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In the 1980s a handful of home brewers had a vision: to create a choice of full-flavored beers unlike the mass-produced beers that had come to dominate the American beer market. The obsession of brewing high-quality, diverse ales with unique character has since swept the nation. To date, there are 4,269 small and independent craft breweries operating in cities all across the United States, up from just 1,447 in 2005, and craft beer now accounts for $22.3 billion of the overall $105.9 billion beer market. Research firm Technavio predicts U.S. craft beer will grow another 18 percent between 2014 and 2019.
With so many available choices today, bars specializing in craft beer have become a common site across America. Yet as most beer lovers know, a great establishment isn't just about the ale. Atmosphere, friendly staff and special events are also a major draw.
Craftbeer.com — a website created on behalf of U.S. craft brewers and administered by the Brewers Association — recently released their list of the 51 best craft beer bars in America. Here is a sampling of the winners, voted on by 9,000 craft beer fans nationwide.
— By Barbara Booth, CNBC.com
Posted 7 April 2016
This Scottsdale neighborhood gathering spot has a huge dog-friendly beer garden and serves up wood-fired pizzas to pair with their small-batch brews. If you enter Fate through the side door, patrons can view their entire brewing operation, which has brewed more than 200 different varieties and styles of beer in total since the brewery opened.
Year founded: 2012
Located just one mile from the entrance of Denali Park in the Old Northern Lights Theater, Prospectors Historic Pizzeria and Alehouse provides a glimpse into Alaska's past with its collection of old Alaskan photos, artifacts and maps throughout.
Prospectors offers rare beers from around the world, each served in their specific glassware. If a patron drinks all 53 beers during their open season, they get a free T-shirt. If someone completes that four times, they get a round-trip ticket from Alaska to Hawaii.
Year founded: 2010
Housed in a newly renovated 100-year-old five-story former furniture store in Roanoke, Blue 5 provides a historical feel, with original hardwood floors and high tin ceilings. Patrons can listen to live music three nights a week while enjoying Southern-inspired cuisine and choosing a beer from one of their 46 taps from around the world.
Year founded: 2007
Modeled after a modern German-style beer hall, the Brown Iron Brewhouse, in Washington Township, features high ceilings and a large open space with community seating. Outside sits a huge patio, which seats 100 and includes two gas fireplaces and an outdoor bar.
Their Breathe and Brew brunch — where patrons enjoy an hour of yoga in the brewhouse (and on the patio in the summer) followed by a beer and light lunch — draws a large crowd.
Year founded: 2015
This farm-to-table gastropub located in downtown Burlington showcases local cheeses and produce and provides a speakeasy feel. In the cold months, patrons spend evenings near the fireplace playing darts in the subterranean parlor bar. In warmer weather they sit out in the beer garden.
Year founded: 2010
Located in a 110-year-old building on the main street of the historic district of downtown Round Rock, this beer bar features 60 rotating taps.
Their most famous guests are two ghosts, who the owners claim have resided in the building for decades. One, a young woman in a white wedding dress that has been seen gliding up and down a staircase. The other ghost is a little boy who can be heard bouncing a ball on the second floor.
Year founded: 2013
Located in Fargo, Wurst Bier Hall is a German-themed bar with long communal tables. It is widely known for its Das Boot — a 92-ounce glass beer boot — that is served to patrons along with a lengthy, humorous set of rules, including never allowing the boot to touch the table until it's empty and always drinking from it with the toe facing up. Besides Wurst's numerous other events, each year the brewery holds three weekends of Oktoberfest celebrations.
Year founded: 2014
This cigar-friendly pub, located in Baltimore, is widely known for hosting events, including its Belgian Beer Festival, held every year on President's Day Weekend, followed on Monday by its Sour Beer Festival, as well as a Hopfest, Italian Fest and the weekly Monday Sucks Happy Hour.
Year founded: 1986
Draft: 105 plus 5 casks
This brewery is located in the rural town of Willimantic, in the northeastern part of the state. Housed in a granite-and-limestone 1909 U.S. Post Office Building that was abandoned in 1967 by the federal government, it stayed vacant for nearly 30 years before it was turned into a restaurant and pub brewery. Much of the early 20th-century architecture has been retained, including the original terrazzo floors. Remnants of post office memorabilia have been preserved and are featured throughout. A new addition, however, is a 60-foot handmade mahogany bar.
Year founded: 1997
Just what does it mean to be an authentic craft brewer? According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers must be small, independent and traditional, with an annual output that must be 6 million barrels or less. No more than 25 percent of the brewery can be owned by a brewer of noncraft beer, and the majority of the brewery's output must consist of "beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation."
"Beer has been around for centuries, but the excitement and following it has garnered in the past few decades can be traced to the flavors and authentic stories of independent brewers," said Andy Sparhawk, craft beer program coordinator for the Brewers Association. "The small and independent craft brewers are creating not just a beverage, but an experience," he added.
(For the entire Craftbeer.com report on the best beer bars, click here.)