I’ll admit that the last couple of years, I have picked Draught House. This year, I have been to more beer bars than the previous 31 years of my life. I’ve traveled to San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Boise, and Philadelphia, and in all of those cities, I went to at least 1 beer bar. And in all of those cities the beer bars I went to could make their claim why they are the best beer bar in America.
But the beer scene is a lot more crowded than it used to be, and I had a lot more to think about for my selection.
The first thing I thought about was food. Food is much more important to me at a place than it used to be. I think a place without food cannot be considered a “best” bar. It doesn’t have to be fancy gastropub quality, but quality food is an important part of a great beer bar.
Tap selection is another thing which has changed for me. I no longer want an extensive selection of taps where I can get 12 different IPA’s at any time. I want a curated variety of taps, where I can always get a good pilsner if I want, but also get the limited run barrel aged sour from the new Denmark brewery. If they sometimes collaborate with a local brewery to make something special, even better. But the tap limit for me would top out at 30, 25 with one or two being on cask would be even better. If I spend more time studying the beer menu at a place than I do talking with friends then it isn’t a good selection.
Liquor is something I now prefer at a great beer bar. I like the ability to get a good cocktail or whiskey when I want something besides beer. I also know people who don’t like beer too much, and won’t come out if the place just serves beer, then I end up going somewhere with a shitty selection, because that is the only place they will go to.
Other things I just notice a little more than I used to, like the quality of the service I get, overall design of the place, and the music they are playing.
So, what bar did I pick of all that I’ve been to. I picked Fountainhead in Chicago. 27 taps, which are extremely well curated, great food, great service, and great music. It really comes down to that fact that from all the beer places I visited in the past year, this is the one I would most like to live next door to.
I would like to apologize to Draught House and Billy’s on Burnet in Austin, Falling Rock in Denver, Cannonball Creek in Golden, Toronado and Monk’s Kettle in San Francisco, Olympic Tavern in Rockford, Illinois, Owen & Engine in Chicago, Monk’s Cafe and Eulogy in Philadelphia, Bittercreek Alehouse in Boise, and of course the Dog & Duck Pub.