The Best Beer Shops
These stores go beyond well-stocked shelves with special pours, super-smart staff, and rare finds to give beer fanatics a place to geek out
Check out these 10 bottle shops around the country that go above and beyond for beer geeks.
Consistently ranked among the world’s best bottle shops, the tiny Bruisin’ Ales (66 Broadway St., Suite 1) impresses with a monstrous selection — always kept up-to-date on the shop’s Web site — that leans Belgian but also spotlights regional gems from Catawba Valley and Highland. Customers can create mixed sixers, sample from a handful of taps and browse the well-edited stock of beer gear.
Hop City (1000 Marietta St. #302) makes up for the region’s relatively dry beer landscape with more than 1,700 worldly beers, homebrewing supplies, available craft kegs and a small staff that seriously knows its stuff.
A virtual treasure trove for Michigan-made brews from Short’s, Kuhnhenn, Bell’s and beyond, Beer Baron (19610 Middlebelt) in the suburb of Livonia has a nice selection of single bottles for mixing, and a friendly staff that happily accepts special requests. Bonus: a solid whiskey selection, including drams from New Holland Brewing’s distillery.
New York City
Though we’re partial to the service and selection at Bierkraft (191 5th Ave. #1) in Brooklyn, there’s finally a solid bottle shop for geeks who don’t feel like crossing the bridge: Good Beer (422 E. 9th St.) stocks nearly 1,000 craft beers, growlers to go and pints (including local pours like Fire Island Lighthouse Ale) to sip with the hot dogs on offer.
Though still one of the younger spots on Philly’s bottle-shop scene, the bright, clean Craft Beer Outlet (9910 Frankford Ave.) sells a selection of singles and sixers beyond its years. Local brewers from outfits such as Yards and newcomer Neshaminy Creek pop in regularly with special tastings in tow, and six taps in the back fill growlers to go and pints for the geeks parked in the leather club chairs.
You’re as likely to find your favorite Oregon hop bomb at Belmont Station (4500 SE Stark St.) as you are the kettlemaster who brewed it. The shop curates more than 1,200 beers and hosts regular tasting events to show off its incredible tap list packed with the likes of Barley Brown’s Turmoil CDA and Ninkasi Collaboration 2011.
San Diego, Calif.
Inside downtown’s no-frills Super Jr. Market lies the Best Damn Beer Shop (1036 7th Ave.), which ought to brag about its mind-numbing array of Cali brews, though it lets the bottles from Telegraph, Kern River and local newcomer Manzanita Brewing speak for themselves. The not entirely huge but very wise selection also includes pleasant Euro surprises like Spain’s Ca L’Arenys Guineu Riner; combine that with occasional special tastings, and grocery shopping just got interesting.
Locals head to City Beer Store (1168 Folsom St.) to sip off the handful of intriguing taps, mix a sixer from among 300 beers and talk shop with delightful owners Beth and Craig Wathen. Ten minutes east, Dave Hauslein serves the city with a larger selection of craft staples and Belgians at Healthy Spirits (2299 15th St.).
The Emerald City isn’t short on stellar bottle shops, but there’s no topping the sheer selection and undeniable expertise at Bottleworks (1710 N. 45th St.). Run by the guys behind venerable beer bar Brouwer’s Café, the shop stocks almost a thousand domestic crafts, imports, limited-release house beers and properly aged gems. Ten taps pour liquid gold from visiting brewers and locals like Fremont Brewing for guests to sip there or take home in growlers.
Twin Cities, Minn.
In Minneapolis, head to The Four Firkins (8009 Minnetonka Blvd.) and corner Aussie owner Jason Alvey for his latest favorite; he’s more like an in-the-know beer buddy than a snobby shopkeeper. In St. Paul, let the experts at The Ale Jail (1787 St. Clair Ave.) (inside vino spot The Wine Thief) guide you through hundreds of single bottles, pairings and Tuesday tastings.
Tip: Most bottle shops will special-order beers they don’t already carry on request. But Bruisin’ Ales owner Jason Atallah says state laws (such as ABV caps) and brewery distribution may prohibit what a bottle shop can acquire; he suggests checking the brewer’s Web site first to see if your beer seller is within the brewery’s coverage area. “We welcome any and all special requests, and there’s no wrong way to ask,” he says. “But we’re certainly limited as to what brands and specific products we can get.”