Over the last year, I’ve written a lot about recently opened area eateries and bars that boast well-curated beer programs and solid collections of local craft brews. Oddly, these are places that aren’t even stamped with the “beer bar” label. And yet their draft selections rotate by the season, and their staffs of drink-slingers pour more than just the average pint of American Pilsner.
Which makes me wonder: Are craft beer bars even a thing anymore?
When the trend of atypical saloons focusing on well-defined and expertly curated beer selections first rose, craft beer bars were easily identifiable as suds-hubs with rows upon rows of taps, frequently updated, handwritten menus of liquid wonderment, and bottle lists categorized by more than just “domestic” and “import.”
Fast forward to now, and almost every bar in the Commonwealth sells craft beer, blurring the line between your standard joint and a “craft” one dedicated to imbibing local brews and genuflecting before a worthy collection of the harder-to-find stuff.
Sure, some spots are better than others, and a few outstanding suds depots—like Lower Depths, Lord Hobo, and Deep Ellum—are quite literally raising the bar for craft beer. That said, many of the new establishments that have opened in the last year (The Glenville Stops, The Tap Trailhouse, River Bar) and even those that weren’t previously craft beer hotbeds (think: that urine-scented dive on the corner), are now serving quality libations. Even the once craft-barren spots, like chain restaurants (see: TGI Fridays), and ballparks and sports arenas (Fenway, TD Garden), have stepped up their respective beer games.
What it comes down to is that in spite of what Budweiser’s advertising department would like you to think, today’s drinkers demand craft beer. Period.
“Craft beer is and has been on the rise; the preference of the general consumer is definitely shifting—especially in urban areas—and we are just trying to give the people what they want,” says Michael Boughton, corporate beverage director for Boston Nightlife Ventures (Forum, The Tap Trailhouse, Wink & Nod).
While some of these spots may not employ a beverage director or keep a certified cicerone behind the bar, and there might not be anything available on cask, it has become damn near impossible to belly up at a local bar and not find at least one IPA or stout spigot. Amazingly, most every bar has started serving craft beer.
Of course, there will always be those places we seek out for their utterly stunning selection of ales. But really, the craft beer bar, by definition, isn’t so much a novelty anymore as it is the new standard.
And at that, beer lovers all throughout the Hub, and everywhere for that matter, should rejoice.