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The 12 Hottest Craft Beer Bars in America Right Now

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Tom Acitelli is the editor of Curbed Boston, but he also happens to be the author of the brand new book The Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution (order on Amazon). Below, he puts his beer knowledge to good use and recommends the hottest new beer bars across the land.

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It's American Craft Beer Week, an annual celebration of all things independent in the American beer world. Here then are 12 of the best craft beer bars in the country that opened in the past 12 months or so. These include already-trendy spots in San Diego County (The Bier Garden of Encinitas) and New York City (Proletariat, Tørst); reinvented spaces in the Carolinas' biggest town (Dillinger's Taproom in Charlotte) and on the South Boston waterfront (Harpoon's Brewpub); and a brewpub in Pennsylvania that embraces a somewhat controversial yeast strain (Tired Hands Brewing Company). Below, pull up a stool and grab a pint.

Do note that these are in no particular order.


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Harpoon's Brewpub

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Perhaps the most ballyhooed beer-hall opening of 2013 so far, the Mass. Bay Brewing Company’s brewery addition seats 300; has 20 taps of all your favorite Harpoon brands, including ones you might be hard-pressed to find outside Greater Boston; and a Bavarian-infused menu (think giant pretzels from an in-house bakery).[Photo]

Proletariat

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The tiny bar’s tag pretty much sums up its mission: “rare, new and unusual beers.” Proletariat’s menu is truly eclectic, even for the craft-beer-initiated. Case in point: One of the more expensive bottles on the menu (or any beer-bar’s menu), the $36 Glazen Toren Saison d'Erpe Mere Lentebier from the tiny KleinBrouwerij in Flanders. [Photo]

Tørst has largely lived up to the hype that surrounded its early 2013 opening, though there has been some Yelp-ing about prices (14-ounce glasses can run to $14). A bar that specializes in hard-to-find brews served largely from a constantly rotated, top-shelf tap system probably isn't going to be on the cheap side, right? Keep a particular eye out for the lambic list, featuring Belgian brands served in few other places in the States.[Photo]

Tired Hands Brewing Company

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The 11-month-old brewpub just west of Philly has a menu of meats and cheeses as well as a tap list that embraces saisons, the milder Belgian ales that usually pack a lemony, low-alcohol taste. There’s also what Tired Hands calls the Darwin Solera series of pale ales fermented with Brettanomyces strains. (Beer Cliff Notes: Brettanomyces, or Brett, is a controversial yeast strain among brewers. Some, especially brewers of Belgian-style ales, dig the off-flavors it can produce, others see it as dangerous particularly because of those off-flavors.) [Photo]

Nano Brew Cleveland

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The brewpub plus beer garden opened late last summer, and serves regional faves like Bell's and Great Lakes from 24 taps. There are also the hoppy products of Nano's own adjoining 1-barrel system, including an American IPA loaded with organic Citra hops. [Photo]

Old Town Pour House

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This two-level bar named after its neighborhood has been packed most nights since its March opening. It includes 24 flat-screens as well as 90 taps covering the run of the beer universe (or beerniverse), complemented by tavern-style fare. Right now, there’s a particularly extensive menu of domestic and imported seasonals. [Photo]

Dillinger's Taproom

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The taproom replaced the old Stool Pigeons restaurant in mid-2012, and with that change came an emphasis on craft beer. Yes, the 50 taps include Miller and Bud at times, but there are apt to be dozens of craft brands, including ones from a North Carolina that has become one of the biggest nexuses in small-batch brewing. There’s also 50 sandwiches on the menu. Get it? [Photo]

Cigar City Brewpub

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Cigar City has since its 2009 founding been one of the most celebrated small- to mid-range craft breweries in the U.S. It opened its first brewpub earlier this year in an old TGI Fridays, and features not only its signature brands on tap like the Jai Alai IPA but funky pub fare (think swordfish tacos and a charcuterie menu).[Photo]

The Chicago House

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The two-story bar has thrown in its lot with cask ale — the unpasteurized, unfiltered beer from special kegs called firkins. The Chicago House, which sends its own empty firkins to area breweries for fills/refills, also sports an extensive draft selection. [Photo]

Mongoose Vs Cobra

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The interestingly named beer bar in a beautifully redone historic building in Houston's Midtown has a rather deep bench: There are selections from small breweries in Massachusetts and Delaware mingling with national brands like Alaskan and New Belgium, as well as Texas names like craft-brewery pioneer St. Arnold. Then there are the Belgians and a blonde ale from Estonia called Xativa.[Photo]

