Great beer bars have personality, a vibe that goes beyond what's on tap. Patrons focus on conversation and swirl what's in their glass, and they don't get distracted by the big-screen TV.
In no way am I saying these are the 10 best bars for beer, but they are the taverns that Madison-area brewers named when asked to identify their hangouts.
626 University Ave., 259-0444
There are 18 tap beers and 35 in bottles. A recent renovation, plus a commitment to Wisconsin micros, makes this more than just a college bar.
Essen Haus (255-4674)
Up North (251-1730)
508-512 East Wilson St.
These three connected taverns offer 60 taps and more than 100 bottled beers. The Come Back Inn has the best beer selection on the isthmus; the Essen Haus is famed for its 18 taps of German beer, plus polka music; and Up North has, yes, an up-north theme, so Leinies is the mainstay.
105 W. Main St., 255-4770
A two-story, triangular building dating to 1872 houses this classic tap on the Capitol Square. You'll find 12 taps and 60 bottle brands ranging from imported Belgian Chimay to Point Special.
2201 Atwood Ave., 249-4333
The Harmony is a classic neighborhood spot, featuring vintage seats rescued from Milwaukee County Stadium (they're above the bar) and countless softball teams that fill up their pitchers from the nine taps or drink from the several dozen bottle brands.
117 E. Main St., 294-9371
This cigar bar has a wide selection of big, boastful beers: 19 on tap, plus selected bottles. There are only a handful of local beers, but the taps are constantly rotated, and there are lots of choices - from mainstream brown ales to heavy barley wines. The Friday before the Great Taste of the Midwest, Maduro fills all its taps with beers from Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo, Mich.
The Old Fashioned
23 N. Pinckney St., 310-4545
You'll find quite a range, from the house tap beer (a bock made for the tavern by Minhas, formerly Huber) to cans of Schlitz and Old Milwaukee - 11 taps in all, and 40-plus bottles. There's a long wooden bar, wood floors and big windows that offer great views of the Square.
212 State St., 257-5250
A State Street institution for UW students and non-students alike. Great beer choices include 15 taps, 55 bottles and a mug club. All this, plus an indoor tree.
Silver Dollar Saloon
117 W. Mifflin St., 255-7548
The Saloon boasts Madison's oldest family-held tavern license - the grandfather of current owner Willie Teasdale opened the place back in 1933. This June, Esquire magazine ranked the Silver Dollar as one of its 50 Best Bars.
1201 Williamson St., 442-6207
An eclectic bar that serves eight tap beers and 17-plus bottles. There's a pressed-tin ceiling and lots of warm woodwork. This is a place for conversation.
1980 Atwood Ave., 244-8563
Dare I say it? The quintessential neighborhood bar, with eight taps and 20-plus bottles. Local homebrewers hold bimonthly meetings here, and bluegrass musicians play each Tuesday night. A great place for a brew and a burger.