You know what we mean, when we say “hidden gem places to drink,” right? These could be the places you keep all to yourself because you don’t want the word to get out. Or the dive bar on the corner with cigarette burns on the table and ripped booths. Your favorite place to drink could be just the good ol’ nothing-fancy neighborhood taproom down the street where the bartenders all know your name and your regular. Or it could be the low-key tiki bar down an alley that you take all your out-of-town friends to to impress them.

Everyone has a different definition of “hidden gem places to drink” But what remains the same is the soft spot where we nestle all these places in our hearts.

There’s just something about them. That je ne sais quoi or intangible, undefinable quality that we can’t put our finger on, but just feel.

Below, we pulled together a list of the teams’ favorites from a cider palace where you can belt out your best tunes to a Belgian beer bar down a narrow alley serving magical 10% ABV tripels.

We listed these best hidden-gem places to drink in no particular order because we each love them all in their own way. Of course, any “best” list is open to interpretation, so take these picks with a grain of salt. And if you want to share your favorite place to drink, just hit us up at @hopculturemag.

The Best Hidden Gem Places to Drink in 2023

De Garre

Bruges, Belgium
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

de garre bruge belgium breweries

By far, one of my favorite places I went during my ten-day trip to Belgium, De Garre, might be Belgium’s best-hidden gem, literally.

Half the fun is finding the tavern tucked into one of the smallest streets in Bruges (hint: look for a rusted wrought iron gate with a “De Garre” street sign above it). But once you do, you’re initiated into a secret society.

Well, actually, once you’ve downed one of their tantalizing tripels…you’re truly a De Garre denizen.

de garre belgium breweries
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Served in a bulbous glass, the tripel comes with stiff-peaked foam, super creamy and fragrant.

Drink, digging underneath the whitecaps to find a slightly honied, estery tripel.

Will you come up for air with a foam mustache? Probably. But that’s half the fun.

The smoothness of this 10% ABV makes it dangerous enough to warrant serving each glass with a little dish of cubed cheese.

Drink one slowly if you can, waiting before you order another because this one will hit you fast.

We admit it’s hard but try your best.

You can always leave and come back later that night, as our group found ourselves doing multiple times. Pretty much at the end of every day during our three-day stay!

If you don’t drink here, I’m not sure you’ve been drinking in Belgium.

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Fairweather Cider’s Beverage Palace

Austin, TX
Submitted by: John Gross, Director, Strategic Business Development, Next Glass

fairweather cider co
Photography courtesy of @fairweathercider

Oh, to visit the Beverage Palace for the first time.

There’s fresh Fairweather Cider, natural wine, frozen cocktails, draft beers, a third-wave coffee nook, and Underbergs as far as the eye can see.

And what’s that over there?

Is that a fully functional, bumping karaoke room blasting out Eminem’s “My Name Is”!? To bask in the purple neon light and take in the trippy murals of Paul Windle-Wang for the first time and wonder…how does this magical space exist in an industrial strip? It is a hyper-thoughtful space full of creative events and immaculate vibes.

The Fairweather Cider taproom, lovingly dubbed “the Beverage Palace,” has been bringing maximalist satisfaction to beverage enthusiasts for six years and, while often being all over the place with programming, it never feels kitchen-sinky. All of the programming of events and the liquid is boldly underlined with quality and fun.

You can get Fairweather Cider in all the Texas Metro areas, but you can only eat tater tots from the Spicy Boys food truck and belt out Eve 6 at the Beverage Palace. And who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky and Owner John Staples will be posted up behind the bar shucking oysters for free.

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Smuggler’s Cove

San Francisco, CA
Submitted by: Magic Muncie, Social Media Manager, Hop Culture and Untappd

smuggler's cove cocktails hidden gem
Photography courtesy of Smuggler’s Cove

The revered tiki bar may not be a hidden gem to the San Francisco natives, but to those in the craft beer game, Smuggler’s Cove is a must-try if you want to venture out of the beer scene. This tiki bar is literally a hidden gem in that you could drive right by it and never know it was there. If it wasn’t for the consistent line outside, you would be hard-pressed to know if you were in the right place. But once you’re inside, it’s the promised land for tiki drink enthusiasts.

