The term “craft beer” makes the beer seem small-time, like a dabbler’s after-work hobby, but craft beer is actually pretty serious stuff. Beer lovers will testify to the fact that craft beer is generally focused on flavor above all else and is brewed specifically for people who enjoy the beer itself, not the lightheaded feeling that comes from drinking it (though that can be fun as well).
The American Brewers Association defines a craft beer as a beer made in small batches of six million barrels or less by a locally owned (i.e. not global or nationally corporatized) brewer. Craft lovers define craft brews as beers that are focused blending both traditional and innovative brewing ingredients and fermentation techniques. These often include organic ingredients, aging in wine or rye whiskey barrels, and even incorporating new flavors into old standards, like Denver Brewing Co. did with its Graham Cracker Porter.
Craft beer is booming in America. Statistically, most Americans now live within 10 miles of a brewery, but so much good beer leads to a new problem: who on Earth has the time and fridge space to sample all this craft beer?
And that’s where a great craft beer bar comes in. When a bar is devoted to serving fine craft beer, a typical night out is transformed from a few hours of knocking back whatever’s cheap to an exclusive tasting event where beer novices and experts alike can come together to pick and choose from beer not readily available at the local supermarket.
So how did we choose the best craft beer bars? Well first, they had to serve some seriously good craft beer. Every bar on this list offers award-winning craft brews. But the bars had to go beyond just good beer. They also had to offer a selection. Most of these bars offer hundreds of different craft beers in bottles and on draught. Next, we looked at the bars themselves. We chose those that had won awards for their service, their selection, and their staff’s beer knowledge. And finally, we took the locals into account. We looked at websites for both beer lovers and bar lovers to make sure that patrons are just as impressed with these spots as awards committees were.
Craft beer is everywhere, but craft beer bars are a bit harder find.
#11 The Malt House Tavern, Madison
They bill themselves as the best beer bar in Madison, and Beer Advocate gives The Malt House its coveted “World Class” rating. With 18 beers on tap and 150 more in bottles, it’s pretty easy to see why locals can’t get enough of this place.
#10 The Bulldog, New Orleans
With 50 beers on tap, over a hundred in bottles, and a $5,000 dishwasher designed specifically for cleaning beer glasses, this Big Easy favorite draws a crowds of college kids and beer aficionados alike.