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Boston's best: Craft beer bars

You don’t need to know a different language to appreciate good beer; just let your taste buds—and maybe a knowledgeable barkeep—guide you. Why pay $5.50 for a Heineken when for a dollar more you can get an unpronounceable hefeweizen or Flemish Sour from Belgium, 7% more alcohol and a flavor that will have you cravin' more? Here are ten Boston bars where you can learn a thing or two about beer and please your palate.
 
The Haven
It’s the only Scottish bar in the city, and the only place you can get Kelpie with your Haggis. Kelpie blends seaweed and chocolate flavors, and is as dark as the blackest porter. But it’s got a brisk, light taste, tinged with ocean salt. Other Haven perks include Brew Dog on tap and deep-fried chocolate bars. The atmosphere is immersive: Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub on the soundtrack, tartan curtains, antler chandeliers and a bathroom plastered with obscure Scottish comics and soccer programs. Signature brew: Skull Splitter, a strong 8.5% wee heavy. 2 Perkins St, Jamaica Plain (617-524-2836, thehavenjp.com)
 
Lord Hobo
Lord Hobo has transformed the space formerly occupied by the B-Side Lounge. Enter through dark curtains and your attention is immediately drawn to the bar, with its 40 taps raised up in the center like an altar to the god of hops. Here you’ll find bartenders happy to show you the delicious and obscure—like a pale ale lovingly brewed by a Belgian father and son in their spare time away from their day job at a big brewery. Signature brew: Cantillon Vigneronne, aged with Italian Muscat grapes, its smooth yet lightly bubbly. 92 Hampshire St, Inman Square, Cambridge (617-250-8454, lordhobo.com)
 
Bukowski Tavern
Named for the booze-loving author, attitude is everything at Bukowski. The style reflects the interest of the beer-slinging crew: Sex Pistols on the juke and a beer menu that lists “Ales,” “Lagers” and “Funky Shit,” which includes a Brooklyn Chocolate Stout and a Blanche De Bruxelles Wit from Belgium. All the usual local suspects can be found: Pretty Things, Magic Hat and Berkshire Brewing Company. Competition in the draught wars has forced Buk’s to put in more taps than ever before. Signature brew: Deus De Flanders, aged for 2 years, and a hefty $45 a bottle. 1281 Cambridge St, Inman Square, Cambridge (617-497-7077); 50 Dalton St, Downtown, Boston (617-437-9999)
 
Cambridge Brewing Company
CBC is something of an veteran rock star on the Boston beer scene. It certainly has the merchandising down: brand hats, T-shirts and pint glasses are all available for purchase. Founded in 1989, it’s the longest standing brewery-restaurant in the city, and the first in the country to produce a Belgian-style beer: the Triple Threat. The room itself is spacious and comfortable with lots of long, shiny pine surfaces. The gleaming tanks and kettles where the brewing happens are prominent and visible from every seat in the house, but the best seats are on the front patio (in good weather, of course). Signature brew: Cerise Cassee, a tart, barrel-fermented ale made from sour cherries. 1 Kendall Sq Building 100, Kendall Square, Cambridge (617-494-1994, cambrew.com)
 
The Lower Depths
The name comes from a dour Russian play, and the theme is living in the pits of despair. Sound like fun? The concept is played up with a huge mural depicting famous depressives such as Sid Vicious and Patti Smith. Join the mug club and you get six months to drink one glass of all 163 available beers, which works out to nearly one a day. The prize? A free 25-ounce mug. You can fill it anytime, in case you didn’t get enough beer in the previous six months. Signature brew: A rare Belgian Duvel (it means “devil”) Triple Hop, with a nose-tingling, champagne-like effervescence and sugary taste. 476 Commonwealth Ave, Kenmore Square, Boston (617-266-6662)
 
Deep Ellum
Former bartenders from Bukowski got it into their heads that they could do it better. The result is a comforting atmosphere, exposed brick, dim lighting, a back porch during warm weather and a ridiculously knowledgeable waitstaff. Deep Ellum stocks an eclectic and stylish collection of everything from Abbey-style craft beers for the adventurous and well-heeled to PBR for the musicians, bike messengers, students and other low-budget hipsters of Allston Rock City who descend on the place in droves. Signature brew: G. Schneider + Sohn “Aventinus” Weizen-Dopplebock, a strong, dark German wheat beer. 477 Cambridge St, Allston (617-787-2337, deepellum-boston.com)
 
Galway House
This joint is a townie hangout that caters to a wide range of beer-lovers. The pub trappings include a bustling bar area, sports posters of all stripes, framed shots of Ireland, Keeno and a huge sign that reads: I’d card my own mother! A lot of 22-ounce Arrogant Bastards and Narragansetts are sold here. During the summer, it’s the only place around where you can find Hawaiian beer. Signature brew: A thick, hearty Russian working-class beer called Baltika that comes in a PBR-like can. 720 Centre St, Jamaica Plain (617-524-9677)
 
Publick House
This is the place where bartenders from all of the other bars in town will send you if they don’t have a certain obscure Belgian Trappist Chimay Rouge or Affilgem Blonde on hand. Here, authenticity is key—and the collection of Trappist and Abbey ales is astounding. The highlights: Belgian (strong, dark to white), Hefeweizen, Schwarzbier, Scottish Ale, Oatmeal Stouts, Sweet Stouts. Publick also uses beer in its dishes, which are equally varied and delicious. Signature brew: Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Red, tart and good for sipping. 1648 Beacon St, Brookline (617-277-2880, publickhouse.com)
 

Sunset Grill
Sunset is the true granddaddy of all the draft beer purveyors in town. You won’t get sublime atmosphere or an exhaustive selection of obscure brews, but this is the place that has, by far, the most taps running at once: more than 100. The place has all the ambiance of an amusement park, with beer signage and memorabilia crowding the walls and BU students and sundry Allstonians crowding the tables and bars. It's a good spot to go when your mood s rowdy. Signature brew: Goose Island Fleur, a flowery Belgian-style ale brewed in Chicago. 130 Brighton Ave, Allston (617-254-1331, allstonsfinest.com)
 
Boston Beer Works
Beerworks' two locations draws tons of tourists, thanks to its proximity to monster sports venues. One has a view of Fenway Park and the other is a stone’s throw from TD Banknorth Garden. Both brewpubs feature the same multi-tiered, gridded aluminum look and oblique angles that give the sense you’re in a space station that happens to serve alcohol. Once you get past the Beer Disneyland aesthetic, you'll discover they have some great beer. The in-house brews have Boston-y names like Paul Revere Rye Lager and Boston Garden Golden. Signature brew: Blueberry beer, which has a light, fruity taste; but it’s really all about the optics, as the blueberries waft up and down like sea monkeys. 61 Brookline Ave, Fenway (617-536-2337); 110 Canal St, North End, Boston (617-896-2337, beerworks.net)


Comments
We visited Meadhall yesterday (March 23). Someone local should write this up. Exceptional bar with huge choice and knowledgeable staff.
By UK visitor (not verified) on 3/24/2014 at 9:11 am
I think Meadhall in Cambridge belongs on this list.
By Horace (not verified) on 3/23/2013 at 1:06 pm
I think Meadhall in Cambridge belongs on this list.
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By Badoo Sexy (not verified) on 4/03/2012 at 11:09 am
Don't forget Cambridge Common, which has a great selection of craft beer and excellent brunch.
By Melissa (not verified) on 2/04/2011 at 5:09 pm
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