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Rice Vice

Nashville, TN
Submitted by: Kyle Roderick, Executive Vice President of Product, Next Glass

rice vice bar hidden gem
Photography courtesy of Proper Sake

Industry professionals across the brewing world descended upon Nashville this year for the annual Craft Brewers Conference and the city wasn’t without its unique and collaborative events. One truly worldly event featured the legendary Japanese brewery CHORYO Brewery. Proper Sake and CHORYO brewed up a white koji pale ale along with collaborations from Fonta Flora, Bearded Iris, Halfway Crooks, Wiseacre, and locals Walker Brothers. I saw the list and knew I had to check it out.

Rice Vice is situated at the end of a strip of warehouse buildings with unmarked parking spaces and a small single-door entrance and makes for a rather unassuming facade to what I could only describe as a teleporter. I felt instantly transported to a maple-clad Japanese bar playing a relaxing set of late seventies city pop and the sweet and earthy aromas of sake.

It was one of the brightest, warmest, and most inviting places I’ve sipped a beverage this year and I can’t wait to get back.

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Pour Me Taproom and Bottle Shop

Gilroy, CA
Submitted by: Giovanni Albanese Jr, Content Writer, Next Glass and Co-Founder of Settle Down Beer

Pour Me Taproom and Bottle Shop is a 30-tap self-pour taproom with a great selection of craft beer from all over the West Coast. They have lagers, blondes, helles, West Coast and hazy IPAs, single, double, and triple IPAs, and some big stouts and porters, as well as seltzers and ciders. They cover it all and I really don’t see a point trying other places when they have everything right there and are constantly rotating their taps! When I leave the brewery and want a non-Settle Down Beer, I head to Pour Me.

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Jay’s Elbow Room

Maple Shade, NJ
Submitted by: Dustin Jeffers, Director of Brewery Implementation, Next Glass

jay's elbow room hidden gem
Photography courtesy of Jay’s Elbow Room

Jay’s Elbow Room’s Instagram tagline says it best, “Local 5-Star Dive Bar since 1948.” This was one of my favorite places to drink when turning twenty-one and just starting my craft beer journey.

Right off Rt 73 in South Jersey, you would never guess the amazing beers this inconspicuous side-of-the-highway bar would have on tap. Being fifteen minutes outside of Philly, you need to have a great tap list to keep up with juggernauts like Monk’s Café (one of our “Best Hidden Gem Places to Drink in 2022”).

On any given day, you can check out their Untappd page and find beers from local New Jersey breweries like Magnify, Kane, and Tonewood, but also find great out-of-state breweries like The Alchemist, Maine Beer Co., Tripping Animals, and Froth.

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Common Good Cocktail House

Glen Ellyn, IL
Submitted by: Aaron Keefner, Sales Solutions Consultant, Next Glass

common good cocktail house hidden gem
Photography courtesy of Common Good Cocktail House

This cocktail house located in the Western suburbs of Chicago has something for everyone. With everything from modern, classic, upscale, seasonal, and even one-off cocktails, Common Good is a must-visit if you are looking to take a break from some beer. The staff here combines the perfect balance of ingredients to create divine cocktails. Tell them the type of day you are having, or how you want to feel, and they will create a cocktail for that. No joke, it happened to a friend and what we drank was perfection. If you ARE in the mood for beer, they also have a small but well-curated beer list to match.

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Austin, TX
Submitted by: Kyle Roderick, Executive Vice President of Product, Next Glass

lovebirds hidden gem
Photography courtesy of LOVEBIRDS

This year’s travels also brought me to Austin, TX for one of three US-based Formula 1 races and my first experience at a world class racing track. It also meant that hundreds of thousands of people were also descending upon some of the best BBQ in the country, clogging queues and roadways for a weekend of food, beer, and adrenaline-fueled racing.

And as much as I might have said I could eat everything on the “want to go” list for the trip, I knew that wasn’t true. I needed a reprieve from the heat, the lines, and LOVEBIRDS was the standout visit of that whole trip.

Newly opened in May, Lovebirds settles into a bright pink building with tropical planters, a modest outdoor seating arrangement, and plenty of house-designed cocktail options to stave off the heat for a few hours between BBQ lines (Yes, it’s a block away from La Barbeque. Please check them out too!).

Friendly, knowledgeable staff and plenty of spirits, beer, and non-alcoholic options cover however you might be feeling. Vibrant decor with hand-painted wall art, custom neon signs, combined with fun to-go glassware, totes, and shirts all melds into the distinctive line art and colors of LOVEBIRDS.

I capped off my experience with the bartender’s recommendation: a white negroni (my first, and definitely not my last).

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Two Fingers

Tokyo, Japan
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

two fingers craft beer bar tokyo
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Before starting this quaint fifteen-seat pub in northwestern Ikebukuro, Australian Co-Founder Stefan Lovell and his Japanese partner Naoko Sumiya (together known as Stef and Nao) ran the beer geek Instagram account @sekainobeer.

The two first bumped into each other at Mikkeller Tokyo. Ten years ago there weren’t that many Japanese craft beer bloggers and IG personalities, so the two started meeting up every Thursday to go drink craft beer.

In 2019, they opened up Two Fingers together to feature beer that’s “basically what we want to drink,” Lovell told my wife and me when we visited during a trip to Tokyo at the beginning of the year.

Overall, Lovell says that the philosophy at Two Fingers is to have fun. “It sounds stupid, but we like people who like beer, who enjoy drinking beer,” he says. “I want it to be a fun experience. Whether you like the beer or don’t like the beer, everyone’s tastes are different, but as long as you’re enjoying yourself.”

Surrounded by kendamas (a hobby Lovell recently picked up), we sipped on a tight list of pale ales, saisons, porters, stouts, and sours from local breweries the duo knows and trusts.

Although we were halfway around the world, we felt at home.

During the two hours of chatting and drinking, Nao never stopped cooking, putting together meals for local families to come by and pick up later that evening—something Two Fingers does weekly.

That’s Two Fingers to a T. A place for everyone in their community to come together for a home-cooked meal or a tasty craft beer.

Although the bar only opened in 2019, Two Fingers has thrived on the knowledge and passion that Lovell and Sumiya bring to their small project. This craft beer bar is an easy choice for any wandering traveler.

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Tigress Pub

Austin, TX
Submitted by: John Gross, Director, Strategic Business Development, Next Glass

tigress pub hidden gem
Photography courtesy of Tigress Pub

If you don’t have an affinity for snug spots that only show Turner Classic Movies on small TV screens, I don’t know what to tell you.

Tigress Pub’s bar area is about as small as it can be and cranks out proper cocktails with a small staff of friendly faces. It’s an intimate neighborhood gem in the truest form, and now that We Luv Video, a non-profit rental space, has opened next to it, Tigress has become even more of a staple to visit when returning videotapes.

Owner Pam Pritchard has been low-key elemental in the craft cocktail scene in Austin since opening in 2010. The TCM network that the TVs are glued to’s motto is “Where Then Meets Now,” and Tigress seems to have the same mindset: classic cocktails with plenty of innovative and seasonal twists.

Tigress Pub is a precious place. There’s no rush here. Just let the set-ups and shake-downs of a black-and-white film noir keep you and your perfect Old Fashioned company.

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Churchill’s Pub and Grille

San Marcos, CA
Submitted by: Magic Muncie, Social Media Manager, Hop Culture and Untappd

Churchill’s Pub and Grille has it all. A great selection of craft beer, a slew of tasty items on the menu, and a bevy of knowledgeable staff to share their insights. This place is a staple for the northern San Diego county residents, but is definitely a stop less traveled for tourists as it’s a pretty far drive from downtown SD—but it sure is worth it.

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Lille, France
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

bierbuik beer
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

By now, you’ve probably noticed a theme with all my picks this year—they’re outside the U.S.

For me, one of the best parts of the year has been exploring beer cultures in other countries, getting outside my craft beer comfort zone.

When I visited Lille, “The Beer Capital of France,” Bierbuik stuck out. Honestly, it’s hard to miss.

