The “Love Handles” department in Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® is devoted to great beer bars. Here are the three beer bars that we explored in Issue 17 (February/March 2017).
The Dive Bar (Worcester, Massachusetts)
While it might be a dive in spirit, in reality, it serves beers from some of the most sought-after breweries in the country.
WHAT IT IS: The Dive Bar (pictured at top) is a dive like no other—in fact, it was honored by a men’s magazine as being one of the best dives in the country. Today, it may still have its divey looks with an unassuming exterior and a cramped interior, but the world-class draft list was the start of turning Worcester, Massachusetts, from a beer wasteland to a destination of great bars and several breweries.
WHY IT’S GREAT: The Dive Bar certainly looks like a dive. It’s not a pretty bar from the outside, and the inside is loud and dark. The wall is a mishmash of beer—related metal tins and some real dive—inspired (the underwater variety) decorations. But, that’s where the similarities end. If you walk into The Dive Bar, you’re walking into one of the best beer destinations in all of central Massachusetts. The draft list is unmatched in Worcester County, with the exception of owner Alec Lopez’s other Worcester bar, the Armsby Abbey. On any given night, the too-dark and often too-loud Dive Bar will have sixteen world-class beers from such critically acclaimed breweries as Hill Farmstead, Trillium Brewing Company, Maine Beer Company, and Allagash Brewing. The TV doesn’t have cable, but often a cult classic will be playing on DVD, and the outdoor patio is a great place to hang out during the summer. —Norman Miller
Hours: Daily, 6 p.m.–2 a.m.
Address: 34 Green St., Worcester, MA
Barbara’s at The Brewery (Los Angeles, California)
One of the best-kept beer secrets in Los Angeles, Barbara’s at The Brewery is a bar tied to L.A.’s brewing history.
WHAT IT IS: Just east of downtown Los Angeles is a sprawling compound known as The Brewery, and while no beer is made there today, for most of the twentieth century, a succession of brewing companies called it home. Pabst Brewing shuttered the plant in 1979, and the buildings were converted into a live-work colony home to some 400 artists. Amidst this jumble of warehouses-turned-lofts is a casual tavern with one of L.A.’s best-curated tap lists.
WHY IT’S GREAT: As the studios and workshops in The Brewery Arts Complex buzz with activity, the cafe at its center is a quiet oasis offering an impressive list of (primarily local) craft beers. Even with “only” 20 draught lines, the decision of what to order is always a tough one at Barbara’s. Local favorites from the likes of Craftsman, Noble Ale Works, and Beachwood are always well represented, and there’s never a shortage of special kegs that you won’t see many other places in L.A. (such as the occasional keg of Death and Taxes from the renowned Moonlight Brewing in Sonoma, California). Pours are generous and the prices amenable to the starving-artist crowd, and there’s also a full bar and not one, but three patios perfect for relaxing with a beer. —John M. Verive
Hours: 9:30 a.m.−midnight, Monday−Friday, 11:00 a.m.−midnight, Saturday & Sunday
Address: 620 Moulton Ave., Los Angeles, CA
Below The Radar (Huntsville, Alabama)
A pioneer in an up-and-coming craft- beer town with a killer tap list and a great menu as well
WHAT IT IS: A brewpub with 32 taps of house beer and guest beer, a very respectable liquor and wine selection, and a pub-centric menu, situated in an older building in Huntsville’s downtown historic entertainment district.
WHY IT’S GREAT: There was a time when business took me to Huntsville every few months, back in the days when Below The Radar had just begun brewing. Discovering a comfortable bar, open relatively late (for Huntsville), with a solid kitchen and a killer beer list made the trips just a bit easier. I’d find myself there night after night—shrimp and grits at Commerce Kitchen for dinner was followed by beers at Below The Radar, with an occasional break in routine for barbecue. I’d grab an open seat at the busy bar, find something interesting such as Bell’s Hopslam or Omnipollo Moebius, and enjoy the conversation with like-minded Southern beer enthusiasts. Today, the craft-beer scene in Huntsville has taken off, with a handful of newer breweries joining Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer. Heck, there’s even a fantastic beer package shop (Old Town Beer Exchange) right across the street from BTR. But it’s still the place to go for a great mix of local and international craft beer, smack dab in a town where you might not expect it. —Jamie Bogner
Hours: 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Monday–Thursday; 11 a.m.–midnight, Friday & Saturday; 10 a.m–10 p.m. Sunday
Address: 220 Holmes Ave. N.E., Huntsville, AL
PHOTOS FROM TOP: COURTESY THE DIVE BAR, JOHN M. VERIVE, ©SHANNON MCGEE (CC BY-SA 2.0)