It's Craft Beer Week 2012, and as America's craft beer scene has grown up over the last decade, so have the bars serving the sudsy stuff. Here are five of our favorite classy spots for sipping a pint—or three.
Name: Ebenezer's Pub
Location: Lovell, Maine
Why you should go: Located in a tiny town near the White Mountain National Forest, Ebenezer's is a pub worthy of a pilgrimage, owing to co-owner Chris Lively's far-reaching collection of Belgian ales. The 35 taps regularly count rare, mouth-puckering lambics from cultish producers Oude Beersel and Cantillon, but the real gems are found in the cellar's selection of more than 1,000 bottles, some stretching back a century.
What to order: End your eve with Black Albert, a silky, impressively potent stout originally brewed by Belgium's De Struise Brouwers to commemorate Ebenezer's third annual Belgian fest in 2007.
Name: Bailey's Taproom
Location: Portland, Oregon
Why you should go: This downtown-Portland pub focuses on the endless bounty of Oregon beers, ranging from Corvallis' Flat Top to Bend's 10 Barrel and first-rate local outfits Hopworks and Cascade. And instead of a chalkboard, the available draft beers are displayed on a flat-screen TV listing price, serving glass, and how much liquid is left in each keg.
What to order: Indulge your whims and select a sampler tray of Oregon's finest ales—or whatever seems to be running dry on the screen. Also excellent: The funky Seizoen Bretta from Hood River's Logsdon Farmhouse Ales.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Why you should go: Former beer importer Justin Phillips turned a closet-size storefront into a bespoke suds parlor outfitted with communal tables, shelves lined with pickled vegetables, and a painstakingly curated collection of some of the globe's rarest—and most delicious—lagers and ales. The six taps regularly dispense nectars from vaunted breweries such as Denmark's Evil Twin and Norway's Haandbryggeriet, and the 25-strong bottle list changes daily.
What to order: Beer Table has collaborated with a series of brewers tasked to answer a single question: "What beer would I brew for myself to drink every day for the rest of my life?" The answer is available in the rotating Table Beer series.
Name: Michael and Louise's Hopleaf
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Why you should go: There's nary a TV or deep-fried chicken wing found in Michael Roper's venerable Windy City establishment, which offers 65 assiduously sourced draft beers split between national and local craft brewers, such as Chicago-based Revolution, Half Acre and Five Rabbit, and all-star Belgian brewers. The food is as fine as the beer, counting a duck reuben, Montreal-style brisket and ramp waffles with sautéed morels.
What to order: Dig deep into the 250-bottle list to unearth gems such as Lambrucha, a tart blend of kombucha and spontaneously fermented lambic, and strong, monk-made ale from abbeys such as Westmalle and Rochefort.
Name: Brick Store
Location: Decatur, Georgia
Why you should go: Located just outside Atlanta, the pleasantly subdued Brick Store—no garish neon or blaring TVs—is a hoppy refuge. Downstairs, you'll find offering 17 craft beers on tap, including locally made SweetWater IPA, and about 75 bottles, while the second-floor Belgian Room annex featuring more than 100 bottled beauties and an additional eight draft lines, including the oaky, fruity Duchesse de Bourgogne. Keep hunger at bay with country chicken pâté strong paired with smoked-peach preserves.
What to order: In an adjoining, underground bank vault, Brick Store has amassed more than 750 rare, vintage beers. Email the bar ahead of time to set up a cellar tour—and select your preferred potable.
—Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein) is a Brooklyn-based journalist and author of Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers
and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution.