2018’s Great American Beer Bars is a Good Sign for Independent Brewers

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Great American Beer Bars 2018 is published, and it has good news for small and independent brewers. The annual list first launched in 2012 as a project published by CraftBeer.com, the Brewers Association’s website for beer lovers. CraftBeer.com’s mission is to tell the stories of small and independent U.S. brewers, as well as the organizations and businesses who support them. America’s craft beer bars are undoubtedly supporters of small and independent brewers. The selections are chosen based on nominations from readers.

As you can imagine with any “listicle” in this say-what-you-want social media world, we hear from upset people who don’t understand how CraftBeer.com could name Beer Bar X as a state’s best beer bar. (We have some nerve, right?!)

I politely respond to emails explaining we as editors didn’t pick the bars—our readers did. Heck, even this year, I told a few people that the beer bar chosen in the state where I live was a surprise to me—but that’s ok! That’s exactly what we want: variety.

Great American Beer Bars 2018 has 27 new additions from our 2017 list—that’s more than half the list! That’s a super cool sign for small brewers. Mike Pomranz from “Food & Wine” called the picks “dynamic”—and that’s a great description. A dynamic list is a win for beer lovers and for small and independent brewers. If every single year, CraftBeer.com readers told us the same beer bars were the best, why do a new version? Beer lovers could use the handy Great American Beer Bars 2013 and be done with it.

But as independent breweries grow in number and influence, they are changing tap lists and attitudes at local bars because they recognize what beer drinkers want. Even the “been-here-since-my-dad-was-buying-3.2-beer” hole-in-the wall bar in my teeny northwest Ohio hometown carries small and independent beer now (they’re not named in Great American Beer Bars, but it’s these small steps that make this beer lover happy). I guarantee you that wasn’t the case three years ago.

The variety of new beer bars on the 2018 list tells us beer lovers are finding your beers in more places and that more bars are realizing the value that your beer brings to their menu. Speaking as a beer lover who travels a lot, I continue to happily find local selections at the tiniest of bars. Gone is the apprehension I felt five years ago walking into a new bar, where I’d think: “I hope there’s something local on tap.”

If you haven’t seen the list yet, check it out on CraftBeer.com. Tons of the bars mentioned have tap takeover nights and “Meet the Brewer” events. If there’s a surprise bar selected in your state, perhaps it’s a new way for you to reach new fans. Cheers to small and independent brewers and the businesses who support them.