Inside these bright pink walls, you’ll find Flemish food flipped on its head. All driven by the crazy mind of Florent Ladeyn, runner-up on the first season of Top Chef France.

Ladeyn grew up in the restaurant industry, taking over his parent’s restaurant, Auberge du Vert Mont, in the Lille area and turning it into a Michelin-starred establishment.

Bierbuik takes everything Ladeyn learned from fine dining—local produce, expert technique, exquisite service—but ditches the tweezers for fingers and replaces the wine list with housemade craft beer.

“It’s about street food,” Ladeyn told me between bites of frites with Maroilles cheese sauce, a signature dish featuring a local stinky cheese. “You don’t have to think much about balance, about textures. It can be too hot, it can be too fatty, it can be too salty because it’s just about pleasure, eating with your fingers.”

At Bierbuik, Ladeyn wants you to indulge intimately. The long tables encourage people to sit together.

“I love what the table means—people being together, speaking together, enjoying a meal, sharing food. Beer [and food] bring people together,” he says.

Family and friends wind their way into many of Ladeyn’s beers and dishes. His cousin is a hop farmer, so he leverages local hops. “They’re not as funky or sexy as U.S. hops, but they are from here,” Ladeyn says. “We are always adding our local homemade spices and herbs, too.”

Like one of his house-made sour beers he shared with me called Glycine Municip’ale, made with the wisteria plant (glycine in French) that he foraged from a cemetery on the French-Belgian border near his home. (He initially didn’t want to share the story with me because he technically harvested the flowers from the Belgian side of the border, “But I cannot lie!” he proclaimed.)

bierbuik founder florent ladeyn
Bierbuik Founder Florent Ladeyn (on the left) and his dish of tempura fried zucchini flower and flammache (on the right) | A heaping pile of frites with various dipping sauces at Bierbuik | Photography courtesy of Bierbuik (on the left) and Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture (on the right)

Or his falafel dish, which includes lentils from a farmer at La ferme du Duneleet named Stephanie, who took over her parents’ farm, believing that farming should avoid using tractors because it turns the soil too much. “She puts in nothing, and she’s doing great,” Ladeyn told me. “These lentils, I make sprouts with water on top, then blend it with shallots and spices.”

The sausage for another dish isn’t homemade, but it comes from Ladeyn’s hometown butcher shop, now owned by a guy he played rugby with as a kid.

A dessert playfully called Afoingato (foin is hay in French) includes hay ice cream and chicory, not coffee—because chicory is one hundred percent local.

But Ladeyn says the most popular dish is the Flammach, a flatbread made in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven using homemade sourdough and local flour fermented for seventy-two hours. The almost personal-sized pizza comes out with this perfectly springy dough that bounces back in your mouth like memory foam.

Beerwise, Ladeyn rarely brews a beer twice. When I visited, besides the Glycine Municip’ale, he told me about a black saison with fresh hay in the tanks, an amber beer with quinoa, and an upcoming grape ale with leftover grape skins and must from a friend whose regular day job is teaching, moonlighting as a vintner when on break.

bierbuik lille france
The outside of Bierbuik, a modern estaminet in Lille, France | Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Ladeyn’s approach sticks out in a region dedicated to older Belgian styles like tripels, oud bruins, and saisons. But it makes sense to him as he tries to represent terroir in Lille.

So yes, the local verbena he uses for a verbena Berliner weisse might be five or six times more expensive, and the natural fruit he wants to put into a sour will cost more than a frozen puree, but “when you fight so much for a craft label, it should be crafted,” he exclaims.

These are the kinds of beers he makes. “If you ask me to brew an imperial coconut stout, I cannot do this,” he says. “When I brew, it’s always borderline. I brew juices like this—really light with wild yeast, so you don’t really know if you’re drinking a beer or something else.”

As I drained my glass of wisteria sour and licked the salty grease from the frites and Flammach off my fingers, Ladeyn got a text.

“That’s a reminder, I promised to get foraged hops,” he says.

If you go to only one place in Lille, make sure it’s Bierbuik.

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