What makes a great bar? The ambience? The clientele? The drink selection? It's a combination of all those things, but let's talk specifically about the latter -- and even more specifically, about what makes a great beer bar in Bluff City. The place has to offer a variety of local and regional craft brews, and, for more adventurous drinkers, a selection of harder-to-find beer brands and styles. Pint nights and beer specials never hurt, either.
The Best Beer Bars in Memphis
A quintessential Memphis bar, the Young Avenue Deli in Cooper-Young offers up a great selection of brews, with as many as 36 on tap. An ever-changing rotation of locally brewed favorites (from Memphis Made, Ghost River, Wiseacre, and High Cotton breweries) and regional craft beers (Nashville’s Tennessee Brew Works and Yazoo Brewing Company; Hattiesburg, MS’s Southern Prohibition Brewing, to name a few) make the Deli a beer lover’s delight. Stop by on a Wednesday night for $3 pints of select draft beers after 7pm.
Though not exclusively local -- the Flying Saucer has locations in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee -- this is THE bar for adventurous imbibers. Offering 75 beers on tap and around 150 varieties of bottles and cans at any given time, the Saucer has beers from all over the globe. Fun game: close your eyes and run your finger down the menu; order whatever beer you land on. Join its UFO club and try 200 different varieties (not in one sitting, of course) and get your own plate on the wall with others who’ve boldly entered the beer-drinkers’ “Ring of Honor.”
A short walk from the Young Avenue Deli, Hammer & Ale offers 24 craft beers on tap. It, too, has all of the locally brewed standbys and a rotating menu of seasonal local and regional beers. You can have a pint (or three) there, or fill a growler to take with you. And from its dessert menu: a beer float, made with vanilla or chocolate ice cream dropped in draft beer.
This authentic German restaurant and bar is a unique beer stop. Like the others on this list, Schweinehaus offers a nice selection of local and regional brews, but what sets it apart is its rotating lineup of German beers. Considering the fact that Germans invented hefeweizen, you’ve got to try one here. Drafts are available in three sizes: liter (33.8oz!), half liter (16.9oz), or for those who just want a taste, 8oz.
The Irish-themed Celtic Crossing has one of the best patios in Memphis. It’s spacious and completely covered, which means it's heated in the winter and perfect for keeping out pesky mosquitos in the summer. Whether you’re drinking inside or outside, Celtic has a nice variety of local and regional beers to offer in every season. Stop in during happy hour (Monday-Friday, 2-7pm) for $1 off bottled or draft beers, or make yourself at home on pint night (Mondays, 5pm-3am) when drafts are $3-$3.50 apiece.
Until 1992, it was illegal for restaurants to brew and sell their own beer in Tennessee. When that law changed, Boscos opened here in Memphis, becoming the state’s very first brewpub. Its house beers have since won a number of prestigious awards from the Great American Beer Festival, the Real Ale Festival, and the World Beer Cup. Brewed using a traditional German technique where heated stones are dropped into the beer during the brewing process, the (aptly named) Flaming Stone Beer is a popular local favorite. Another is the Midtown Brown, a sweet and malty -- though light and easy to drink -- nut brown ale. You can also fill up and take home a growler of any of its one-of-a-kind beers.
As you can tell by now, this area of town has the beer bars on lock. In fact, these three Overton Square beer bars are all basically next door to each other on Madison, near Cooper. You could spend an entire day hopping from one to the next and never have the same beer twice. There’s a Downtown Local Gastropub on Main St, but it doesn’t offer the same variety of beers. Local on the Square has 24 on tap -- local, regional, and other great craft offerings, like New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, SweetWater, Founders, Stone, and Victory. Every night, it has a $3 “fire sale” on select bottles or drafts. Yes, please!
High Point Terrace
This neighborhood pub is perfect for those who prefer to drink in a quieter environment, away from the hustle and bustle of busier, more centrally located bars. Discreetly tucked away in High Point Terrace, and situated in a breezeway between a pizza joint and a barber shop, High Point offers more than 60 different beers, so if you can't find something you like, you probably shouldn't drink beer.
Downtown, Midtown, East Memphis
OK, so Central BBQ is considered more of a restaurant than a bar. But one could argue it's doing the beer thing just as expertly as the smoked meat. It has all the good local beers covered. In addition, it currently has select beers from Lazy Magnolia (Kiln, MS), Southern Prohibition (Hattiesburg, MS), Oskar Blues (Longmont, CO), and Blue Pants (Madison, AL). It’s not just about the barbecue here. It’s a great place for a cold one.
If you’re out drinking on Beale and want to escape the crowds, duck into the Tap Room. This smoker-friendly bar offers a nice variety of beers, available in regular (12oz) or “Big Ass” (32oz) sizes. Become a member of the bar’s Mug Club by purchasing your own Tap Room mug ($20), and each time you come back for a refill, you get a dollar off of your draft.
Aldo’s is a gourmet pizza joint with two locations in Memphis, one Downtown and one in Midtown. For beer lovers, the Downtown location is where it’s at. It has 30 beers on tap (all craft brews, no domestics; includes local and regional offerings) and 30 varieties in bottles (including a few domestics, but mostly the good stuff). For its pint nights, Aldo’s Downtown has $3 drafts (excluding local beers) on Mondays after 7pm; locally brewed drafts are $3 after 7pm on Tuesdays.
Goings-on here bounce from trivia to live shows with hit local blues bands. But the Midtown deli has one thing that's always going for it: the home-style seasoned burger, an enormous, freshly-ground 1/2-pound beef bomb grilled to a perfect medium with cheddar or Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, and a side of hand-cut fries.
With 24 taps rotating every week, this Cooper Young hang out is the top in local and regional beer from ten different breweries. The restaurant side offers a short but sweet menu of bar snacks and sandwiches, and beer floats. And if you just want the beer, they offer growler refills and pints to take with you.
This beer hall in Overton Square has all the necessary accommodations to ensure a great time: German beer, an outdoor patio, and a happy hour that begins at 11am. But if you need more incentive to spend the day relaxing and drinking liters of German goodness, Schweinehaus also a menu complete with German classics like Kartoffelpuffers.
Boscos is the classic old-school Memphis brunch. By 10:30am, the bar will fill with regulars and post-church families waiting for a table inside (where there's usually live music) or on the spacious patio. Boscos doesn't mess around with it comes to the menu; it has dozens of Benedicts, hashes, and waffle plates along with sumptuous shrimp & grits with Tasso (spiced pork) gravy and a daily bread pudding special.
This tavern commands a solid local beer selection, as well as a large area downstairs where communal tables bring large groups to socialize and partake on nightly specials on select bottles and drafts. Upstairs, comfortable couches, TVs streaming athletic events, and above-average bar appetizers like beer cheese fondue and goat cheese & crab enchiladas help retain the bar's local following.
Aldo’s is a gourmet pizza joint with two locations (one Downtown and one in Midtown). It's famous for its Trippy Truffle and vodka sauce, plus there are delicious sandwiches that can hold their own. Unlike its sister, this Copper Young location has a rooftop patio, the premiere spot to enjoy a slice and pint in Memphis.