Tag Archives: beer bars

Barfly’s View: Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, MA

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Last fall, I Barfly’s View’d the fuck out of Boston’s Bukowski Tavern, one of my regular haunts. Today, I’m spotlighting Buk Boston’s sister bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Inman Square, which I don’t visit as often but still stop by a few times a year.

The hipster vibe is palpable at Bukowski Tavern Cambridge, probably even more so than at Buk Boston, and you’re guaranteed to spot lots of tattoos. But the bartenders are friendly enough to non-regulars, and they’re usually knowledgeable about the beer they serve. One complaint: Yesterday the beer list was a mess. I ordered two beers that were on the draft list but weren’t tapped yet. And when I asked about the rotating gueuze as the beer book told me to, I was told they no longer sell gueuze. (Get your shit together, Buk.)

My favorite thing about Bukowski Tavern Cambridge is the atmosphere. The bar is inside an old mechanics’ garage, and its facade is still composed of two garage doors with rows of square-glass windows. A long bar runs along the right side as you enter, there are booths in the middle of the long thin space and tables just inside the entrance. Bukowski and Hank-Chinaski-related imagery adorns the walls. Behind the bar, hundreds of thick glass beer steins hang above the bartenders, a testament to the popularity of Buk Cambridge’s “mug club,” which requires that you drink every bottled beer they offer within a six-month period.

From BukowskiTavern.net:

“Bukowski Tavern is not responsible for any excessive weigh gain, marriage annulments, black eyes, one night stands, or spur of the moment tribal tattoo arm bands that one may incur throughout the process of completing your mug. Although completing a mug is an awesome accomplishment, it does not shoot said customer into the ranks of infinite coolness that are currently occupied by the bar staff at Bukowski Tavern.”

Well put.

Bukowski Tavern offers more than 100 bottles at any given time, in addition to a handful of “extra special bottles,” and 30 or more drafts. Buk also has a beer engine that serves up unique cask-conditioned offerings. And you can spin the Wheel of Beer if you can’t decide what you want to drink. But if you want the truth, only fucking amateurs spin the Beer Wheel.

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Food is fairly standard pub grub, and though I’ve never actually eaten at the bar—I hit up East Coast Grill for grub when in Inman Square, which is next door to Buk—my brother is a semi regular, and he tells me the quality has gone downhill in recent days.

I also get a kick out of Bukowski’s “Hobo Special,” which gets you a hot dog and a 40-ounce of your choice for $6.99. You won’t catch me drinking a fucking 40, unless it’s made by Dogfish Head. But I’m sure lots of grimy college kids and other lowlifes take advantage of the Hobo Special.

I still prefer Bukowski Boston, but that’s largely because it has sentimental value to me. Both bars make my list of Boston’s best beer bars, and you should definitely make a stop at each if you’re ever in Boston’s Back Bay or Inman Square in Cambridge.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Burger Bar in Las Vegas, Nevada

Burger Bar Las Vegas entrance

I haven’t found too many quality beer bars in Las Vegas, but Burger Bar in Mandalay Place qualifies.

Burger Bar is literally located in a mall between Mandalay Bay and Luxor so it feels kind of out of place, and the ambiance isn’t exactly beer-nerd chic. But it has a solid beer list with dozens of drafts and even more bottles.

It’s not called Burger Bar for nothing; the burgers (Black Angus, Naturesource or Kobe beef; lamb; buffalo; chicken; salmon; turkey; or veggie) are to die for. You build your own burger monstrosity using dozens of possible toppings, and they have four different kinds of French fries (skinny; fat; sweet potato; and buttermilk zucchini) in addition to a bunch of other greasy shit for sides. Neither the beer nor the food is cheap, but that’s to be expected in a mostly-upscale Vegas bar.

Burger Bar Las Vegas

I had a turkey burger with a fried egg on it, a side of skinny fries and a St. Louis Framboise draft, and I was in heaven on The Strip.

