Draft Magazine is a nationally published magazine focused beer culture. They have been around since 2006, sometimes featuring celebrities on their covers. All in all, its not the nerds guide to beer. Its more of a sassy celebration of all things barley pop.
Don’t let my description drive you away. Draft Magazine is good. In fact, all 3 of the Beer Blotter writers are subscribers. We enjoy the fact that Draft presents a global expose on happenings in the beer world. Its really a good way to locate beer venues from around the world.
Just this week, Draft released its annual Top 100 beer bars list. This list is sorted geographically into 4 regions. I was afraid that they were attempting to force options for each of these regions, but it appears that the selections are not equally divided (for example, the Northeast has many more than the South). So, it appears that the choices are without prejudice.
In scouring the list, I was very pleased to see places like Avenue Pub (New Orleans), Apex (Portland), Blind Lady Alehouse (San Diego) and our very own Monk’s hole – The Stumbling Monk (Seattle).
But, one cannot peruse the list without finding their own list of absentees. While less deserving pubs made it (i.e. Cooter Browns (New Orleans), Green Dragon (Portland), McNulty’s Bier Markt (Cleveland)), some of the nation’s most celebrated beer venues are missing.
While that absentee list will differ for each of us, here are my Top 5 Absentees:
- Brouwers Cafe (Seattle) – They must have pissed off a Draft Magazine writer. Many of us know that Brouwers can sometimes rub the wrong way (and its been stated by commenters here on the site), but there is no better selection of ale in the NW. Brouwers routinely procures 60 taps of rare beer, one of the best bottle lists in the country and an unprecedented number of unmatched in-house beer festivals (See Sour Fest, Hopfest, Big Wood, and Hard Liver). Again, they must have pissed someone off.
- Bangers & Lace (Chicago) – This might simply be too early for Draft to call this place a winner. But, Bangers & Lace has quickly ascended to the top of the Chicago beer world. Presenting an unmatched selection of rare beer, along with phenomenal food, B&L deserves a spot. Guest writer For Whom the Bell Toales agrees that this is the #1 beer venue in Chi-town.
- Small Bar (San Diego) – Ok Ok, they got it mostly right. Hamilton’s Tavern, Blind Lady Alehouse, and O’Brien’s Pub should all be on the list. But, Small Bar gives that Top 3 a run for their money. Mixing a spectacular beer selection with epic food and spunky surroundings, I think it deserved a spot above many of the LA selections.
- Brew Kettle (Strongsville, OH) - Draft picked one of the many Cleveland suburb favorites – Buckeye Beer Engine. But, I think they got the wrong one. The Brew Kettle blends an incredible draft lineup (thank god for the connection with Founders), house made ales, and some spectactular bar grub. Get drunk enough? Go brew a batch in the back. Beyond that – its just a cool dark place to grab a beer.
- New York’s Forgotten Trio – Ginger Man, Mug’s Alehouse and d.b.a. (NY, NY) – They picked a lot of NY spots. I can understand that its pretty tough to run into your editor’s office and say we picked the Top 100 – 20 of them are in NY. Its a tough job to pick between the excellent spots in NYC. In my mind, they got the top 3 on the list – Rattle N Hum, Blind Tiger and Spuyten Duyvil. Those three are iconic, and the three places that I spend the most time while in NY. But, the above three all deserve a shot at the list. The Ginger Man is just a few blocks from Rattle N Hum – many would say its the cooler bar. Mug’s is tucked away in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But unlike the uber-hipster crowd at Spuyten Duyvil, you will find comfort at this grog spot. d.b.a. is the lone East Village fave. d.b.a. has been pouring beer for a long time and has an excellent wide spread selection.
I will say, writing the Top 5 absentees was pretty tough. All in all they did a great job finding the appropriate bars. The Top 100 is a worthy list and you should take a glance.
What else is missing!?
Week 35 of 52:
Type of Establishment:
Classic English pub, basking in soccer action. Focus of this place: really good local beer.
A Monday morning around 11:00 AM, on a hot summer day. This was our first stop on an epic 1-day cruise through San Diego’s beer scene. Luckily, I was stone sober and able to faithfully review the place.
