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Tired of typical E.L. bars? Go try something new

February 3, 2015
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Though the line outside of Rick’s on a typical Tuesday night may suggest otherwise, not every one of us wants to be herded into a small room like a bunch of cattle to be force-fed pitchers of cheap beer before searching out that evening’s potential mate.

Rather, some of us would prefer our beer a bit darker and the room to be a bit lighter. But in East Lansing, at times that can be tough to come by.

Now, please understand — I am an old, rickety graduate student who has little money for cover and less patience than that for standing in long lines. Especially when it’s cold outside. So I do my best to not do either.

It has taken me a little bit of time to learn this art. Just because a bar has good beer, doesn’t mean it’s a good bar for students to go to. Because if you’re like HopCat and you charge $7 for a 13-ounce draft of HopSlam, your bar is no better to me than the one who serves Miller Lite by the pitcher to 19-year-olds. That is because I am poor, and not a police officer.

The best tip to find somewhere good is to get off the typical bar wasteland that is Albert Avenue. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t *hate* any of the bars in East Lansing. But they all sort of find their own special way to get on my nerves.

Rick’s is ... Rick’s. Dublin Square is decent, Harper’s would be better if they’d stop the love affair with their mediocre beer and the Riv isn’t anything fantastic on any day that’s not Burgerama. Only one I can’t really complain about is P.T. O’Malley’s. That place is the best of the bunch there.

But if you’ve been to all these places, it’s time to try somewhere new. We’ll start nearby, and move away from there:

Crunchy’s

This one is if you can’t really get far. Crunchy’s has become my East Lansing go-to since I moved here for two reasons: cheap beer and good atmosphere. It’s often crowded — but not packed to a level of discomfort — and buzzing when there are MSU or Detroit sports going on.

They have happy hour — 75 cents off drafts and $1.75 well drinks — every day from open until 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Sundays), which means if you’re looking for a cheap beer you can get a 25-ounce mug for $2.50. If you’re looking for a tasty one, it can usually be had for between $4 and $5. You can’t beat that in this town.

Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern

Lansing is an unknown, untraversed land for too many MSU students. If you’re looking for a less noisy, more grown-up setting, Zoobie’s is a great place to start, and is only about three miles west on Grand River Avenue.

They don’t do a lot of food, but they do a lot of weird, twilight-zone-y beers (such as the Stone Smoked Porter with toasted vanilla) that you probably haven’t tried yet.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Oops, so this one is sort of out of the way. But — by God — are there a ton of outstanding options in Grand Rapids.

Stella’s Lounge has arcade games, pinball, the “Best Burger in America” (according to GQ in 2012) and over 200 different types of whiskeyssome of which are older than I am. It’s that last part that draws me here.

Grand Rapids Brewing Company is the first USDA-certified organic bar in the Midwest, and the entire bar was made from recycled material. According to them, the tables and chairs of that place are made from the same wood and pipes they tore up to remodel it. But it’s not until you go inside and see how well-crafted and pristinely designed this bar is before you really appreciate what that means.

Founder’s Brewing Company is the best brewpub I’ve ever been to, especially when factoring in how good their food is to go along with their famous craft beer.

They have live bands that are very much worth your time, and an outstanding patio outdoors — because patio beers are an essential component to summer. If you like good beer and haven’t been there yet, you’re in for a treat.

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