Covenhoven / Image Courtesy of Erik Carter
The geographical designations were based on the James Beard Foundation.
Beer sales in America are at an interesting crossroads. With more than 9,000 breweries in operation, taprooms offer up an unrivaled location for customers to drink pints mere feet from where the beer was made. It’s as local as it gets.
Meanwhile, grocery stores are one of the largest sellers of packaged beer, giving shoppers a chance to stock up on lager and India pale ale along with milk, bread and eggs. The beer in those aisles, however, are often reserved for larger operations that can navigate the economy of scale and have distributor contracts.
There is still another retail option: the bottle shop, which is a term still widely used despite the majority of breweries offering their beers in cans these days. Depending on the state’s laws, some will only offer beer, while others will also offer wine and spirits.
For this list, Wine Enthusiast spoke with dozens of brewers, writers, social media enthusiasts, chefs and drinkers about what goes into creating a good bottle shop. Those represented here don’t always have the biggest selection or well-known beers, but offer curated options of seasonal and small-batch offerings. They often highlight brewers that self-distribute.
Staff is also critically important for a bottle shop. The best ones have knowledgeable folks who are passionate about beer and aren’t shy about promoting popular offerings, but also are advocates for unknown gems.
Great clerks can even help with suggested food pairings.
Buying beer shouldn’t be just a rushed errand or a matter of snagging souvenirs from a brewery visit. Taking time in a bottle shop, examining labels, thinking about styles and chatting with engaging associates leads to a better drinking experience at home or at your next party.