The Bier Garden of Encinitas

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This San Diego County spot emphasizes the local in its 32-tap beer menu: 24 of `em are local San Diego County brands at any given time. The beer garden also has Tex-Mex fare as well as creative liquor concoctions. [Photo]

GoodLife Brewing

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Tiny Bend, Oregon's craft-beer cred goes back to the late-1980s founding of Deschutes. GoodLife is the latest addition, with a two-tap brewpub serving typically hoppy West Coast ales as well as a menu on the healthier side of the bar-food scale (hummus, but no burgers). [Photo]

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Harpoon's Brewpub

Perhaps the most ballyhooed beer-hall opening of 2013 so far, the Mass. Bay Brewing Company’s brewery addition seats 300; has 20 taps of all your favorite Harpoon brands, including ones you might be hard-pressed to find outside Greater Boston; and a Bavarian-infused menu (think giant pretzels from an in-house bakery).[Photo]

Proletariat

The tiny bar’s tag pretty much sums up its mission: “rare, new and unusual beers.” Proletariat’s menu is truly eclectic, even for the craft-beer-initiated. Case in point: One of the more expensive bottles on the menu (or any beer-bar’s menu), the $36 Glazen Toren Saison d'Erpe Mere Lentebier from the tiny KleinBrouwerij in Flanders. [Photo]

Tørst

Tørst has largely lived up to the hype that surrounded its early 2013 opening, though there has been some Yelp-ing about prices (14-ounce glasses can run to $14). A bar that specializes in hard-to-find brews served largely from a constantly rotated, top-shelf tap system probably isn't going to be on the cheap side, right? Keep a particular eye out for the lambic list, featuring Belgian brands served in few other places in the States.[Photo]

Tired Hands Brewing Company

The 11-month-old brewpub just west of Philly has a menu of meats and cheeses as well as a tap list that embraces saisons, the milder Belgian ales that usually pack a lemony, low-alcohol taste. There’s also what Tired Hands calls the Darwin Solera series of pale ales fermented with Brettanomyces strains. (Beer Cliff Notes: Brettanomyces, or Brett, is a controversial yeast strain among brewers. Some, especially brewers of Belgian-style ales, dig the off-flavors it can produce, others see it as dangerous particularly because of those off-flavors.) [Photo]

Nano Brew Cleveland

The brewpub plus beer garden opened late last summer, and serves regional faves like Bell's and Great Lakes from 24 taps. There are also the hoppy products of Nano's own adjoining 1-barrel system, including an American IPA loaded with organic Citra hops. [Photo]

Old Town Pour House

This two-level bar named after its neighborhood has been packed most nights since its March opening. It includes 24 flat-screens as well as 90 taps covering the run of the beer universe (or beerniverse), complemented by tavern-style fare. Right now, there’s a particularly extensive menu of domestic and imported seasonals. [Photo]

Dillinger's Taproom

The taproom replaced the old Stool Pigeons restaurant in mid-2012, and with that change came an emphasis on craft beer. Yes, the 50 taps include Miller and Bud at times, but there are apt to be dozens of craft brands, including ones from a North Carolina that has become one of the biggest nexuses in small-batch brewing. There’s also 50 sandwiches on the menu. Get it? [Photo]

Cigar City Brewpub

Cigar City has since its 2009 founding been one of the most celebrated small- to mid-range craft breweries in the U.S. It opened its first brewpub earlier this year in an old TGI Fridays, and features not only its signature brands on tap like the Jai Alai IPA but funky pub fare (think swordfish tacos and a charcuterie menu).[Photo]

The Chicago House

The two-story bar has thrown in its lot with cask ale — the unpasteurized, unfiltered beer from special kegs called firkins. The Chicago House, which sends its own empty firkins to area breweries for fills/refills, also sports an extensive draft selection. [Photo]

Mongoose Vs Cobra

The interestingly named beer bar in a beautifully redone historic building in Houston's Midtown has a rather deep bench: There are selections from small breweries in Massachusetts and Delaware mingling with national brands like Alaskan and New Belgium, as well as Texas names like craft-brewery pioneer St. Arnold. Then there are the Belgians and a blonde ale from Estonia called Xativa.[Photo]

The Bier Garden of Encinitas

This San Diego County spot emphasizes the local in its 32-tap beer menu: 24 of `em are local San Diego County brands at any given time. The beer garden also has Tex-Mex fare as well as creative liquor concoctions. [Photo]

GoodLife Brewing

Tiny Bend, Oregon's craft-beer cred goes back to the late-1980s founding of Deschutes. GoodLife is the latest addition, with a two-tap brewpub serving typically hoppy West Coast ales as well as a menu on the healthier side of the bar-food scale (hummus, but no burgers). [Photo]

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