Point of View
Since I am rating the pubs, brewpubs and taprooms I visit it is only fair that I share my reasoning. These reasons are very personal and I am sure many will not agree with me, which is great. When I go to a pub I am not just looking for beer, I can stay home if I just want to drink beer, I am looking for a complete pub experience. So for me to want to go back to a place it has to have three key elements – good beer, good food and a good pub atmosphere.
Since I am going for more then just beer a taproom, tasting room or bottle store with a great selection of beer and no food is not going to make it on the list of a place I want to return to, but a pub with limited taps and bad beer is not going to make it either. I am looking for a pub with nice range of good beers to enjoy.
I am looking for a place that offers some interesting pub grub to go with the beer. I like a reasonable selection of interesting and tasty items to enjoy with beer and conversation that will not totally drain my wallet but I understand a place has to charge to stay in business. No food and it does not make my list of places I would return to. Not good food and it will have the same fate.
I am looking for a place with a unique, cozy atmosphere that is welcoming and allows for good conversation. If a place has big crowds where you cannot find a seat or is so loud you cannot talk across that table it will not make the top lists. If there is a place where I can avoid the crowd by going at off peak times I will consider it. The staff of a place can have a great effect on the atmosphere of a pub and I do take that into account. I have also check for recreational items like a dart board and I have also started checking bathrooms. It does not bother me so much how the bathrooms are but I have heard the ladies this is a real issue and I agree with their point of view.
Defining a Pub
So what I am considering for my list are pubs, brewpubs, tasting rooms and taprooms. So some definitions are in order.
A brewpub is simple, a place where they brew and serve their own beer. They also offer their own style of pub grub and may have guess taps also. The food cart with a tasting room confuses this a bit but none of this is hard fast rules just a guide.
Tasting room is where they are brewing their own beer and they have a place where you can try the brews. No food is available and they may have limited hours.
Taproom is where they have a larger number of beers on tap that are brewed by someone else. If they have 18 or more beers on tap it is in the taproom realm. If they have a lot of different beers brewed by a verity of microbreweries and offer no food it is pretty clear it is a taproom. It gets harder to draw the line when they offer good food too. Do you call a place with twenty beers on tap and has great food a taproom or a pub with a big selection of beers.
Pub is a nice catchall category. It is that nice mix of some beers on tap, some pub grub and a hopefully a nice place to enjoy them. These often represent the local neighborhood pub. It needs to be a place where microbrews are the beverage of choice so it cuts out most bars and taverns but at time it is hard to define a strict line.