Jeff Evans: The World's Best Beer Bars

28 August, 2013

Falling Rock Tap House, 1919 Blake Street, Denver 80202

fallingrocktaphouse.com

‘No crap on tap’. It’s a motto that’s been borrowed by other bars in recent times but it’s been the binding principle of the Falling Rock Tap House in Denver for some 16 years. 

Denver, of course, has built its reputation as a top beer destination by hosting the Great American Beer Festival since 1984, but a devotion to great beer in the city is not confined to those heady few days in the autumn each year. 

If you do visit Falling Rock at that time you may struggle to get in through the door, such is its reputation as the number one venue among aficionados, but slip in during a quieter period and you’ll fully appreciate what sterling service this functional, red-brick venue on two levels does for the beer lover. 

A wall of beer taps (getting on for 80) makes selecting a brew more difficult than picking a horse for the Grand National or perhaps Kentucky Derby, except that, on this occasion, you’re sure to back a winner.

Birrificio Lambrate, Via Adelchi 5, 20131 Milan

Birrificio Lambrate

birrificiolambrate.com

Of all the European countries experiencing a revival in beer fortunes, perhaps Italy’s is the most dramatic. 

Just 20 years ago there were no microbreweries even in existence, now there are heading towards 600. Bars servicing this flourishing sector have also mushroomed, although they remain sparse in the general scheme of things. 

Milan is the country’s craft brewing heartland and it is here that Italy’s beer’s soul seems to lie. This is in no way better infered than through a visit to Lambrate, in the east of the city. 

The Lambrate brewery is tucked away in the courtyard at the back but, front of house is a cheerful though nothing fancy boozer built into one wood-panelled room, dispensing glasses of the impressive house beers, plus various intruders. 

The Happy Hour is a particularly sensible initiative here. It’s not a time for cut-price quaffing. Instead, customers are treated to a buffet of antipasti and salads, thus keeping clients fresh from work in situ longer and offering a lining on which to layer another glass or two of the excellent brews. 

Its popularity means that Lambrate has now opened a second venue, a bit further south.


The Sheffield Tap, Sheffield Station, Sheaf Street, Sheffield S1 2BP, UK

Sheffield Tap

sheffieldtap.com

The station bar has seen rejuvenation in recent years, and not before time. One of the principal players has been The Sheffield Tap, located on platform 1 of the city’s railway hub. 

The former refreshment rooms have been brought back to their former glory -– all mosaic floor, vaulted ceiling and tiled walls – and taken to new heights by the introduction of a beer range that is far, far more expansive than the average commuter requires. 

Czech beer importer Pivovar and Derbyshire brewery Thornbridge are the driving forces here, as they are in sister establishments The York Tap and The Euston Tap, but expect beers from near and far, all linked by the one overriding quality of excellence. 

If the handpulls and keg fonts for some reason do not hit the spot, then check out the bulging beer fridges behind the bar. And just think: you can treat yourself to a seriously good beer education just by choosing a different beer every time you wait for a train.


Olympen, Grønlandsleiret 15, 0190 Oslo

Olympen

olympen.no

The tourist dollar doesn’t go far in Scandinavian countries so, when you’re shelling out the best part of $10 for a beer, you really want to be sure you’re getting value for money. 

In Oslo, the answer lies in Olympen. Affectionately-known as Lompa (‘Potato Cake’) to its regulars, this cavernous, 19th-century venue just to the east of the main railway station, in the socially-rising suburb known as Grønland, was once a bar of little brain. 

Recent times have seen it reborn as a pub-restaurant (plus a nightclub upstairs), elaborately fitted with dark panelling, sparkling chandeliers and murals depicting its home city, with quality beer at the heart of the new conception. 

Beers from well-known Norwegian micros Nøgne Ø and Haand Bryggeriet are found on draught and in bottle, but also in bottle are numerous international beers of note, with the likes of BrewDog, Mikkeler, Stone and Belgian Trappists prominent on the list. 

Sit behind the picture windows and watch Norwegian life roll by.


Poechenellekelder, Rue de Chêne 5, 1000 Brussels

Poechenellekelder

poechenellekelder.be

You don’t have to go far in Brussels to find great beer but there are a handful of sublime bars and cafés where the Belgian beer experience really stands out. 

Poechenellekelder is one and its position, right next to the famous Mannekin Pis statue, makes it handy if you also want to take the obligatory tourist snaps. 

The bar shares a strong connection with the little boy in full relief. It keeps the many costumes donated to preserve his modesty and some are on display among the bric-a-brac (which also includes string puppets for which the city is famous) that strews the two drinking areas (one up and one down). 

The beer choice is not the boldest in Brussels but it’s shrewdly put together and, quite honestly, offers more choice than any one beer geek could want from a visit, all served in a bustling but warm atmosphere of unpretentious hospitality.






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Nick Strangeway

Bar food's blurred lines

Once upon a time pubs and bars were somewhere you went with the sole purpose of getting pissed and there wasn’t a knife and fork in sight, just a packet of dry roasted nuts.

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