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Booze cruise: Central Arkansas bar guide 

The Times surveys the area's finest watering holes.

In a letter to his friend Andre Morellet dated 1779, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote: "Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards. There it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."

Far be it from us to argue with the guy on the C-note. So yes, thou heathens, there is a God, and He sends His love in bottles, kegs and cans. Building on what Ol' Ben said, our dear ol' daddies told us you can see The Good Lord in the bottom of an empty pint glass, schooner, shot glass or wine bottle every once in a while if you squint and hold your mouth just right, which is why we've spent so much time reverently searching for the Almighty at our local watering holes over the years. That's what we told the preacher, anyway.

The document you see before you is our annual Arkansas Times Bar Guide, our yearly handbook to the dimmest, dive-iest, classiest, most wine-stained, most beer-soaked, most shaken-not-stirred bars, saloons, gin-joints and speakeasies in Central Arkansas. Take a minute to peruse it — download it in our handy iPhone and Android app Cocktail Compass — and then get out there and drink up. The search for spiritual fulfillment shouldn't be delayed by a single minute.

Hip on hops

8-BIT TAPROOM/PROFESSOR BOWL Here's something you probably didn't know. Professor Bowl, the bowling alley in the multi-columned spread off Reservoir Road that looks like anything but a bowling alley (more likely suspects: a country country club, an almost-mega-church, a small town, no-tell motel), has one of the best beer lists in town. Better yet, it has the most affordable beer list in town. Each of the 17 drafts cost $3, and each of the 250 bottles cost $3.50. That's average, or possibly a bit high, for Bud and the like, but just about unheard of for craft beer. Last month, Professor Bowl expanded that philosophy into its former downstairs special events space and opened a separate bar from the bowling alley. It's a concept not yet fully realized. As the name 8-Bit suggests, it's meant to be videogame themed, but as of last week, there was only one arcade game and one pinball game. More are coming, we were told. About 10 p.m. on a recent Saturday, the large bar was so deserted we feared it closed. It turned out to be just slow. When there's live music, a regular occurrence (see 8bittaproom.com for an upcoming schedule), it's apparently hoppin'. On Tuesdays, especially. That's when there's music, all drafts are a $1 for a pint (!) and there's no cover. Promoter Casey Jones said he's trying to recreate Arkansas Rockers night, a bygone tradition at White Water Tavern. 901 Towne Oaks Drive. 224-9040. Beer only downstairs. Beer and wine only upstairs. 5 p.m.-midnight Sun.-Thu. and Sat., 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday. Happy hour 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Tue.

BOSCOS This brewpub should have a special place in your beer-loving heart for, if nothing else, being one of the few places in town where you can buy beer and take it home on Sunday. Boscos keeps eight in-house brews on tap, including a Bombay IPA, a Nut Brown Ale and a Scottish Ale. You can take 'em home in a growler for $10 plus a refundable $3 deposit. If you're looking for a spot to drink away from home, Boscos' rectangular bar and surrounding lounge-area have a good, laid back vibe. Even better: the elevated deck that overlooks the First Security Amphitheatre and the Arkansas River. 500 President Clinton Ave. 907-1881. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

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