There's something really cool about the craft beer bar. It's quirky and eclectic and sometimes just being there provides entertainment in and of itself. You have the ultra beer geeks, usually dudes with beards as long as Gandalf the Grey's sticking their noses into the beer and discussing its attributes as if world peace hangs in the balance. You have the newbie crowd that walks in and gets freaked out because they've never heard of anything on the list, so they panic and order a Bud Light. And there's the bar and waitstaff that often sound like encyclopedias of beer knowledge (or beer Rain Men, if you will) when asked simple questions about what's new on tap. Today we give a shout out to a terrific "10 plus" craft-centric watering holes that you need to check out right now. If craft beer is your thing, these are your destination spots. The beers rotate often, and there's a good chance that a specific beer mentioned in this article may be gone by the time you get there, but never fear; something equally cool and worthwhile will likely replace it.
Angel's Trumpet Ale House
810 North Second Street
If we had to pick one bar that had the ultimate selection of hard-to-find craft beer, Angel's would be the place. Even tried and true beer geeks have questions in this place. Owners Mat and Sharry Englehorn have built loyal relationships with beer companies over the years so when that ultra-rare keg only gets to one or two places in Arizona, chances are Angel's will be the place that gets it. Thirty-one taps, including nitro taps, covering most popular beer styles are available. The full menu is solid, with a lot of variety and character. The comfortable atmosphere at Angel's makes you feel like you are at a friend's basement for great beers and an evening of fun. Open every day except Monday, you can check them out before a game downtown or make Angel's a destination place. Conveniently located steps from the Central Avenue/Roosevelt Street light rail station, the location makes it easy to get home safely. A must try is Odell's Friek, a tart cherry beer filled with flavor and complexity.
The Attic Ale House
4247 East Indian School Road
If Angel's feels like hanging out in a friend's basement, then relaxing at the Attic in Arcadia is like hanging out in a friend's loft. The only craft establishment on our list that requires you to navigate a flight of steps (both before and after your evening, so keep that in mind), the Attic has a full menu highlighted by huge burgers and an assortment of pizzas. TVs are spread throughout, though you don't get the feel of a sports bar here. The beer selection is excellent, and on a recent visit they featured two hard-to-find draft selections that were out of this world: the Paulaner Kristallklar (a clear hefeweizen) and High Water Brewing's Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. If just hearing the name Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie evokes excitement, drinking it will definitely make you glad you made the trip.
Boulders on Broadway
530 West Broadway Road, Tempe
Thirty drafts and more than 70 bottle selections means no matter who you are, you will find something to enjoy at Boulders. This bike-friendly establishment is made up of a nice mix of college students, beer industry folks, locals, and craft beer connoisseurs. The pizzas shine at Boulders, and what's better with pizza than a hop-forward pale ale, IPA, or amber ale? During Arizona Beer Week, Boulders will be hosting its fifth annual Boulders Beer Fest on Sunday, February 12, from noon to 4 p.m., which is always an extremely popular event that typically sells out in advance each year. Stop in and get your tickets now, and while you're there, have a beer.
1033 North Dobson Road, Mesa
This Florida chain's first foray into Phoenix provides enticing weekly events to bring people from all over to Brass Tap. On Mondays, they feature trivia night and military and first responders receive 25 percent off everything. Every Saturday, live music is featured. For the regulars, Brass Tap has a Brew Crew card that allows you to accrue points and get rewarded with merchandise. An upscale food menu, a selection of wine, and ample TVs to watch your favorite sports game gives everyone something to look forward to at Brass Tap. This is a popular spot for Cubs fans due to its close proximity to their spring training facility just down the street. And did we mention the beer? Yeah, they got that: more than 200 different beers counting draft and bottle selections.
6922 East Main Street, Scottsdale
A focus on local, Arizona craft beer, fine wine, and wood-fired handcrafted pizzas await you at Craft 64. Happy hour goes from 4 to 7 p.m. every day, when you get $1 off all local beers. The hands-on owners are all specialists in their fields, bringing years of expertise to this hot yet homey Scottsdale attraction. Craft 64 focuses on local, organic ingredients, and they make their own mozzarella from scratch daily. If it's brewed in Arizona, you can usually find it at Craft 64. Say hello to James while you enjoy your pint and chances are you'll learn something about beer or Arizona brewing history that you didn't know before your visit.
The Deli Sports Bar
9635 West Peoria Avenue, Peoria
The west side's craft beer destination may conjure the term dive bar, but it's meant only as a term of endearment. This unassuming spot showcases local and national craft beers paired with inexpensive, tasty American bar food staples that will leave you feeling satisfied. Live music, beer specials, and your favorite game on the tube will make your craft beer even tastier.
1805 East Elliot Road, Tempe
Step into Flanny's and it won't be long until owner John Flanagan reaches out his hand and greets you personally. This neighborhood craft beer mecca is known for showcasing craft beer events. A full menu, friendly staff, and lots of activity, especially around the popular bar area, will make you feel right at home. Local beers also get their fair share of time on Flanny's 24 rotating taps. While the weather is still somewhat cold, sip on a legendary Yeti Imperial Stout made by Great Divide Brewing Company.
680 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
In the heart of Arizona State's Mill Avenue district lies Handlebar, an unassuming craft beer hot spot. Featuring indoor and outdoor bar seating and a spacious patio in the back, Handlebar is a prime spot to watch all the interesting characters of Mill Avenue. The selections rotate often, and the bar has been known as the place to enjoy a wide variety of New Belgium Brewery's beers. Handlebar's grilled cheese sandwich has been nominated as the area's best, and other comfort foods make excellent pairings with their extensive draft list. Go see resident beer geek Nick Nitz, who will lead you to your next favorite beer.
1760 West Chandler Boulevard, Chandler
The Monk has been the East Valley gathering place to the craft beer community for years. It's hard to walk in this American eatery and not find at least one beer rep espousing the attributes of the brewery they represent. A beer menu that showcases the best of the craft beer world often includes rarities as well as a few craft staples such as Firestone Walker Union Jack and Deschutes Black Butte Porter. Twenty-seven taps and 20 bottle selections await you. On Wednesday nights, you can enjoy most craft drafts for just $3 along with discounted boneless wings. The Monk is also known for its brewery dinner nights featuring an array of different breweries, local and national, throughout the year.
Taste of Tops
403 West University Drive, Tempe
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Owner Greg Eccles is a Certified Cicerone and one heck of a beer geek. He created his own personal craft beer paradise next to his popular beer store, Tops Liquor. Themed tap takeovers are common at Taste of Tops, showcasing the world's best stouts one week while featuring the greatest IPAs the next. The crowd is eclectic here, with businessmen hanging out with college students sharing a table with resident hippies. Never fear: Everyone is welcome and if you can't find something among the 30 rare taps, then walk over to the cooler where you have 600 bottles and cans to choose from. Try an Alesmith Speedway Stout next time you're around. Just be sure to have a hearty meal beforehand to handle this 12 percent ABV monster.
Honorable Mention: Chop 'n' Wok
10425 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Wait a minute ... a Chinese restaurant among the list of craft beer bars in Arizona? You betcha! Chop 'n' Wok is all about having a good time with good food, beers, music, and conversation, and it all starts behind the bar with rock star bartender Jamie Mather. If the rock 'n' roll motif adorning the restaurant doesn't make you double check where you are, then the (mostly) punk rock serenading you through the speakers will. The menu is extensive and solid, the craft beers are rotating and interesting, and Mather always has a story for you. No craft beer hot spot list in Phoenix would be complete without including the unique and fun Chop 'n' Wok.