One of the great things about accidental finds while traveling is that they give you a chance to get out of the heavily touristed areas and see more what the locals see. In a similar vein, when you live some place, at home or abroad, you learn about the “best” places, or the places tourists don’t usually find. So in this post I’m writing about some of my favorite bars in places I’ve lived. (I’ve been watching a lot of Three Sheets lately, so that may also have inspired this post.)
Why “The International Hefeweissen Search,” you ask? I am a sucker for a good German hefeweissen (wheat beer – American versions are not the same), so I often rate a bar by the availability of said beer type.
So, here we go!
Dare I say it? The Brauhaus is probably my all-time favorite bar anywhere, ever. I can’t make a trip back to Edinburgh without going there. It has an amazing beer selection from all around the world. The menu is nicely bound to hold together all 20-or-so pages of it. This is the place that introduced me to my all-time favorite beer, Maisel’s Weisse, a beer that’s pretty much impossible to get in the US. You wouldn’t expect that much from The Brauhaus from the outside – the place is tiny. Plan on going during the week, or going very early on the weekends. On Friday and Saturday nights it can get so packed you literally can’t move. It’s a little bit outside of the city center, but get on Lauriston Place from Teviot Square, follow the street around, and you’ll run right into it.
Breaking with the beer theme, if your soft spot is for cocktails, check out another one of my favorites, Bar Kohl on George IV Bridge. They have something like 300 flavors of vodka, and pitchers of mixed drinks starting at 17 pounds. There’s also absinthe shots, if that’s your poison.
St Andrews, Scotland
This is a town where I feel the bars are a little more transient – whenever I go back there to visit, the name of at least one bar has changed. I also was in my cocktails phase when I was living there, and hadn’t yet discovered the wonderful world of beer, so I can’t really say if hefeweissen is readily available here. But The Victoria (called The Vic) is always a nice bar in the center of town, and it’s been around for awhile. And if you’re studying in St Andrews, for the love of all that is holy, please do yourself a favor and avoid the Bop. There are so many other places to go that don’t charge you a cover to sap your soul (a tad overdramatic, maybe, but you get my point).
Moving back over the pond, here are some of my favorite places in the DC area.
The district. RFD, located in Chinatown, is my personal favorite. An amazing beer selection (including multiple hefeweissens, Schneider being the best – but most expensive – one here) and delicious grilled cheese (try the gouda with sliced apples – amazing!). Some people will tell you that the Churchkey is the true beer lover’s haven in DC, but it’s a little too highbrow for me. I prefer RFD’s sports bar atmosphere.
Silver Spring, MD. If you’re in Silver Spring, skip the bars in the mall, and head out to the Quarry House. It’s a little hard to find – it’s located below an Indian restaurant, so you have to walk down a set of stairs to access the bar – and it’s a bit of a dive bar, with what my friends and I like to call a “hobbit bathroom” (you’ll understand if you use the ladies’ room while you’re there), but it’s definitely worth it. The beer selection is pretty good (although I believe the only hefeweissen available is Franziskaner) and they serve tater tots (with cheese if you feel like going all out) and hot dogs and veggie dogs with lots of available toppings.
Northern Virginia. Old Town Alexandria has a lot to offer. Murphy’s is good but a chain, and interacting with Pat Troy at Pat Troy’s is always a treat, but I’d have to say my favorite bar on King Street is The Light Horse (make sure you go upstairs to the bar). The beer selection is good (Franziskaner for me, and Delirium Tremens for my best friend), and it’s usually busy and has some sort of DJ or band performing. The Old Brogue in Fall’s Church has Weihenstephaner on tap. I’m also excited about trying this new place called Space Bar in Fall’s Church, but haven’t had a chance to go yet. (If you notice, the beer and grilled cheese combination is always a winner with me).
You’re unlikely to end up in Sherman, TX other than accidentally (unless you are a college student there, like I was), but if you do find yourself in this town north of Dallas, be sure to check out Cellarman’s. Everyone in Sherman knows this as the best, and really only good, place to hang out. The beer selection is pretty good, and the prices are pretty cheap, with different deals every night of the week. The food is pretty good – try the loaded baked potatoes and the spinach artichoke dip. This is also the only place I’ve been at that has had Pear Woodchuck cider on tap, which though obviously not a beer, is something I also occasionally enjoy because it’s so light and refreshing.
So those are all of my suggestions, for now anyway. I hope you get the chance to visit some of them soon! Also, I’m going to be on vacation in Santiago, Chile in a few months, so if anyone would like to share suggestions on where to find a good beer there, it would be much appreciated!