A few of our favorite bars to tap into the latest, and greatest, brews

The Crest

Falling in line with the locally sourced ingredients used in the kitchen, 20 of The Crest's 60 low-sitting tap handles were reserved for Ohio brews from the start. The bar, best known for its 180-degree transformation from dive to gem, is the place to find popular local beers, like Jackie O's and Seventh Son, and also more obscure brews. Brayden Volk, the head of liquid operations, often snags kegs from small-batch breweries that have yet to sign with a major distributor. Not sure which one to order? Take advantage of the daily-rotating Ohio Beer Flight that features five tastings for $10.


Bodega is the hipster hangout of the Short North with 20- and 30-somethings clamoring for a seat at the long bar or on the strip of a patio out front. The reason? The list is crafted by a guy-Collin Castore-who really knows his hops (he also co-owns Seventh Son Brewing and The Barrel and Bottle). So beer novices and "jaded beer nerds," as Castore calls them, will find something that speaks to them among the 52 taps. "Ninety-nine percent of what's on there is something I would like to drink," he says. In bottles, Castore focuses on Trappist beers and sours, the kinds of brews you just can't get on tap. In February, the bar closed for a complete remodel. Look for them to reopen sometime in March with a bar moved to the other side of the space, growler offerings and a new food menu from which customers order at a window inside the bar.

Gallo's Tap Room

Perhaps better known as a sports bar than craft beer spot, Gallo's Tap Room got a brew-cred boost thanks to a recent remodel (look for an updated bar-food menu, too) that upped its offerings from 15 taps to 25. "None of our beers are here for more than a week," general manager Joe Casey says, explaining 25 taps was the perfect number to keep inventory fresh at the Bethel Road bar. Come spring, look for what's pouring from the Randall-an infuser from Dogfish Head that allows bartenders to add herbs, fruit or spice to beer (like mango and habanero to an IPA). The flavor of the week will be posted on Gallo's website. "It's just something fun," Casey says. "People say, 'I've had that beer a million times.' And we say, 'Have you had it like this?' " Oh, and ask about what beer they have aging in the cellar.

Hal & Al's

Merion Village's best-kept beer secret is disguised as a dive bar on Parsons Avenue. The standalone building with a bright blue exterior wall is a little cramped and dark inside. But the space behind the bar is oddly illuminated, as if guiding the way to an oasis-which, for beer freaks, this place is. On 23 taps and in more than 100 bottles and cans, find familiar crafts to high-end niche beers (look to the bombers in the fridge behind the bar). And yes, that is Southern Tier's Pumking, still available in the spring. They stock so much, bartender Greg Burnett says, they can offer the popular fall beer almost all year. Pay attention to the chalkboards and flyers covering nearly every wall for nightly specials and events, including monthly themed beer tastings, like an IPA event in March. (Insider tip: vegan-friendly Hal & Al's just rolled out a new cocktail list with a vegan bloody mary and white Russian.)

Little Rock Bar

Mementos from Andyman's Treehouse and music memorabilia ranging from Scrawl to Merle Haggard line the wood-accented, white brick walls of Little Rock. The easy-on-the-eyes design of this "Never a cover," one-time service station reflects the past employment of owner Quinn Fallon (a former Treehouse co-owner) in landmark Columbus music clubs. Now Fallon helps man his own 30 taps and sells all pints for $3 during happy hour (which lasts until 8 p.m., and is all-evening on Tuesdays). Fridays mean free singer-songwriter-leaning shows, and look for occasional pop-up concerts from the likes of Lydia Loveless.

Local Cantina

Look past the Mexican-themed kitsch at these laid-back plaza bars (with some of the best bar tacos in town) and turn your attention to the wall-height chalkboards. Likely the only thing on the beer board that hasn't changed since your last visit is Breckenridge Agave Wheat, which is always on tap, says operations manager Francis Heath. Offerings flowing from Gahanna's 20 taps are selected to introduce microbrews to a craft-beer-newbie area, he says, though, "in Grandview, we had to step up our game and get more rare beer." That list is heavier on IPAs with sours regularly rotating through. And it's worth a closer look at Grandview's 22-ounce bomber list for beers you can't get on draft. On March 20, they'll tap Stone's Enjoy By, so hurry in while it's still fresh.

