In search of a home away from home? Try these cozy beer bars that began life as houses.
PORTLAND, ORE. / Beech Street Parlor
Make yourself at home: While it may sport a few modern adaptations like a DJ booth and a copper-topped bar, the prevailing ambience at this foursquare-style house in Portland’s Sabin neighborhood is in keeping with its early 20th-century origins. Upstairs, snug rooms decked out in damask wallpaper and elaborately embroidered sofas set the scene for long, languorous evenings. Have a drink: Ink-black Fort George Cavatica Stout, exuding dark chocolate and a luxurious feel worthy of Beech Street’s relaxed glamour. If these walls could talk…: Sabin was originally a stronghold of Volga German immigrants, and Beech Street Parlor first belonged to one of the group’s most celebrated humanitarians, George Repp, who returned to his homeland in the 1920s to help combat a starvation crisis.
AUSTIN, TEXAS / Clive
Make yourself at home: No mention of house bars is complete without a nod to Austin’s Rainey Street, a laid-back enclave of bungalow-bars that’s become one of the nation’s coolest nightlife districts. While some of its new-construction neighbors boast longer beer lists, the 1926 house that’s now Clive scores points for its unique atmosphere, a blend of urban elegance and log-cabin rust-icity (think slick white stools atop knotty wood floors). Have a drink: Pecan Porter Nitro from (512) Brewing sips like silk and savors faintly of the quintessential Southern nut. If these walls could talk…: Local lore holds that a covered-over well in Clive’s backyard Mezcal Bar hides an underground pathway to nearby Lady Bird Lake.
CHICAGO / The Hideout
Make yourself at home: For a time between its late 19th-century construction and its 1934 public-house licensing, this humble frame house (aptly named, considering its gem-in-an-industrial-corridor setting) was bootlegger domain. Today the vibe recalls a quirky-but-welcoming neighbor’s basement, with beat-up linoleum flooring, buzzing games of charity bingo, and a mixed-age crowd that’s out for unpretentious fun. Have a drink: Whatever’s pouring off the seasonal from beer-geek favorite Three Floyds Brewing. If these walls could talk…: Thanks to its critically lauded annual Block Party and AV Fest and an always-full roster of intimate backroom shows, the Hideout’s a hub of Chicago’s music scene. The stage has seen the likes of Wilco, the White Stripes and Neko Case, who also once tended its bar.
MEMPHIS / Mollie Fontaine Lounge
Make yourself at home: The exterior of this 1886 house, all deep-red brick and arched windows and spindly columns, may scream Victoriana, but the interior, with its funky furniture and bold artwork, is anything but a period piece. The owner—a caterer by day—takes food seriously, putting out an eclectic menu of tasty small plates like avocado tempura and beef sliders with Benton’s bacon and Gruyere to pair with the short, sweet beer list. Have a drink: Memphis Made’s Southern Julep ale, a barrel-aged, mint-spiked nod to the region’s signature cocktail. If these walls could talk…: The house, on a once mansion-lined street unofficially designated Millionaire’s Row, was built as a wedding gift from wealthy Memphian Noland Fontaine to his daughter, Mollie. A section of its first floor once served as the medical practice of Mollie’s physician husband.