Paste’s 25 Best American Breweries. Impressively they had the vast majority on tap for the celebration, which was only mildly dampened by the blizzard that hit New York. Since then, the lodge-style bar has reached near permanent status on the perennial best beer bar lists that magazines are prone to create, and deservedly so.