With more than 6,000 small and independent craft brewers operating in America today, not only do beer lovers have a bevy of options when deciding where to celebrate their favorite beverage, beer-focused operators are finding competition to be stronger than ever. This is especially true now that more states are allowing brewers to create tasting rooms that serve as bars, particularly attractive to the beer tourist.
One way craft beer operators have been able to distinguish themselves from the pack is through the annual CraftBeer.com survey of readers of the Brewers Association-operated website. Beer-loving consumers’ nominations drove this year’s compilation of Great American Beer Bars, with the top vote-getter from each state receiving the nod.
“CraftBeer.com readers have an extensive level of insight on what makes a beer bar truly stand out,” said Jess Baker, editor-in-chief, CraftBeer.com. “The Great American Beers Bars, selected by nearly 8,000 individual nominations cast by CraftBeer.com readers, are each stewards of quality craft beer and beer service. These outstanding beer bars, taprooms and brewpubs introduce their customers to new and exciting beer experiences, and have been integral to the success of the independent craft brewing movement.”
The annual survey selects one operator per state and the District of Columbia each year, and the voting frequently unearths surprises and out of the way locales that seem to have won the attention of beer lovers (although online surveys are notoriously vulnerable to gaming and promotional campaigns). For example, the most selected beer operation in New York State was Copper City Brewing in Rome, NY, a city not among the top ten most populated in the state. The fairly recent (2016) opening of that brewpub in that part of the state must have quickly developed a major following.
Many others were newbies as well, operating only for a few years or so before they made the list, but one oldie did make it and is worth noting. Founded in 1979, The Great Lost Bear is the longest running bar on the list. A pioneer in craft-friendly Portland, Maine, The Great Lost Bear stands in contrast to the numerous contemporary beer-focused restaurants, chain and independent.
Beer-focused bars and restaurants are generally owned or operated by beer lovers themselves, so the list is a great way to locate new, novel or unknown sources of craft beer trends, as well as a simple guide to a good time when out of town.
To compile the list, CraftBeer.com readers were asked to nominate their favorite craft beer bar in their state and fill out a short survey about what makes it so great, including atmosphere, staff, beer selection and special events. Votes were cast from November 2017 to January 2018. Visit CraftBeer.com to view a sortable list and each bar’s profile including photos and statistics.