GOOD FOR WHAT ALES YOU

Drink Like a Local in 6 Beer Cities

We uncover pubs worth the trip in places that seriously know their brews: Brooklyn, Denver, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, and Salt Lake City.

By Bret Stetka, Tuesday, Mar 10, 2009, 2:51 PM

BROOKLYN

Spuyten Duyvil
Limited space makes brewpubs a challenge in Brooklyn, but the borough is home to some of the best beer bars in the country. In a disheveled section of the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood, this nearly anonymous bar is marked only by the red wrought-iron bars that protect the stellar beer collection inside. On most nights, the narrow space is packed with local hipsters and not-so-local beer fanatics bent on sampling Spuyten Duyvil's six intriguing draft beers and over 140 bottles. What to drink The draft list is always rotating; owner Joe Carroll nicely balances old world with mostly Northeastern American beers, like those from New Hampshire's Pennichuck Brewing. 359 Metropolitan Ave., 718/963-4140, spuytenduyvilnyc.com.

Barcade
A warehouse-like space with mismatched bar stools and chipping paint, Barcade is part beer bar and part vintage video game parlor. With more than 20 mostly American craft brews on tap and even more 1980s arcade games, Barcade gets packed with tight-jeaned, shaggy-haired 20-somethings, drinking great beer and trying to impress girls with their high scores on Centipede. What to drink Anything from Southampton Ales, Sixpoint Craft Ales, or the Chelsea Brewing Company. 388 Union Ave., 718/302-6464, barcadebrooklyn.com.

Beer Table
This simple, elegant beer bar is meant for sipping unusual brews and discussing hop varieties rather than chugging cans and talking football. Owners Justin and Tricia Philips will be happy to enlighten you on all topics beer and, if you're nice, might even dip into their basement-aged stash. What to drink Justin Philips rotates his menu daily, so it's wise to seek his advice. He's a big fan of the up-and coming Italian craft beer scene, but he also pours plenty of local beers as well, like ones from Captain Lawrence Brewing, Sixpoint, and Brooklyn Brewery. 427 B Seventh Ave., 718/965-1196, beertable.com.

DENVER

Great Divide Tap Room
Colorado has more than 100 craft breweries, and arguably the best is Great Divide. Voted 14th best brewery in the world by ratebeer.com in 2008, GD brews intense beers with expansive flavors to match the local landscape. The taproom serves GD standards as well as bar-only specialty brews that can be taken home in bottles, half-gallon growlers, and various keg sizes. What to drink Start with something light like the summer-appropriate Samurai Rice Ale—the addition of rice gives it a slightly sour, fruity flavor. Follow it up with one of the best American stouts: the bold and balanced Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout. 2201 Arapahoe St., 303/296-9460, greatdivide.com.

Wynkoop Brewing Company
The beer-crazy state's oldest brewpub—and supposedly the country's largest—was founded in 1988 and named for Denver's first sheriff, Edward W. Wynkoop. The scene is lively: Students and loosened-tie professionals drink homemade beer and slowly get clumsier at pool, darts, and shuffleboard. Foodwise, expect a hodgepodge of upscale all-American bar dishes made with local meats and produce. What to drink Wynkoop nicely interprets classic styles with its St. Charles ESB, Wixa Weiss, and its signature brew, Railyard Ale, a fruity take on the malty Octoberfest style. Also consider Patty's Chile Beer, a light lager brewed with ancho peppers and Anaheim chiles. 1634 18th St., 303/297-2700, wynkoop.com.

MILWAUKEE

Lakefront Palm Garden
Brothers Russ and Jim Klisch, whose last name couldn't sound more like a brand of beer, have grown Lakefront from humble origins. They began brewing in a former bakery and were soon distributing around Milwaukee. To keep up with their popularity, the Klisches bought a bigger space from the city and in 1999 opened the Palm Garden, a family-style beer hall where visitors can enjoy keenly crafted ales and lagers and, on Fridays, a fish fry with beer-appropriate entertainment: live polka music. What to drink Riverwest Stein beer, a malty amber lager named for the neighborhood where Lakefront was founded. 1872 N. Commerce St., 414/273-8300, cafevecchio.com/palmgarden.

Milwaukee Ale House
This sprawling, multilevel brewpub on the Milwaukee River has a dining room, two bars, and—in the summer—copious dockside seating. Six public boat slips make the transition from "day on the water" to "night at the pub" far too easy, while live blues, rock and reggae, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food (try the Ale House Cheese Burger), and, of course, the beer draw the after-work crowd. What to drink The Solomon Juneau, a crisp golden ale, and Louie's Demise, a malty amber ale honoring a 19th-century Sheboygan bar-goer whose life ended with a beer glass to the head. 233 N. Water St., 414/226-2337, ale-house.com.