The servers didn’t seem particularly knowledgeable about the beer, but they were extremely friendly and attentive, even though the bar was busy when I stopped by.

If you’re looking for bar with an interesting craft beer selection and good eats in Las Vegas, you could definitely do worse than Burger Bar. (Todd English P.U.B. in Aria is also worth a visit.)

UBN

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Beer and Loathing in Las Vegas: 11 Places to Find Good Beer in Sin City

Welcome to Las Vegas sign

I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to beer bars, because I live in Boston, a city with a thriving craft beer scene. Boston is packed with great beer bars. (Check out my list of the best Boston beer bars here.)

Whenever I travel, I make it a point to locate quality beer bars, but depending on the area I’m in, that’s not always an easy task. This week I was in Las Vegas, Nevada, and though there’s definitely no shortage of bars in Vegas, the craft-beer scene is somewhat lacking. Las Vegas is a drinking city for sure, but the focus is mostly on free drinks for gamblers or expensive bottles of fancy-schmancy booze and Champagne for clubhoppers.

That said, I was able to find a handful of quality establishments that cater to beer nerds like myself. The following list isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to beer bars in Vegas, but each and every one of these bars serves quality beer, and each and every one of them gets a thumbs up from this Urban Beer Nerd. If you know of another joint that I should know about, drop a comment below.

UBN

Image via LasVegas360.com

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Barfly’s View: Deep Ellum in Allston, MA

Deep Ellum Barfly's View Allston Boston MA

Deep Ellum is a chic, atmospheric beer/cocktail bar in Boston’s Allston neighbor, which is commonly referred to as the city’s “college ghetto.” At least that’s what I call the area, thanks to its large population of college kids and recent college graduates fucking around before starting Real Life. Allston is also Boston’s hipster center; the only place I’ve been with more hipsters per capita is Brooklyn, New York. (The bar is named after the Deep Ellum section of Dallas, Texas, which is known for its music and nightlife scene.)

Though Deep Ellum is located right in the college kid/hipsters zone, it’s not really a college hangout or hipster haven; it’s a little of both, I guess, but it’s also a great beer bar staffed with passionate and knowledgeable bartenders and waiters. It is without a doubt one of my 10 favorite beer bars in Boston. (Check out my full list of the Best Boston Beer Bars.)

One of the coolest things about Deep Ellum is its unique atmosphere. The bar top is made of glossy, dark wood; there are black and white television sets in both corners of the barroom, and they only play random old movies, sometimes just static, with no sound; reddish-orange lamps hang above the bar and lend an amber hue to the dimly-lit room; and a network of overhead fans powered by and connected to each other by rubber belts provide an industrial flair.

Deep Ellum Bar Boston Allston MA

The bar has 25 or so taps on at any given time, with many local brews and limited-release or hard to find imports, including many great Belgian ales. Deep Ellum has a cask. And its bottle list is impressive. In fact, you’ll often find bottles of Cantillon and other rarities. Deep Ellum is also known for its wide array of cocktails, but I don’t drink cocktails, so I don’t have any firsthand experience with them.

The food at Deep Ellum is upscale comfort food, and it can be a bit pricey. I’m particularly fond of its appetizers, especially the handmade pretzels with beer cheese and mustard. I’ve had dinner there a few times, but I find the entrees to be overpriced, so I stick to the snacks for the most part. (The bar is also connected to the popular Lone Star Taco Bar, so you can just walk next door for food if tacos are your thing.)

Deep Ellum’s bartenders are cool and willing to chat up beer nerds. Nicole, in particular, gets a big shout out from me because she knows her shit and she really brightened up my day last Friday when I was having a personal poor-me pity party. (Thanks Nicole.)

