Way back when I wrote a newsletter about craft beer for patrons of a few Atlanta-area bars in the Taco Mac chain. (I also briefly brewed the bars’ house ale.) With more than 100 taps and hundreds more bottled beers, they were the go-to places for beer lovers like me.
When my wife and I moved to Birmingham, finding a good beer bar naturally was a top priority. At the time, the state’s first craft breweries were still years away. Locally-made suds were rare to non-existent.
But microbreweries were blossoming elsewhere in the United States, and imports were increasingly available. If you wanted to explore the world of beer, you relied on bars with big beer menus.
Today, metro Birmingham has more than a dozen microbreweries and brew pubs, producing their beer mere feet away, often within view of drinkers. But if you’re in the mood to drink globally (as well as locally), you need a good beer bar.
Here are a few to try in and around the Magic City.
The company’s only outpost outside Georgia, the location in Pepper Place is a beer and wine retail store with a bar boasting 60 taps dispensing some of the world’s finest and most-interesting ales and lagers. Enjoy a glass of draft there (they do half-pours, too), or grab a 64-ounce growler to go. Choices rotate regularly and the beertenders are knowledgeable resources about unfamiliar foams. With its racks of beers on the retail side, the store stocks some 1,200 labels for sale. Hop City regularly makes local, regional, and national rankings of best beer bars, and was ranked among the nation’s top 10 by USA Today readers in 2022 and 2023.
2924 Third Avenue South (Pepper Place District); Opens 10 a.m. Monday – Saturday and noon Sunday.
Birmingham (also Tuscaloosa)
Served in a cozy setting, the selection is massive, mostly cans and bottles with limited draft. You’ll find the common and obscure, from Belgian ales brewed by Trappist monks to Strawberry Hefeweizen from Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Virginia. Alabama breweries are well-represented, too. “Hard” options also include ciders, coffees, and ginger ales. As an added bonus, Jack Brown’s perennially makes the city’s best-burgers lists, with choices that are creatively constructed and named, like the Tuesday-special Kung Fu Action Grip burger. The Tuscaloosa location opened in early October.
Birmingham: 2811 Seventh Avenue South (Lakeview district); Tuscaloosa: 401 23rd Avenue. Both locations open daily at 11 a.m.
Inverness (Hoover) and Liberty Park (Vestavia Hills)
On Taps have dotted the area for more than 20 years, although some locations have come and gone. Dedicated to U.S.-brewed beer and sports, the bars offer more than 80 beers and ciders on tap, plus scores more cans and bottles. The food menu includes beer-friendly appetizers, wings, burgers, sandwiches, and wraps.
Inverness: 810 Inverness Corners (off U.S. 280); Liberty Park: 11967 Liberty Parkway. Both locations open daily at 11 a.m.
Taco Mac’s opening in September marks a return to the Birmingham area; a Taco Mac served Birmingham’s Five Points South neighborhood in the late 1990s. The wing’s the thing on Taco Mac’s food menu, with 17 options of sauces or rubs. (When the founders opened their wing bar in 1979, they couldn’t afford to change the business sign used by their predecessor, a taco joint.) The Pelham location serves 75 unique brews on draft, bottles, or cans that represent 25 different styles, according to its website dashboard.
2500 Canopy Trail. Open daily at 11 a.m.
Boasting “Shelby County’s largest selection of craft beer,” The Beer Hog serves 64 beers and ciders on tap, plus more than 300 in bottles and cans. Like any good beer bar, it also has lots of sports showing on lots of televisions, but The Beer Hog ups the ante with food and drink specials on game-day weekends. Retail sales and keg rentals also are available, and the bar can be rented as an event space. The food menu is loaded with appetizers and pizzas.
2408 Pelham Parkway. Open seven days; opening hours vary.
Options abound for beer lovers at another hybrid beer bar and retail store at The Grove near Trace Crossings. Build your own six-pack from more than 200 bottled and canned beers and ciders, or take home a crowler (32 ounces) or growler of draft. Kegs of premium beer also are available. Draft beer for on-premise enjoyment includes pints and sampler flights.
5541 Grove Boulevard. Open seven days; hours vary.