Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best Bar: You Show Me Yours, I'll Show You Mine (-hic-)

I'm passionate about hunting for many reasons -- witnessing great dog work, experiencing the limitless expanses of nature, and indulging in the camaraderie that comes with close friends.

But I also like those small-town bars that invariably beckon me when I'm on a bird hunting adventure. I'm pretty sure I come by it naturally. As a wee tyke back in central Nebraska, I can remember my dad and I (and later, my kid brother) stopping at the Beer Barrel Bar in St. Libory (shown above) after a morning of pheasant hunting. We'd order charburgers, dad'd get a draft beer and I'd get a cherry coke, and we'd watch the Cornhuskers pummel the living shit out of some hapless Big Eight opponent.

My, how little things change. To me, there's nothing better than finding a local watering hole for a cold beer or two after a hot (or bracingly cold) yet rewarding day afield.

In small town America, you're almost universally welcome in bars -- the folks are friendly, the beer is icy, and the tab is almost always embarrassingly cheap. Nearly every establishment is the same -- same as in comfortable and familiar -- but the antithesis of the insipid "entertainment-lifestyle-experience" franchise bullshit that developers and marketers concoct to justify charging $8.00 for a Bud Light.

I am not the only one to comprehend the awesomeness of small town bars, of course. In fact, a couple of gents who are apparently based here in the KC area recently went on a five-day, three-state, 101-bar pub crawl through (mostly) small Midwestern towns. I must admit, I was proud (and maybe a bit embarrassed) that I've probably hit more than 50 percent of them. It's a wonderful directory and plainspoken diary -- one I suspect I may consult this fall. At the very least, I'm looking forward to expanding my own list of mid-American small-town dives.

Check out the full "101 Libations" list here. Do you have any special memories at any of the bars on the Libations list? What other small town dives hold a special spot in your, um, liver? Comment, folks.


  1. Oh how I remember the Beer Barrel Bar! In Lincoln much of my time was wasted in The Spigot, and The Brass Rail. In my opinion some of the 101 have no place on the list, but that may just be me.

  2. The Brass Rail calls up a whole host of college memories for me. yikes!

  3. It seems like the Brass Rail conjures up multi-generational memories. Heck, I didn't even go to school at "The U" and I still can recall nights spent there over Christmas break!

  4. Yes, I've been to "the Rail." No, I didn't go to school in Lincoln either. But even over here it conjures up [hazy] good memories.

    As for the word "charburger," it's absolutely pavlovian. Burgers and corn for dinner tonight!

  5. Hey, and what was the name of the place in Worms, NE where we used to get calf fries and those damn tasty rolls?

  6. Seriousy? The name of the bar in Worms was Nitecrawlers, of course!

  7. Observations:
    - They're cheating with all those Omaha bars.
    - They missed the Sportsman's Bar, and the Glass Bar.
    - I spent a blizzard in the White Horse once. Love that place.

  8. Why is Omaha cheating? We try to mix all sizes of towns in our trips and include a day in a large city any time we do a long trip.

    We were sad about missing the Sportsman's Bar and the Glass Bar.

    Sportsman's we couldn't find because of an error on our map.

    Glass Bar we just plain missed altogether because when we were looking for it we were on a different road than we thought we were. By the time realized our mistake there wasn't enough time to go back and look for it, with the early bar closing times in Nebraska we only had time to stop at the ones we spotted on the way back (White Horse and RK's).

    I have every intention of trying for at least Glass Bar again sometime in the future.