Our very own Kyle Kastranec recently iced down some Two Hearteds he bought in the boonies at a gas station, and it got us wondering: Where’s the strangest place you’ve found an impressive drinks selection? We asked the Fervent Few this week, and this is what they said.
Manny Gumina: “My fanboy-ness for New Glarus Brewing is getting out of hand, but it's impossible not to find their beer in every gas station in Wisconsin. It's always the year rounds (including the sours) and a seasonal. Every time I visit friends in Minnesota, I know I can pick up a six pack when I stop for gas.”
David Purgason: “I’ve heard stories from friends of a magical spot called Fong’s in Iowa. A 100-year-old Chinese restaurant turned pizzeria-tiki-dive-bar with a huge beer selection.
Locally here in Watsonville, CA, we have Ranch Milk—a gas station with an awesome Mexican restaurant and dozens of taps, from High Life to Jolly Pumpkin.”
Nick Yoder: “In 2014, I discovered a total dive bar in a strip mall in Mishawaka called Bleachers. It was a dingy, old place, the kind that still allowed smoking and likely just heated up the scant food options in a microwave in the back. But, remarkably, it had nearly 100 taps and sold every single beer by the pint for $5, or the pitcher for, I believe, $12. Every. Single. Beer. Dogfish Head World Wide Stout? $5. (I believe they actually didn't allow pitchers on that.) Whenever my family stopped at the restaurant a short walk from the bar, we'd spend our wait grabbing cheap pints. It was the spot I could count on finding BCBS every year, even if it was served out of a rocks glass. They eventually realized that selling everything for the same price probably wasn't a great idea and they stopped updating Beer Menus, so I couldn't keep track of what was fresh, since 100 taps was probably 90 too many. I haven't been there since December 2015, when I enjoyed a BCBS Barleywine. And, sadly, that's the last beer I'll have there, as it shuttered its doors a month ago after a man was murdered in the bathroom.”
Rob Cartwright: “Stopped in a restaurant called La Margarita in Indy. Typical Mexican restaurant with better than average food, but nothing to write home about. Inexplicably, they had a five-year vertical of BCBS priced at $6 for an 8-oz. pour. I didn't ask how or why, just enjoyed.”
Jim Plachy: “There is a bar called Showboat Saloon in Wisconsin Dells. It looks like one of the 50 other tourists traps in downtown Dells, but it has the most incredible tap list and, in the middle of the day, all the pours are half-off. I could have spent an entire day drinking through their list of rare treats.”
Rob Steuart: “I took my kids to a school disco at a local community club. They had five taps from a local brewer and another tap of locally made cider. Best school event I've been to.”
Bryan Arndt: “I’ve learned over the years to set the bar really low at sports venues for craft offerings. However, as more and more venues embrace craft and expand offerings, some fantastic options have popped up. Being able to get a Dunkel by KC Bier Co. at a Sporting KC game or a Daisy Cutter at Wrigley have made those game day experiences that much more special.”
Tait Forman: “There’s a bar at the Salt Lake airport that has the full line of Van Winkle and Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. They certainly charge what you would assume to pay for those products, but I definitely got a little whiplash as I sat at the bar and double-taked at their backbar.”
Quinton Cook: “In Ohio, I’ve found some of the best beer selections at some very unexpected places. My local IGA, in a town of 2,000 people, is carrying Lord Hobo and Orval (though age hasn’t been checked on this), and wide selections of barrel-aged beers. One of my favorite stops in Cincinnati is a Marathon gas station on the western side of town that offers an incredible selection of not only local, but Jackie O’s, Melvin, and many more. They seem to blow the grocery stores out of the water.”
Austin L. Ray: “Midtown Bowl here in Atlanta has long been known for its adventurous drinks selection. Years ago, they had Pappy Van Winkle and Kentucky Breakfast Stout available. More recently, it’s been an always-depending lineup of craft stuff including Creature Comforts seasonals. It’s not one of those fancy, new-fangled bowling joints, either. Just a nice, cozy place where you can have some great drinks and knock a few pins around.”
Matthew Modica: “The ability to have an Orval at O'Hare still boggles my mind every time I travel. I literally get to the airport early to make sure I have one, people watch, and loosen my brain before getting on that metal bird of fright. While at this point it's become tradition, it still gives me the absolute giggles every time. It's like a candy bowl at a diabetics funeral—it just doesn't make sense in the best way.”