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Toast of the Town 2017 

The best of bars, beers and booze in Central Arkansas and beyond.

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Though the moral character of Arkansas may be found in its churches and its brains — such as they are — at the state Capitol, the heart of this state is in its bars. Only by visiting where the citizenry renders itself fully vulnerable can you know who we truly are, and as anyone who has ever had a ballpeen hangover can tell you, the vulnerability to be had in the confines of a church confessional pales in comparison to that which is found on your average bar stool around 11:59 p.m. on a Saturday night.

Our annual Toast of the Town issue gives readers a chance to throw some kisses to the beating heart of Central Arkansas and beyond, bestowing tips of the electronic hat to their favorite local watering hole, dive, joint, taproom, saloon or gin mill, with spotlights on where to get favorite drinks. It's our way of letting all those owners, bartenders, talent bookers, dishwashers, hostesses and bouncers who help bring a little liquid sunshine into our lives that their labor wasn't just about drawing paycheck, at least not to us.

This year, Four Quarter Bar in Argenta got the nod for Best Overall Bar and Best Bar Food, while Midtown Billiards — risen like a grungy phoenix from the ashes of a September 2016 fire — was a winner for Best Dive Bar. The Hillcrest Fountain said "Won't you be my neighbor?" in the Neighborhood Bar category, and took home additional wins for its happy hour and pool, darts and shuffleboard. Big Orange has something to crow about for winning Best Cocktail List, while Lost Forty Brewing hopped on the award for best local brewery, best brewpub and best pale ale.

As usual, the Toast of the Town issue comes just as we're gearing up for our annual Craft Beer Festival. Read on for full details on the breweries and beers that'll be available for sampling at this year's event. Also for your perusal (best read with a cold beer at hand), David Koon swaps ghost stories and seeks the spirit of bar greatness with Four Quarter Bar owner Conan Robinson, while Jacob Rosenberg goes to the dogs at the pooch-friendly Bark Bar. Chug-a-lug, dear reader. You've earned it.

Little Rock & North Little Rock

Bar

Four Quarter Bar

Finalists: Capital Bar and Grill, The Hillcrest Fountain, Town Pump, The White Water Tavern

Bartender

David Timberlake (The Pantry/The Pantry Crest)

Finalists: Kevin Creasy (White Water Tavern), Richie Dean (The Hillcrest Fountain), Conan Robinson (Four Quarter Bar), Veo Tyson (SO Restaurant-Bar)

Best bar for live music

White Water Tavern

Finalists: Cajun's Wharf, Four Quarter Bar, Revolution Taco & Tequila Lounge, Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack

New bar

North Bar

Finalists: Bark Bar, Petit and Keet, Zin West

Wine bar

Crush Wine Bar

Finalists: By the Glass, Zin Urban Wine and Beer Bar, Zin Wine Bar West

Sports bar

Big Whiskey's

Finalists: Grumpy's Too, Prospect Bar and Grill, Twin Peaks, West End Smokehouse and Tavern

Pickup bar

The Hillcrest Fountain

Finalists: 109 & Co., Cache Restaurant, Four Quarter Bar, Town Pump

Gay bar

Sway

Finalists: 610 Center, Discovery, Triniti Nightclub

Dive bar

Midtown Billiards

Finalists: Four Quarter Bar, The Hillcrest Fountain, Town Pump, The White Water Tavern

Hotel bar

Capital Bar and Grill

Finalists: Marriott Lobby Bar, One Eleven at the Capital, Table 28

Neighborhood bar

The Hillcrest Fountain

Finalists: Ciao Baci, Four Quarter Bar, The Pantry Crest, Town Pump

Bar for pool, darts, shuffleboard or other games

The Hillcrest Fountain

Finalists: Rack Um, Town Pump, West End Smokehouse and Tavern, Zack's Place

Bar for food

Four Quarter Bar

Finalists: Capital Bar and Grill, The Pantry Crest, Rebel Kettle, South on Main

Happy hour

The Hillcrest Fountain

Finalists: Big Orange Midtown, Reno's Argenta Cafe, Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack

Drinking brunch

U.S. Pizza (Hillcrest)

Finalists: Four Quarter Bar, Lost Forty Brewing, Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom, South on Main

Patio or deck for drinking

Cajun's Wharf

Finalists: Ciao Baci, The Hillcrest Fountain, Rebel Kettle, U.S. Pizza (Hillcrest)

Coldest beer

Twin Peaks

Finalists: The Hillcrest Fountain, The Oyster Bar, Pizza Cafe, U.S. Pizza (Hillcrest)

Cocktail list

Big Orange

Finalists: Capital Bar and Grill, Ciao Baci, The Pantry Crest, South on Main

Bloody Mary

Four Quarter Bar

Finalists: Grumpy's Too, Midtown Billiards, Red Door, Revolution Taco & Tequila Lounge

Margarita

The Fold

Finalists: Cantina Laredo, Heights Taco and Tamale, Local Lime, Señor Tequila

Martini

Capital Bar and Grill

Finalists: 109 & Co., Copper Grill, The Pantry, South on Main

Local brewery

Lost Forty

Finalists: Diamond Bear, Flyway Brewing, Rebel Kettle, Stone's Throw Brewing

National brewery

Lagunitas

Finalists: Boulevard, New Belgium Brewery, Stone Brewing Co., SweetWater Brewing Co.

Locally brewed pale ale

Diamond Bear Pale Ale

Finalists: Flyway Migrate Pale Ale, Lost Forty Pale Ale, Ozark Beer Co. American Pale Ale

Locally brewed IPA

Flyway Early Bird IPA

Finalists: Diamond Bear Presidential IPA, Lost Forty Rock Hound IPA, Lost Forty Snake Party IPA, Rebel Kettle Easy Roller IPA

Liquor store

Colonial Wines and Spirits

Finalists: 107 Liquor, Hillcrest Liquor, Legacy Wine & Spirits, Sullivant's Liquor

Brewpub

Lost Forty Brewing

Finalists: Diamond Bear Ale House, Flyway, Rebel Kettle, Vino's

Beer selection (bar or restaurant)

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

Finalists: Big Orange, Four Quarter Bar, Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom, Samantha's Tap Room & Wood Grill

Beer selection (retail)

Colonial Wines and Spirits

Finalists: 107 Liquor, Legacy Wine & Spirits, O'Looney's Wine and Liquor, Sullivant's Liquor

Wine List (Bar or Restaurant)

Samantha's Tap Room & Wood Grill

Finalists: By the Glass, Ciao Baci, Crush Wine Bar, One Eleven at the Capital

Wine Selection (Retail)

Colonial Wines and Spirits

Finalists: 107 Liquor, Grapevine Wines & Spirits, Springhill Wine and Spirits, Stratton's Market

Around Arkansas

Bar

Maxine's Tap Room (Fayetteville)

Finalists: Chelsea's Corner Cafe & Bar (Eureka Springs), Maxine's Live (Hot Springs), The Ohio Club (Hot Springs), Pressroom (Bentonville)

Best bar for live music

George's Majestic Lounge (Fayetteville)

Finalists: Chelsea's Corner Bar and Cafe (Eureka Springs), Maxine's Live (Hot Springs), King's Live Music (Conway), Smoke & Barrel (Fayetteville)

Brewery

Ozark Brewing Co. (Rogers)

Finalists: Bike Rack Brewing (Bentonville), Core Brewing (Rogers), Fossil Cove Brewing Co. (Fayetteville), Superior Bathhouse Brewery (Hot Springs)


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