Any beer nerd looking to hit up the best bars in Boston should have Deep Ellum on his or her list. Learn more about Deep Ellum on the bar’s website.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub in Portland, ME

Gritty McDuff's Brew Pub in Portland, Maine

Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub in Portland, Maine’s Old Port neighborhood is “Maine’s original brew pub”—it was Maine’s first brew pub since the end of prohibition, and it opened in 1988. I stopped by Gritty’s for a few pints a couple of weeks ago during Portland Beer Week, and it turned out to be one of my favorite watering holes I found in a city that’s packed with quality drinking establishments.

The brew pub is just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, and you can see the waterfront area through a back window on clear days. The bar is topped with shiny, battered copper. The bartender was friendly and quick to offer recommendations for other nearby bars and attractions. I didn’t have any food, but I Gritty’s offers a wide range of pub grub.

All of the “real ales” at Gritty McDuff’s are brewed on premise, and it shows; the beers I had were extremely fresh. I’d had a few different Gritty’s beers before my visit; Gritty’s Black Fly Stout isn’t difficult to find in my home city of Boston. But the draft version I had at the brew pub was even more delicious, a truly fine stout.

Gritty McDuff's Mug Club mugs

Gritty’s Mug Club mugs hanging above the bar

Gritty’s regulars can pay $75 a year to join its Mug Club, which gets you a 21-ounce, white ceramic mug of your own and five more ounces of brew for the same price as the standard 16-ounce pints. Five-year Mug Club members get special colored mugs that are even larger. And every Gritty’s pub—there are two more of them, in Freeport and Lewiston/Auburn, Maine—offers two-dollar drafts for Mug Club members two nights a week.

If you’re ever in Portland and have a hankerin’ for a real ale, you’ll find a friend in Gritty McDuff’s.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Brewer’s Coalition in Newtonville, MA

Brewer's Coalition Newtonville Barfly's View

Brewer’s Coalition in Newtonville, Mass., is located right outside of Boston and less than a mile from the Massachusetts Turnpike. Newtonville is a yuppyish suburb west of Boston, and that’s quickly apparent after rubbing elbows with the Brewer’s Coalition clientele. That’s not to say, I don’t like the bar, which is an offshoot of the popular John Brewer’s Tavern restaurants in Nearby Waltham and Malden, Mass. It’s just not exactly a hip scene.

The beer selection is decent for a location like Newtonville, but it’s definitely nothing special when compared to other beer bars in the Boston area. The two things Brewer’s Coalition really has going for it are its friendly (and easy-on-the-eyes) bartenders and its selection of local Massachusetts and New England beers. The bar claims to have 50 craft beers available; I saw 20 taps and maybe twice that number of bottles, many of which were local. The bar also serves bar food, but I never hang around long enough to try any of it.

Brewer’s Coalition isn’t really worth driving out of your way for, but if you happen to be heading west out of Boston and you need a road soda, or if you’re just passing through the Newtonville area, you could find a friend in this pseudo beer bar.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Cambridge Brewing Co. in Cambridge, MA

Cambridge Brewing Co.

Cambridge Brewing Co. is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Kendall Square neighborhood, just across the Charles River from downtown Boston, and it is hands down my favorite brewpub in the Boston area.

That’s because of the laid-back, upscale pub atmosphere and quality, fresh foods. But the real reason I love Cambridge Brewing Co., or CBC, as the locals call it, is the beer. I’ve never met a CBC beer that I didn’t like. Lots of small brewpubs make mediocre beer, but CBC, the oldest brewpub in Boston, makes world-class brews. (In fact, it just won a silver medal at the 2012 Great American Beer Fest.) CBC has four house beers that are always on tap, as well as a frequently-rotating selection of more experimental brews, some with rather amusing names. And you can buy growlers to go.

Kendall Square is a technology center of Boston and Cambridge, and it’s home to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So CBC is often packed with 30-something professionals drinking over lunchtime business meetings or quirky MIT students winding down after a day of hitting the books.

