There exists a place where beer flows like water and bartenders are more than willing to guide your every alcoholic sip: craft beer bars. But given the fact that most of the bars in this town have solid, if not extensive, tap lists, what even qualifies as a "craft beer bar?" And once you determine what defines a craft beer bar, what are the qualities that make one truly great?
To help us perfect this fluid equation, we called up Dave Pike, the owner of Barrel Republic, one of the most popular craft beer bars in San Diego. The pour-your-own-beer-straight-from-the-tap bar in Pacific Beach, the first of its kind in the entire country, features 44 local and international taps (as well as eight wines), and has become such a haven for beer aficionados in its two-year existence that Pike has already built a second location in Oceanside and is opening another in Carlsbad soon.
David Pike, owner of Barrel Republic:
"Obviously, the two biggest things that make a good craft beer bar are selection and atmosphere. It’s one thing to have a bunch of beer on tap, but you also want the right vibe, you want people having a good time. It needs to be casual and accepting, with a laid-back vibe, because in the end, beer drinking isn’t supposed to be serious -- it’s supposed to be fun. But the bar staff can’t be too laid-back. They need to be attentive, friendly, and, most importantly, clean. One of the things we’re meticulous about is cleaning out the lines every time we change out a keg so people aren’t getting some funky taste when we pour a beer.
"It also needs to be affordable for everybody. One of the things that’s cool about our model of being able to pour your own pint and only getting charged per ounce is that you can spend a couple hours at the bar and only spend, like, 12 to 15 bucks."
So, with this criteria in mind, here’s where you should be drinking craft beer in San Diego: