The Dram Shop
A family-friendly taproom and growler-fill stop serving beer, wine, cider, and soda.
What it is: The Dram Shop is a 37-tap bar that encourages growler fills. Owners Sarah and Zach Millar have created a hub that celebrates all that beer has to offer. Right downtown in a bustling district of homes and businesses, The Dram Shop encourages not only experimentation but also camaraderie among patrons. Friends and strangers alike can gather at the long bar or at ample tables to compare notes on what’s in the glass or simply talk about the happenings in town.
Why it’s great: Even the lowest of the dive bars in this town have at least one craft beer on tap, but you’re going to find the macro stuff dominates both in selection and by customer choice. In this well-lit, spacious, yet still intimate bar, you can drink a multitude of beers from the local, state, and regional levels in proper glassware, filled by knowledgeable and friendly staff. And when you find one that you like, just get a growler to go. —John Holl
Fort Wayne, Indiana*
This Irish ale house, fondly called JKs or “the pub” by locals, has a buzzy, welcoming vibe and a witty staff that knows how to please beer lovers.
What it is: Irish pubs might seem a dime a dozen—until you step into JKs, a no-gimmicks establishment in the city’s heart where folks have been flocking for 11 years. Here, you won’t just find a bar claiming to be Irish because it serves Guinness. Instead, you’ll find twenty taps, ten rotating through local and regional creations, centered on the U-shaped wooden bar, centrally located as a gathering spot. Just count yourself lucky if you snag a bar seat. Although you can’t see the soccer or rugby games on the corner TVs, you’ll probably gain at least one new friend.
Why it’s great: Not sure what you want? You not only get generous samples here, you also can choose from beer and whiskey flights. Or play the dice game. Each number represents a different area behind the bar. Bartenders shake until you say stop, and whatever number the dice lands on is the beverage you get, be it draft, bottle, or liquor. Soak that up with JKs fare, including fish-and-chips or curry-and-chips. Then keep your eye on the calendar, as there are always events from adult spelling bees and Irish traditional music sessions to the Winter Warmer, a January festival with numerous breweries serving higher-gravity beers under an outdoor tent. *—Karen Asp *
Hand + Foot
Corning, New York A community-minded bar and restaurant with a small draft selection, long bottle list, and a staff committed to giving you the best drinking experience in town.
What it is: Named after a group card game and located in the heart of a vibrant downtown district, Hand + Foot is a bar and restaurant that values quality over quantity. There are just eight taps, but all are different enough from each other to make sure there’s something for everyone. It’s not too often these days you’ll find a Pilsner next to an aged quad next to a juicy IPA next to an ESB—all designed to pair with an eclectic (and changing) menu.
Why it’s great: From the warm glow of soft light coming from the windows to the street to when you step inside and see a long communal table that is the focal point of the store front–sized bar and restaurant, to the intricate, thoughtful, and inviting decor, you’re invited to slow down a bit. Put the phone away, have some comfort food, a pint of local beer (the restaurant has partnered with nearby Lucky Hare for a house lager) or a glass of wine or spirits. Speaking of booze, owner Dan Morton says the bar staff has been working on beer-and-spirits pairings—everything from their extensive bourbon, rye, and Scotch offerings to tequila and mescal. Get adventurous. —John Holl