Best Beer Bar 2012 | The Hungry Monk | Bars & Clubs | Phoenix

In 2010, Jim Lolli converted his two-year-old Buffalo Wings & Rings franchise into the Hungry Monk, where the ever-changing beer list boasts crafts from all over the country, as well as unique blends crafted by Monk staff and friends. Maybe it's the time he spent slinging wings, but Lolli has an eccentric approach to events that twists what beer can do and be. Think tapping a 10 percent ABV double IPA at 8 a.m. and pairing it with doughnuts is a good idea? Lolli did. How about a dinner of steak and pancakes served with stouts and beer-based syrups? Lolli's all about it. Tapping parties, beer festivals, and fundraising events are where the Monk shines, but you can get a deal every day of the week — the best day to visit is Wednesday, when craft pints are just $3.

Hop Knot beat out 80 other brews in the "American-style strong pale ale" category at the 2012 World Beer Cup, which makes sense — it beat out all comers to be named our Best Local Beer last year. Four Peaks' IPA blends four different hops added at different times in the brewing process, resulting in a piney, grassy symphony that fuses with sweet caramel malts in perfect harmony. Whether in keg or cask, bottle or can, the balance and drinkability this beer delivers every time we try it show why Hop Knot is — and remains — our favorite.

Angels Trumpet Ale House

Over the past year, craft beer has exploded from a rising trend in hipster culture to a full-blown phenomenon. No longer will an "okay" beer selection with four handles and 10 bottles do. Nowadays, you'd better have at least 16 tap handles, and your bottle selection had better be epic. Thankfully, husband-and-wife duo Mat and Sharry Englehorn nailed the beer selection at their brand-new downtown Phoenix brew pub. After an entire year of renovations to Mat Englehorn's circa 1970s office building, the bar and restaurant, with its 31 rotating tap handles, opened its doors in August to the delight of the downtown craft beer drinking crews. Here you can find selections from your favorite locals, like Four Peaks and SanTan, and some of the best from national breweries such as Dog Fish Head, Odell, and Oskar Blues. Aside from the great beer selections, the pub also offers a menu of unique "upscale" bar food and a killer patio for hanging out with a nice pint on a cool Phoenix evening.

There are plenty of great reasons to visit Rúla Búla on a Wednesday night. The bar's cozy interior makes for a refreshing break from the Mill Avenue bustle and grind (the historic location, the Andre Building, certainly doesn't hurt), and the smooth-tasting pints of Guinness make the bar an Irish pub staple in the Valley. The bar's weekly pub quiz, hosted by Brainstormer Pub Quiz group, hosts bar tests and games all over the country. Teams square off against each other, answering questions about sports, pop culture, and history. Chances are the regulars are going to own the newbies, but remember: Pints of Guinness don't just make you strong, they sharpen cognitive skills, too. (We can't verify this claim, but it sounds good, right?)

Roastmaster supreme Jeffery Ross made fun of Arizona for four nights straight, which — admittedly — isn't too tough a task, given the backward-ass nature of our fair state. Meanwhile, Jackass star Steve-O is rumored to have stapled his scrotum to his leg during his visit, the motormouthed Pablo Francisco did shots with the audience and unleashed dozens of hilarious impressions, and infamous vulgarian Dave Attell spun disgustingly humorous yarns about his love of pornography. Yup, a multitude of memorable, mirthful, and madcap moments have taken place inside Stand Up Live since the snazzy-looking comedy club opened at CityScape in downtown Phoenix more than a year ago. A virtual "who's who" of comics has graced the stage at the upscale laugh den — which features such posh amenities as a copper fire pit and stone waterfall — including countless cutups who have appeared on Comedy Central programming or worked the late-night chat circuit. Besides appearances by homegrown yukster David Spade, Stand Up Live has been visited by former Saturday Night Live cast members Jay Mohr and Jim Breuer, as well as Drew Carey, 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, and Brian Posehn of Mr. Show fame. A variety of up-and-coming local comedians are also showcased throughout the month, and thanks to the club's high-tech sound system, you can practically hear the flop sweat dripping off their brows after a bad joke bombs.

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The history of American music is littered with legends about "pickup bands," units of players so adept and quick on their feet that touring songwriters needed only to show up in town and contact the band to back them at a bar or club gig. The members of the karaoke band at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill in Mesa are kind of like those legendary sidemen, only they back up a different kind of performer: the warbling drunkard stumbling on stage to belt out a rendition of "Neon Moon." That these guys are pro enough to make even the worst singer sound passable isn't just a skill. It's what makes this East Valley haunt so popular with townies and regulars.

Jennifer Goldberg

Ask any self-respecting hipster what Phoenix bar has the best jukebox in town and you're asking for an argument. Though we're certainly not immune to the charms of other establishments, it's hard to deny the nearly universal appeal of the Shady's box. Featuring soul, vintage alternative, punk, mod, Brit pop, and local gems from Phoenix's past, the Shady's juke not only features a little of everything, but the selections representing each genre are top-notch. So let the argument rage on — as long as there are the kind of rocksteady sounds found on the Shady's jukebox to shout over.

In local director Travis Mills' The Big Something, a slacker noir set in the Valley, pool hall Q& Brew plays a pivotal role. It makes sense. Nestled away in the same strip mall that houses the Yucca Tap Room and Sky High Smoke shop, the Brew has got a lo-fi kind of charm. It's resolutely hipster-proof, the kind of place you go for a real game of pool (a couple of local leagues meet there), not some sort of ironic Portlandia skit. Which isn't to say that the place is shady. The staff keeps things exactly as they should be, and the plush tucked leather bar is one of the smoothest and coolest in town.

In Scottsdale, theme bars are king. The city's nightlife landscape overflows with rustic cowboy saloons, greasy rock joints, kitschy island bars, and even an effin' dance club inspired by a bank. So it's not surprising in the least that Spanish Fly, a Mexican beach bar with a pool on the premises, would be a hit. The concept proved so successful that its proprietors (who also own such theme eateries as Geisha A Go Go and Stingray Sushi) opened a similar swimming spot called El Santo in North Scottsdale. And it's just as groovy as its sister establishment, if not more so. Boasting a much larger and swankier spread than Spanish Fly, El Santo features a 2,800-square-foot pool, twice as many chic VIP cabanas, a bigger waterfall, two separate bars (including one resembling a gigantic grass hut), and waitresses sporting teeny-tiny bikinis. The kitchen serves delicious street-style tacos and other Baja cuisine offerings, but be sure to use a napkin when noshing, lest you stain your designer swimsuit with chipotle sauce.

Lauren Cusimano

A good jukebox is key to a good time — even if you're watching the game. Hey, we're all about multi-tasking these days, even when we're out on the town. And the jukebox at Time Out Lounge typically pumps out good jams from the likes of Elvis Costello, The Buzzcocks, and The Stooges. It's usually pretty mellow in the Time Out, as the name suggests, but that's one of its main charms. Behind its wood-paneled walls (blocking the windows, natch), punks and scenesters shoot pool, drink cold beers, and, yes, watch football (or the game du jour). The Time Out is a no B.S. kind of place, and while you can find trendier and hipper bars around town, why would you want to?

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