Stonefly Brewing Company
Named for an insect coveted by trout and often simulated with fishermen's lures, Stonefly's brewery and brewpub are among Milwaukee's favorites. Youngsters and old-time beer lovers gather for playful pub fare—the Brat & Tot is just what it sounds like—and an impressive lineup of flavorful craft beers. On the stage anything goes: folk, burlesque, even hip hop poetry. What to drink Stonefly's beers run from a crisp pale ale to a dark, hearty porter, but its intensely hoppy Sixfinger IPA or the rich and toasty Oatmeal Stout showcases the brewery's tendency toward bold flavors. 735 E. Center St., 414/264-3630, stoneflybrewery.com.

PHILADELPHIA

Standard Tap
This cozy pub unites Philadelphians looking to eat and drink local fare in an unpretentious setting. Diners enjoy refined, responsibly sourced food; Standard Tap uses fresh ingredients mostly sourced from southeastern Pennsylvania and pays homage to the region's rich brewing heritage by specializing in local beers. What to drink Greater Philadelphia is without question the best beer region on the East Coast, so stay local and go for anything from Victory, Sly Fox, or Weyerbacher. 901 N. Second St., 215/238-0630, standardtap.com.

Monk's Cafe
Unlike Standard Tap, Monk's beer selection is far from local. This Belgian beer bar was ahead of its time, celebrating what is arguably the world's finest beer-producing nation long before Belgian ales got popula in the States. The friendly staff has an encyclopedic beer knowledge and is happy to help navigate the daunting menu. What to drink Monk's stocks the usual Belgian suspects like Chimay, Corsendonk, and St. Bernardus, but strays into more obscure territory as well. Try Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale, brewed near Ghent, Belgium exclusively for the bar. 264 S. 16th St., 215/545-7005, monkscafe.com.

PORTLAND, ORE.

Rogue Distillery & Public House (PDX)
One of Portland's best known microbreweries remains a choice brewpub destination, even in a city with nearly 30 others. The original location is 235 miles down the road in Ashland, but its outpost in Portland's industrial-chic Pearl District gives urbanites easy access to Rogue's inventive beer styles and hearty dishes; the menu includes five Kobe beef burgers. What to drink Choosing a beer from the 38 taps at Rogue can be overwhelming, but with a pleasing spiciness, and a hint of smoke, the amber Chipotle Ale is better than its name might suggest. Or opt for the tasting flight and sample four 4-ounce brews for $6. 1339 NW Flanders St., 503/222-5910, rogue.com.

Deschutes Brewery & Public House
Started as a small brewpub in central Oregon, Deschutes now has a second location in Portland, giving its neighbor Rogue some heavy competition. Eighteen rotating drafts often include pub-only exclusives, and the locally sourced menu (try the house-made sausages and cured meats) brings together classical pub cuisine with self-described Northwest flair. What to drink Black Butte Porter: With hints of coffee and chocolate, this outstanding porter earned an A+ on beeradvocate.com. 210 NW 11th Ave., 503/296-4906, deschutesbrewery.com.

Lucky Labrador Brew Pub
Since 1994, this vast brewpub in a former sheet-metal warehouse has taken a canine-friendly approach to beer drinking. Dogs are free to mingle beneath the tables on the back patio while the owners sip ales and graze on sandwiches and fresh light salads. It's like being backstage at a dog show, only with much better beer. What to drink Given the pub's name, the rich and toasty Black Lab Stout is a natural choice. Labrador also features rotating draft and cask options. 915 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503/236-3555, luckylab.com.

SALT LAKE CITY

Squatters Pub Brewery
State law might limit Utah's draft beer to 3.2 percent alcohol (when American beers average 5 percent), but Salt Lake City brewpubs like Squatters are thriving all the same. Peter Cole and Jeff Polychronis bailed on their real estate careers and started Squatters in 1989. This early player in they city's craft-beer scene now distributes its regular roster across the state. For the full experience, hit the pub, which serves brewmaster Jenny Talley's more ambitious efforts—at the moment she's experimenting with barrel aging and champagne yeast. What to drink Squatters' bestseller is Full Suspension Pale Ale. It has a brand new companion this month: Hell's Keep, a bold and slightly spicy Belgian golden ale. 147 W. Broadway, 801/363-2739, squatters.com.

Red Rock Brewing Company
Just around the corner from Squatter's, Red Rock is not only known for its beers—which have racked up numerous awards—but also for handcrafted sodas and an extensive America-meets-Italy menu. No offense to the sausage loyalists, but is there a better beer pairing than wood-fired pizza? What to drink The IPA Junior, a sweet and hop-heavy ale that might be low in alcohol, but nevertheless manages an intense, pleasingly bitter flavor. 254 S. 200 W., 801/521-7446, redrockbrewing.com.

HERE FOR THE BEER

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