Whenever a beer-loving friend or colleague visits Boston, CBC is the first drinking-destination I recommend.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Downtown Johnny Brown’s in San Diego, CA

Downtown Johnny Brown's San Diego

One of the few bars I visited more than once during my recent trip to San Diego was Downtown Johnny Brown’s, located in the city’s Civic Center Plaza. The reason I returned: An excellent selection of Russian River Brewing Co. barrel-aged sour ales, which are some of my favorite Cali-made brews, and the bar’s relative close proximity to my hotel.

The atmosphere in Downtown Johnny Brown’s is more sports bar than beer bar, and it also serves wine. But what Downtown Johnny Brown’s lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for with its quality, albeit limited, draft selection and bottle list. When I visited, the bar had between 15 and 20 beers on tap, the majority of which were local. It also had a dozen or so unique bottles, and its prices were very reasonable compared to some of the other bars I hit.

Downtown Johnny Brown’s also serves basic bar food, including lots of greasy fried shit and decent burgers. The bar has a pool table, darts and shuffleboard, if bar games are you thang. But it’s Downtown Johnny Brown’s quality beer selection that makes this bar a draw for beer nerds in or around San Diego.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Toronado in San Diego, CA

Toronado Bar San Diego

After performing a fairly in-depth Web search for the best beer bars in San Diego, it was clear I had to visit one bar in particular: Toronado, in the city’s North Park neighborhood. Toronado showed up in almost every single list of San Diego beer bars I found, and it was on the top of many of them.

So yesterday, I made my way over to Toronado, which isn’t exactly close to where I’m staying. (Shout out to my man Chris for the ride. I love ya buddy.) I arrived around 7 pm on Monday night, and the bar was already packed. I soon found out why: Toronado offers pints of all of its local draft brews for $3 as part of a Monday night special. Considering the bar’s impressive draft list, and the fact that San Diego’s “local” beers are some of the best beers in the nation—dare I say, the world—that’s a pretty fucking good deal.

Toronado San Diego is the sister bar of the (in)famous original Toronado bar in San Francisco. It has 56 rotating taps and hundreds of rare bottles from around the world. (I had a Russian River Supplication Batch 004 that was to die for.) And the food wasn’t bad either, though it’s pretty standard pub grub.

The bar was so busy that I couldn’t really engage the bartenders, but the guy who served my Supplication gave me a knowing look and a smirk when I ordered, and I got the feeling that the staff really knows its brews. The atmosphere was more dive bar than upscale beer bar, but I dig that kind of scene. And Toronado San Diego has a juke box that’s packed with a range of quality eclectic tunes. I don’t have much more time in San Diego, so I doubt I’ll make it back to Toronado during this trip. But I know I will return at some point. Toronado is a top notch beer bar.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Neighborhood in San Diego, CA

Neighborhood Bar San Diego

Today I arrived in San Diego to cover a (non-beer-related) conference, and the first thing I did was seek out some decent beer bars within walking distance of my hotel. I hit a few duds first, but I eventually found Neighborhood. The bar also serves wine and cocktails, so it’s not really a straight beer bar, per se. But the beers it does serve, on tap and in bottles and cans, are clearly selected with love.

Neighborhood is located in downtown San Diego’s East Village, just east of the city’s Gaslamp Quarter, and it’s a solid beer nerd hangout. It has around 30 draft beers on at any given time and between 30 and 40 bottles. (Neighborhood had Pliny the Elder on tap today, which definitely didn’t hurt.) My bartender was friendly and unpretentious, if a bit stereotypically hipsterish. And she was knowledgeable and helpful when I asked for recommendations. The food is unique, upscale pub grub. And the décor and atmosphere both get thumbs-up from me. (Neighborhood also apparently has a secret “speak easy” called Noble Experiment with an entrance near the restrooms that’s hidden with beer kegs, but I didn’t actually see it.)

If you’re in San Diego’s East Village or Gaslamp Quarter and you’re seeking a unique craft brew, you could definitely do worse than Neighborhood.

UBN

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