The best beer bars in 18 Boston neighborhoods
Boston is a city rich with boozy history, but we're quite possibly living in the midst of the greatest time period ever to be imbibing in Boston, and the city's beer scene is a huge part of that. From dive joints to upscale restaurants and bars, Bostonians are being treated to some of the best beer programs in the country. Here are the go-to spots in 18 different Boston 'hoods, ensuring your next great pint is never far away:
Sunset Grill & Tap (address and info)
We can't help but be in awe of the "Wall of Beer", analogous to kneeling at the temple of hops. What appears to be a bazillion labels and tap handles steeps down to an inspiring 112 spigots, and a jaw-dropping 380 micro/craft/import beers with caps on. The selection left us in some mouthwateringly frothy Twilight Zone, somewhere between irresistible and overwhelmed. But have no fear, the friendly staff vows "Beer will change the world”. If you are beer lover this is an obligatory stop to pay your respects. And if you're decision-challenged, you can always fall back on the "Kick the Keg" special.
Bukowski Tavern (address and info)
"We are here to drink beer...". If you're in the Back Bay and are serious about your imbibing, there is no better place than Bukowski Tavern. Grab a seat at the wooden bar, bellow for the beer book, and commiserate with the "laureate of American lowlife" relishing great beers. Americana at its best is served up here; Soup Bitches Daily Special, Bacon Blue Hot Dogs, and a Wasatch GhostRider White IPA are indicative of the somewhat tetchy, yet patriotic vibe. It's a hole in the wall venue (far from indiscreet with its bright red lipstick façade), but swaggers in having over 20 taps, rotating cask beers, 10 Bomber-sized offerings, and 20 plus bottles by local, regional, and global breweries.
Back Bay Harry’s (address and info)
Celebrity Chef Jason Santos, HGTV designer Taniya Nayak, and beverage director Jarek Mountain have joined forces to create a space where foodies and beer fanatics can find their happy place. Jarek, a self-proclaimed "beer snob" even sends his parents out on recon missions to locate exceptional finds. It's obvious that the well-trained staff here is behind Jarek’s intensity and beer brilliance. Get your craft on, and ask for the "staff stash"! Santos and Jarek work diligently (glug, glug, glug) to concoct unique burger-and-beer pairings. Jarek says that local producer Slumbrew is sloshing out some fantastic brews to compliment any of their upscale bar food offerings, and right now he's hot on the Happy Sol Blood Orange Hefeweizen.
The Tip Tap Room (address and info)
World traveler, celebrity chef, and local trendsetter Brian Poe may have been a little on the tipsy side when creating his exotic menus (yak, rattlesnake, and beef tongue... typical pub food, right?), but when it comes to his beer lineups, he's made believers out of everyone. The Tip Tap Room is an approachable and bubbly watering hole in one of Boston’s most well-heeled neighborhoods. Everything is reasonably priced, and the room claims 46 handles at the stainless steel stretch (we recommend the house tap: Bukowski Tavern R.I.P. Series, Lazy Ambition), and another 50 fine selections in bottles and cans. This is the only place on our list where game and craft beers are natural/normal counterparts. The bartender’s suggested combination of wild boar meatballs and a pint of Baxter Hayride Autumn Ale was apparently "Ted Nugent’s favorite pairing." Bartenders words, not ours!
The Publick House (address and info)
Raise a pint (we propose of one of their many Belgian specialties) to one of the most award-winning venues in Boston, possibly in the country, and maybe even in the world. The Publick House is the real deal for bites and beers. The room is loud, the staff is witty, and the crowds are elbow to elbow. The special beer events are frequent. The mac and cheese is legendary. The four varieties of moules frites are all swimming in different kinds of beer (the crowd favorite -- Allagash White, tomato, chive, garlic, prosciutto). Our bartender's pick for a beer that best personified the concept was the Verhaeghe Echte Kriekenbier – yeah, exactly! Enough said!
The Tap Trailhouse (address and info)
"The beers are coming! The beers are coming!". The newly refurbished and all-things-Boston Tap Trailhouse is protecting the 21st amendment and the right to cold and local beer! Located adjacent to historic Quincy Market, this watering-hole will be promoting 24 draft taps, an extensive list of regional beers in a bottle, and beer cocktails. Mixologists stand aside, as bartenders tap into proprietary casks to create a rebellious beverage program catering to an eclectic mix of locals, tourists, sports fans, and pub crawlers. Their signature Freedom Trail Ale is brewed exclusively by Rhode Island microbrewery Newport Storm.
Yard House (address and info)
With more than 140 brands on tap, a "Chalkboard Series" of five rotating seasonal taps, and some sobering technology invested into the draft system, this is a beer nerd’s blissful little lair in the Fenway Triangle. The beer brainiacs are downing Yard House Belgian Amber Tripel, served at exactly 34 degrees or with a precisely engineered ice cube, to keep your beer glacial without diluting the goods. The Yard House is Comic-Con for beer geeks, but if you are in the circles of trust, you will reap the benefits -- like knowing when the elusive Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout is coming in from Michigan in all its bourbon-aged glory.
Slate Bar & Grill (address and info)
A true neighborhood bar (despite its Financial District location) where as soon as you breach the doors, the hair comes unraveled and ties are quickly concealed in brief cases. Industry peeps have been known to ninja in and out pre-shift, post gig, and dare we say it – between shifts. Of course it's all for research and educational purposes (exaggerated wink), as they put back brews like 21st Amendment Brew Free! Or Die, and Tröegs LaGrave Triple Golden Ale.
