11 of America’s Most Unusual Spots to Have a Beer

If you’ve never enjoyed a beer inside a cave, at a former train station, or while grocery shopping, well, you just don’t know what you’re missing.

1. FLOSSMOOR STATION RESTAURANT AND BREWERY // FLOSSMOOR, ILLINOIS

Built in 1906, this former train station was headed for ruin before the current owners spruced it up and turned it into an award-winning brewpub. Drink a Station Master Wheat, then watch the 5:15 rumble by mere feet away. With the Metra stop just down the street, it’s a great spot for a last-minute drink before catching a train into Chicago.

2. LUCKY’S MARKET // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

Supermarkets have dutifully followed the craft beer revolution, and some like Whole Foods even have in-store bars where you can grab a pint or fill up a growler. But Lucky’s has upped the ante by encouraging of-age shoppers to enjoy a cold one while they shop. The retailer, which has locations in 11 states, sells the brews for just $2, and has outfitted its shopping carts with cup holders, naturally. Suddenly, shopping for kale just got a whole lot more exciting.

3. SISTER LOUISA’S CHURCH OF THE LIVING ROOM & PING PONG EMPORIUM // ATLANTA

Unusual is certainly one way to describe a bar where patrons regularly don choir robes, sing church-organ karaoke, and play ping-pong on a table surrounded by neon crosses. Opened in 2010 by a former divinity student-turned-artist, Sister Louisa’s is pure southern kitsch, and a favorite amongst Atlanta bar-goers. Craft brews are always on tap, but if beer isn’t your thing, you could always try the Spiritual Sangria.

4. FLORA-BAMA // PERDIDO KEY, FLORIDA

Step out of this Florida beach bar, walk a few feet west, and you’re in Alabama. The establishment opened in 1964, and soon, business was booming, thanks to the fact that Baldwin County, Alabama, was dry at the time. Since then, it’s grown into a sprawling roadhouse with numerous bars and live music stages.

5. THE CAVE BAR & GRILL // LANAGAN, MISSOURI

You won’t find any trendy craft brews on tap here. But true to its name, The Cave offers a one-of-a-kind venue. Owner Chris Black bought the space, formerly known as Truitt’s Cave, in 2011, after he was convinced the world was about to end. When that didn’t happen, he converted the cavern from a bunker into a bar and restaurant with an outdoor area that frequently hosts live music. Adding to the fun: There’s a herd of goats milling around.

6. SAN DIEGO ZOO // SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

One of the world’s premier zoos just so happens to have an incredible beer selection. Locations throughout the park serve up craft brews, from cafes to specialty stands operated by local brewers like Ballast Point and Sierra Nevada. There are also festivals like a recent beer and wine tasting celebrating the zoo’s centennial. Best of all: You can take your beer with you while you tour the park.

7. REVOLUTION CYCLES // GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA

In a town with its fair share of bicycle shops, Revolution offers a little something extra: several taps of cold craft beer. Owner Watts Dixon installed the bar area two years ago, keen to capitalize on the overlap between cycling and beer enthusiasts. Even if you’re not in the market for a new road bike or a tune-up, you can wander in for a pint of Oskar Blues or Sierra Nevada.

8. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY

If the thought of viewing fine art while sipping a beer seems like fun, make sure to book a ticket to one of the Guggenheim Museum’s “Art After Dark” parties. In addition to live music and free-roam of the museum’s numerous exhibitions, the event features world-class people-watching from the Guggenheim’s spiral walkway.

9. O’MALLEY’S PUB // WESTON, MISSOURI

This bunker-like bar, formerly a Prohibition-era speakeasy, pays homage to rural Missouri’s drinking past with a lineup of rustic brews. There’s the Ruddy Wheat, a sturdy ale-meets-weiss concoction, and the Rip Van Winkle, first brewed in the early 1900s, when it was billed as "The Richest Bottle of Beer in the World." Many of the brews come straight from the Weston Brewing Company next door via refrigerated tap lines.

10. UMBRELLA BAR // OLYMPIC VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

From roughly 60 feet underground to high in the mountains: It’s hard to beat the view at this mountaintop bar, perched 8200 feet at the top of the Squaw Valley Resort. With a large hot tub and retractable roof, it’s a popular spot for weary skiers and snowboarders, who can reach the bar from nearby trails. Luckily, there’s also a cable car that provides access for those less inclined to ply the slopes.

11. THE PINE BOX BAR // SEATTLE

This former mortuary did a stint as a nightclub before becoming a craft beer haven—most famously, Bruce Lee passed through the funeral home for his stateside services in 1973. Today, the bar has 30 some beers on tap, a range of dinner and brunch options, and is spending the fall hosting presidential debate watch-parties.