BEERS ON TAP (at time of visit):
This is one of the greatest tap lists that I have ever seen. However, this is because they were sporting an unprecedented 8 beers from Alpine Beer Company – my favorite US brewer. The shock factor alone was hard to manage.
The tap list is online here. Its updated frequently and actually looks more attractive right now then when I was there (shocking!). Here is what was pouring during my visit:
Alpine Nelson Rye IPA
Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
Alpine Duet IPA
Green Flash West Coast IPA
Coronado Idiot IPA
Bear Republic Tribute Brown
Alpine Good Barleywine
Port Brewing Mongo IPA
Alpine Red Card
Alpine Pure Hoppiness
Lagunitas Olde Gnarleywine
Alpine Ned Flanders Red Sour Ale
…..and a few others.
You know what – I did not do my homework. After being forced into a coma over the Alpine tap selection, I failed to get a glimpse of the bottle selection.
However, O’Brien’s knows how to run a beer bar. They have a full list of their bottles on their website, which you can view by visiting this link. Check out the offerings from Alesmith, Ballast Point (Sculpin!), Jolly Pumpkin, De Molen, and other amazing European brewers.
If you cannot find something on tap – you are unconscious. But, do not fret. The bottle list is out of this world.
Once again, O’Brien’s does not disappoint. From fried stuff to leafy stuff – O’Brien’s has something for you. Check out their amazing selection of soups, or their fish tacos.
We grabbed a special platter of amazing house sausage. If memory serves me, it was a collection of beer broiled bratwurst, amongst a bounty of cheeses. Really good way to start off your day of beer drinking.
O’Brien’s Pub is a pub – bar none. There are no two ways about it. They do two things: watch soccer and drink great beer.
O’Brien’s sports a dark and deep bar area. Nothing fancy, nothing dreary. The walls are covered in beer shwag and soccer garb. Soccer is played on the bar’s several screens, including a large projection screen for the big game. We visited during the World Cup; you could feel the fanfare thick in the air.
One of the most impressive elements of the O’Brien’s experience is their relationship with San Diego heavyweight, Alpine Beer Co. O’Briens plays host to several of Alpine’s beer releases and almost always pours 2 or 3 of their beers at any given time. In fact, Alpine brewed a collaboration ale for the bar to sell, in-house.
During our visit, the bar was on day 2 of a hefty Alpine taplist. We got to sample Alpine’s barleywine, flemish red and massive IPAs. Not one of these beers disappointed. Nothing stopped our hearts like Alpine’s Ned. A Flemish Red with a mouth puckering sourness, this beer had a dark, rich maltiness that perfectly matched its tart flavor. Champion of our day.
In addition to the Alpine taps, we saw great choices from other locals, Port Brewing, Green Flash Brewing and Coronado
Brewing. Each of these breweries produce a line of incredible West Coast IPAs. You can be sure to see a heavy percentage of IPAs on their tap list, at all times. Check out the current list by following this link.
Now that I have informed you that its nearly impossible to have just one beer, you probably want to know if they have something to soak up all that booze. Luckily for you, O’Briens has some damn good food.
If I can recommend something: get the sausage. I really don’t care which type, just buy some sausage. Its all delicious. O’Briens serves up hot links in the brewers plate, beer braised brats and some spicy italian hot sausage. The sandwich list is rather extensive and with nothing over $7.00 – how can you lose!? Remember, this is Southern California and nothing comes cheap.
O’Briens loves happy hour. Each night, they offer something different. Check out the list, but we suggest you make a Monday trip and take advantage of $10.00 craft pitchers! They also pour $3.50 (or cheaper) pints three days a week. I’m thinking Satuday from 12-4, might be your ticket to excellent visit.
This pub has the most impressive of events for San Diego Beer Week – believe us. Check out their offerings by following this link. Try not to miss Day of the Belgians on November 6, Alpine Brewers Night on November 8, or Attack of the Barrels on November 12.
We will get another shot at O’Briens during San Diego Beer Week. With little to dislike about this pub, I’m sure we will have a blast.