Row 34 (address and info)
Boston’s only decreed "Working Man’s Oyster Bar", this new Fort Point gem is all business when it comes to what beers earn a spot on their stately chrome taps. They also boast about having the city’s only "Beer Director", Megan Parker-Gray, who burns through all of her hard-earned tips investing back into her trade and nurturing the beer-forward culture. "Seasonal" takes on a whole new meaning, as draft beers may be so limited in offering that their "season" may only be a day or two before they are tapped out. The list can change literally daily, as Megan hoards small batches, and collaborates with nano-breweries like Trillium Brewing Co. (who're doing business just a few doors down). Hello neighbor, can I trouble you for a barrel of Fort Point Pale Ale?
PARK Restaurant & Bar (address and info)
A recent addition to Harvard Square, the rustic-meets-luxe subterranean space is one part restaurant, one part bar, and many parts outstanding food and brews. They've got a casual scene with a gentlemanly air that makes you feel like a cultured chap imbibing on the likes of a high-octane North Coast Le Merle Saison. PARK also has a well-thought-out array of crafts at the spouts, a sophisticated range of bottled beers on the list, and a weekly cask program.
Lord Hobo (address and info)
One of the finest beer bars in the entire country. Multifaceted maverick Nicholas Gardner (General Manager, Culinary Director, and Beverage Director) affirms, "We only pour GREAT Beer. Not good. Not ok. Just great. If it isn't throwing heat and a smoking gun, it’s gone baby gone!". Lord Hobo is one of the most comfortable bars on the list to just pull up a stool and feel at ease discovering new favorites. It's also one of only 50 bars in America to participate in Zwanze Day, on September 20th at exactly 3pm EST. Set your smart phones and call your bosses now (even if it is year in advance) -- it's a most glorious holiday, on par with Festivus, to partake in the savoring of a Cantillon Cuvée De Florian.
Mead Hall (address and info)
The name may say "mead", but the 100-strong draft list is subdivided into enough styles to please just about any suds-craving palate, with options ranging from Flemish Sours to hopped-up Imperial IPAs. The massive volume allows room for events like a recent "Battle of the Barrels" showdown between Firestone Walker and Allagash. Also, Founders is coming in soon for a tap takeover. Don't worry, they're only taking over like a dozen taps... all 100 of them would be impressive though.
Eastern Standard (address and info)
Magnums, Jeroboams, Methuselahs, and Salmanazars of specialty brews... these folks are literally big on their beer program. Bar Manager Naomi Levy "crafts" lists, as opposed to just populating them. To bless her menu, each label needs to achieve the "Trifecta Standard": interesting, local (whenever possible), and stylish. Sour beers, beers for sharing, beers as exquisite as fine wines -- Eastern Standard has something for everyone, from the recreational swiller to the judicious aficionado. We asked to "sample" the 9-liter St-Feuillien (the real king of beers), but instead were pacified with a Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser (an invigorating mead). A delicious consolation, but we guess we know where we rank in the hierarchy.
The Mission Bar & Grill (address and info)
This bare-bones, college kid/hipster/Nana-quaffing, pumpkin ales bar is a great stopover on the city tour. There are 20 drafts, 10 of them rotating taps with no rhyme or reason other than, "Yeah, we got this new Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree IPA. It's delicious. Do it!". Nothing fancy, just good beers, edgy service, and great tunes.
Parla (address and info)
This little speakeasy is a welcome addition to the red sauce-stained tablecloths of the 100-plus restaurants in the area. Parla is a local's hideout in a 'hood where tourists run rampant, and one of the few places in the area that has an almost-exclusive beer program. The owners (who were previously marketing executives) now advertise an ever-evolving list that sports selections like Ommegang's Game of Thrones collabs and Stone's Chipotle Porter, both of which you aren't likely to encounter anywhere else in Boston's Little Italy.
La Brasa (address and info)
Another chef-driven and chef-inspired hot spot, these two culinary dynamos "get it" when it comes to beer. Although maybe skewing a bit more restaurant than beer bar, the selections, pairings, and food make it a must. They're particularly into smoked beers -- Evil Twin Smoked Pilsner and Jack Abby’s Smoked Marzen -- which make for fine drinking alongside tacos de carnitas with slow roasted pork shoulder, salsa verde & chile de arbol.
The Trophy Room (address and info)
A newcomer to the South End scene, this American Bistro has a young but ambitious, talented bar manager, with just the right attitude to engineer a crafty beer program. Eclectic and accessible is the game plan, according to manager William Barr Yerxa, who used to be on the team at Toast in Kendall Square. He's assembled a progressive list from "light to dark", where you'll find some usual suspects, like a Pretty Things Jack D’or, or a darker Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout. He also tries to stay on top of new/limited releases, like Harpoon's 100 Barrel Series and Stone’s Enjoy By options.
Jacob Wirth (address and info)
No list of beer bars would be worth a seidel, or more accurately, a chalice, without paying homage to of one Boston’s oldest beer halls. Jacob Wirth was a pioneering beer aficionado, THE first distributor of Anheuser Busch products, and founder of Narragansett Beers. This beer-saturated landmark might be the most iconic spot on the list. The menu changes daily, with 46 offerings at the taps and an emphasis on authentic German styles that can’t "guarantee availability, but can always guarantee freshness". They even have gluten-free beers, like the Belgian Green's Tripel. For 146 years this has been the spot on the cusp of the Theater District/China Town to "prost a stein". One word to the wise -- indulging in schnitzels, wursts, Sauerbraten, and Spaten lager may lead to meat sweats and St. Pauli Girl-hallucinations.
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