Matt the Miller's

Craft beer was always part of Matt the Miller's menu, but it wasn't a focus. It is now, says Christina Meehan, beverage manager for the bar and restaurant with locations in Dublin and Grandview. "We weren't doing this sort of rotation that we do now," she says. We appreciate the way Matt the Miller's keeps us on our toes, always offering a Columbus Brewing Co., Jackie O's or Seventh Son brew and never skimping on the hops (look for single-hop beers to make more of an appearance) on the 14 taps in Dublin and 26 in Grandview. And don't be afraid to chat up the bartender about their beer. The bar staff goes through a monthly "beer school" where they learn about flavor profiles and new beers coming on tap. "Our philosophy is we're beer geeks, not beer snobs," Meehan says.

Melt Bar & Grilled

Just like the Cleveland-area locations, this Short North grilled cheese joint has a reputation for long wait times. Good thing there's plenty of beer to entertain us while we wait. Having 50-odd seats at the lengthy, kitschy bar was non-negotiable for owner Matt Fish, who wanted to remind diners grilled cheese isn't their only racket. With 80 craft beers in all-40 on draft, 40 in bottles-it's likely you'll spend more money on beer to wash down a towering grilled cheese (like the pierogi-packed Parmageddon) and mound of fries than on your meal itself.

The Pearl

Put down the cocktail list and look up. Sitting at the bar at The Pearl, you'll see, sneakily scribbled in chalk on a series of slit-like boards worked into the dark wood bar back, the day's draft beer offerings. It's a smartly curated list worth noticing at this Cameron Mitchell oyster bar and gastropub-a selection with a heavy emphasis on Belgian styles. The bar's signature beer is The Pearl Oyster Stout, crafted by North High Brewing and made with real oysters. "It's delicious," beverage director Derek Reno says. "[The oyster] balances out the bitterness of stout." If you're feeling less adventurous, ask for the Brown Bag Beer-a 16-ounce can of low-brow beer (think Colt 45 or Olde English) available for $3 during happy hour.

Red Brick Tap & Grill

Red Brick's motto is simple-carry good beers from good breweries. It's a no-frills approach to beer that carries through the red and black, diner-meets-bar atmosphere and the indulgent bar-food menu. The 30 uniform tap handles sit low at the Merion Village bar, which means there's no obstructed view to get the bartender's attention. They make it easy to enjoy a craft brew from Stone or Four String or an easy-drinking PBR. And lining the top of the huge black and silver bar back (the only piece of the neighborhood dive that survived a complete gutting last year) are the 70 beers they have in bottles. Order a tasting flight of your choice for $7 or swing by weeknights after 10 p.m. for half-off drafts.

The Pint House

No other Short North bar packs in the crowds quite like this beer garden with a retractable roof and accordion doors that allow the landlocked bar to breathe in the warmer months. Its versatility, size and big-group-accommodating long tables make it one of our favorite meeting spots all year 'round. The beer comes standard in 21-ounce drafts (you can get a pint, but you have to ask for it), or you can upgrade to a 32-ounce "half yard" if ordering a brew under 7 percent ABV. You'll find plenty of local representation on tap, from Elevator to Four String, plus a Trappist or two in the bottle.

Woodlands Tavern

This dark, just a little dingy Grandview gem is an all-out music club by night. But until 8 p.m., when the almost nightly happy hour ($3 drafts) runs its course, it's the beer groupies who gather here. The 30 taps at the main bar, plus another 10 at the bar in the back, are heavily focused on pouring local brews that rotate in and out almost daily. And tap takeovers, typically featuring new brews coming into the state, like Fat Tire and Deschutes, are a regular thing (normally landing on Thursdays). Plus, there's the promise longtime bartender Jenna Harbold made us: These are some of the cleanest tap lines in town.