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Beer -- in all its barley and hops glory -- is finally getting its time in the hot South Florida sun. Sure, Fort Liquordale and environs have always had a soft spot for (flavorless) spring break brews that go down nice and easy on the beach, but now that craft beer mania has hit our shores, real beer is easier than ever to find.
The challenge now is to choose where to enjoy that awesome triple IPA or pumpkin brew. Clean Plate Charlie sorted through the growing list of bars, restaurants, and specialty stores with great beer selections to narrow it down to the ten best in Broward and Palm Beach counties. This list represents a range of options, from small dives to trendy restaurants. Don't see your favorite spot on the list? Sound off in the comments.
10. Tap 42 Something about the math doesn't exactly add up at this Fort Lauderdale bar, which boasts 32 crafts on tap, plus an additional 18 on a rotating basis and an ever-changing specialty cask (just for good measure). But don't get too hung up on the numbers; you'll need to focus all of your energies on the task of deciding whether to go local (the Tequesta Chancellor Kolsch, perhaps?) or to branch out (for instance, the Delirium Tremens). For those who aren't beer purists, consider having your favorite brew act as the foundation for one of the bar's new-fangled beer cocktails.
9. Brother Tuckers This bar is a stone's throw from the beach, but rest assured, it's a beer geek's joint. Instead of buckets of weak-ass watery beers, you'll get hearty Belgian brews served in proper glassware by people who know and love beer. This Pompano Beach hole in the wall won New Times' award for Best Beer Selection in 2010, with special nods given to the obscure saisons and quadrupels that dot the menu. In addition to the plethora of imports -- including some that are otherwise damned-near impossible to find in Florida bars -- the bar shows a little love to local brewers.
8. The Blind Monk It made its name first and foremost as a wine bar, but over time, the Blind Monk has gained footing as a respectable craft-beer destination. The selection is trim: You won't find hundreds of brews on the docket but, instead, a carefully chosen list of several dozen beers representing a variety of styles and regions. Try everything from Avery's White Rascal white ale to Westmalle's Tripel (a Trappist ale), or stick close to home with a Florida brew, like Cigar City's Jai Alai. As a bonus, the bar frequently collaborates with local brewers for special beercentric events.
7. World of Beer This growing chain -- there are already three locations in Broward and Palm Beach counties and two planned for Miami -- earns bonus points for its active event calendar that often zeroes in on Florida brewers or cool American craft labels. But even on those days when you won't find a special tap takeover or street party to attend, there's the bulky beer list with which to contend. The voluminous tome is separated by draft or bottle and further categorized by style and alphabetical order, with notations on ABV and country of origin. All of this organization is critical when you've got literally hundreds of choices at your disposal.
6. PRL Euro Cafe Vowels are in short supply on this Hollywood bar's intercontinental menu. The selection of imports -- particularly from the Eastern Bloc and to a lesser degree, Great Britain -- is so vast, it'll be a bit like reliving your junior spent studying abroad in Warsaw. With prices that undercut the trendier competition, you'll have more room to explore the offerings. A typical night might start with a conversation with a strong Belgian (Delirium Tremens) and finish with a cheeky Brit (Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale). The dark, narrow space is cluttered with strange art, experimental music, and odd people, all of which makes for a helluva fun time.
5. Tryst Not a lot of restaurants can boast that they carry the likes of Dogfish Head's Burton Baton -- a hard-hitting imperial IPA with a 10 percen ABV -- on tap, but that's just one of the out-of-the-ordinary offerings you might find at this trendy Delray Beach haunt. The draft list is home to familiar players like Stone Brewery and Cigar City, but don't be surprised to find left-field choices like the Double Simcoe double IPA from Weyerbacher. The bottle list, meanwhile, sports a healthy variety of Belgians, lagers, stouts, fruity brews, hefeweizens, and even a few Trappist ales. It also doesn't hurt that the food is pretty darned good, with lots of choices that pair nicely with a cold brew.
4. Funky Buddha Lounge Like the faces of some of the city's residents, the beer menu at this Boca bar is in a constant state of flux. Beers are rotated in and out with the seasons, but there's a consistency in the overall quality that comes from having a crew of bona fide beer lovers behind every decision. The bottle selection skews American craft but also boasts a strong showing from the Belgians and Trappists, in addition to rare imports. For those who prefer hyperlocal, try one of Funky Buddha's own microbrews, like the always-popular Hop Gun IPA and Red Dawn Red Ale. Or get adventurous with a fruit-, coffee-, or herb-infused brew.
3. Riverside Market Nothing but love for Total Wine & More, but sometimes, you just want to buy where everybody knows your name. Throw your beer budget to the local guy and you might just find widen your social circle even as you stock your fridge with an exceptional array of beers. This beloved neighborhood institution -- which also serves beer-friendly fare like sandwiches and pizza -- aims to make its band of loyal customers feel right at home. If, after browsing through the coolers holding no fewer than 500 beers, you still can't find what you're looking for, ask if they'll order it for you for future reference. Then, settle in and prepare to make friends with the other beer-loving locals.
2. The Coffee District The name of this Delray Beach gem is perfectly misleading. Sure, it serves caffeinated beverages and other standard coffeehouse fare, but the name belies its most enticing attraction: beer. Slip into one of the seats at the small beer bar and explore a well-curated menu that often includes rare, hard-to-find, and otherwise unusual brews from around the world. There are plenty of familiar favorites on tap (and in the bottle), but since the beer mongers at this joint are skilled at ferreting out the kinds of brews you simply won't find elsewhere in this region, it's worth taking a shot on a stranger.
1. Laser Wolf "No jerks" is the motto at this fiercely hip joint, and the saying is right on the money for those who consider ultra-mainstream light brews to be the assholes of the beer world. In short, it's never "Miller time" at this neighborhood haunt, which has no use for flavor-free barley waters (Bud, Coors, etc.). With a small selection of rotating taps and a much wider array of bottled beers, each visit can bring a surprise collection of crafts from around the world. Not sure what you're looking for? Tell the bartenders a little about what you like and they'll point you in the right direction.
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