BONUS: CP BREWERY AT BREWS AND CUES // PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII

Drinking a micro-brewed beer is nothing unusual. But drinking a beer micro-brewed on one of America’s most storied military bases? That’s something special. The CP Brewery turns out a limited quantity of ales and IPAs on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor-Hickham military base, and offers them at the Brews and Cues bar located in the base’s common area. There’s just one catch: Access is limited to military personnel and acquaintances.

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Big Questions
Is There Any Point in Letting Red Wine Breathe?
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by Aliya Whiteley

At the end of a long day, few things beat simple pleasures like watching a good film, eating a bar of chocolate the size of your head, or drinking a big glass of red wine.

By this point in the evening, most people don’t want to be told that they need to uncork the bottle and let the wine sit for at least 30 minutes before it becomes pleasantly drinkable. Yet that's (by the letter of the unwritten law) what you're supposed to do.

But why? Well, let's start with the assorted historical reasons.

Red wine has been around since the Stone Age. In fact, in 2011 a cave was uncovered in Armenia where the remains of a wine press, drinking and fermentation vessels, and withered grape vines were uncovered; the remains were dated at 5500 years old. Early winemaking often had a ritualistic aspect: Wine jars were found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, and wine appears in both the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

The concept of letting wine "breathe" is, historically speaking, relatively new and probably has its roots in the way wine was once bottled and stored.

Traditionally, sulfur is added to wine in order to preserve it for longer, and if too much is added the wine might well have an ... interesting aroma when first opened—the kind of "interesting aroma" that bears more than a passing resemblance to rotten eggs. Contact with the air may have helped to remove the smell, so decanting wine may once have been a way of removing unwelcome odors, as well as getting rid of the sediment that built up in the bottom of bottles.

It’s also possible that the concept springs from the early 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III asked Louis Pasteur to investigate why so much French wine was spoiling in transit. Pasteur published his results, which concluded that wine coming into contact with air led to the growth of bacteria, thus ruining the vino. However, small amounts of air improved the flavor of the wine by "aging" it. In bottles, with a cork stopper, the wine still came into contact with a small amount of oxygen, and by storing it for years the wine was thought to develop a deeper flavor.

However, how much of that actually matters today?

Many experts agree that there is no point in simply pulling out the cork and letting the wine sit in an open bottle for any period of time; the wine won’t come into enough contact with oxygen to make any difference to the taste.

However, decanting wine might still be a useful activity. The truth is this: It entirely depends on the wine.

Nowadays we don’t really age wine anymore; we make it with the aim of drinking it quickly, within a year or so. But some types of wine that are rich in tannins (compounds that come from the grape skins and seeds) can benefit from a period of time in a decanter, to soften the astringent taste. These include wines from Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, for instance.

If you really want to know if a particular wine would benefit from being given time to breathe, try your own experiment at home. Buy two bottles, decant one, and let it breathe for an hour. Do you notice a difference in the taste? Even if you don’t, it's an experiment that justifies opening two bottles of wine.

One word of warning: No matter where a wine comes from, it is possible to overexpose it to oxygen. So remember Pasteur’s experiments and don’t leave your wine out of the bottle for days. That, friends, would be one hell of a waste.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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A Beer From the Middle Ages Is Making a Serious Comeback

Hop-forward beer is all the rage today, but in the middle ages many imbibers preferred brews that skewed towards the sweeter side. Now, centuries after it fell out of fashion, Atlas Obscura reports that gruit ale is making a comeback.

Gruit beer is any beer that features botanicals in place of hops. The ingredients that give the drink its distinctive sweet, aromatic taste can be as familiar as ginger and lavender or as exotic as mugwort and seabuckthorn. The herbs play the role of hops by both adding complex flavors and creating an inhospitable environment for harmful microbes.

It may be hard for modern beer lovers to imagine beer without hops, but prior to the 16th century gruit was as common in parts of Europe as IPAs are in hip American cities today. Then, in 1516, that style of beer suddenly vanished from pint glasses: That was the year Germany passed a beer purity law that restricted beer formulas to hops, water, and barley. Many of the key botanicals in gruit beer were considered aphrodisiacs at the time, and the rising Puritan movement helped push the brew further into obscurity.

Hops have dominated the beer scene ever since, and only in the past few decades have microbrewers started giving old gruit recipes the attention they're due. In 2017, the Scratch Brewing Company in Illinois released their seasonal Scratch Tonic, made from a combination of dandelion, carrot tops, clover, and ginger. The Põhjala Brewery in Estonia brews their Laugas beer using Estonian herbs, caraway, and juniper berries. Get in touch with your local microbrewery to see if they have their own version of the old-school beer in their line-up.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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