10 Best Bars in Tucson: Craft Brews, Fine Wines and Good Times
By Patricia Escarcega
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert
When you're ready for drinking and socializing, Tucson's bar scene does not disappoint.
Scott & Co. has become the cornerstone of downtown Tucson's hip bar scene. This small speakeasy-style lounge has elevated the art of drinking in the Old Pueblo. Handcrafted seasonal cocktails in an intimate space make this downtown bar a favorite with Tucson cocktail enthusiasts.
If you're looking for a truly unique Tucson bar, head to the The Shelter Cocktail Lounge, a 1960s-inspired bar with great drinks and a fun, kitschy ambiance.
Are you a beer connoisseur? If so, you'll want to make a stop at Tap & Bottle, a friendly neighborhood tavern where you can find home-grown Southern Arizona beer and other top regional craft beers.
Another popular local microbrewery is Barrio Brewing Company, located in one of downtown Tucson's historic warehouse districts. This vibrant bar, grill, and brewery proudly brews up 12 microbrews, several of which you'll find on tap on any given night.
Need a hip, cozy bar for a nightcap? Try Plush, also on Fourth Avenue, which offers a swanky lounge to relax and toast the Tucson night.
For an intimate wine bar experience, try Unplugged in downtown Tucson. This wine bar may be small, but the hand-picked menu of Old World varietals, and a great selection of certified organic & natural wines.
10 Union Public House
Located over the picturesque courtyard of St. Philip's Plaza in midtown Tucson, Union Public House blends the atmosphere of a friendly public house with the hospitality of traditional southwestern culture. The food is made-from-scratch modern American fare crafted from local and sustainable ingredients. On tap, there are 30 beers on any given visit, plus a long menu of handcrafted cocktails. There are plenty of TVs with top sports programming for the happy hour crowd, and a lovely al fresco dining room to enjoy a meal or drink with friends. The happy hour - known here as "the social hour" - is full of great bites and drinks. ((520) 329-8575)
Housed in a tiny historic building in downtown Tucson, Unplugged is a premier wine bar with an impressive selection of hand-picked wines. Patrons can pick from a menu of rare Old World varietals, as well as organic wines from small wineries in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. The bar also carries a good selection of organic and natural wines. A small menu of wine-appropriate eats - paninis, salads and cheese plates - are also available. Beer lovers don't despair. Unplugged also carries a revolving roster of local craft brews and hard-to-find imports. The bar also hosts an eclectic menu of wine and beer flights - perfect for discovering new favorites. ((520) 884-1800)
8 Thunder Canyon Brewery
Thunder Canyon boasts several award-winning brews such as Bing Bang Ale with a hint of cherries, Catalina Pale Ale, Sandstone Cream Ale, Obsidian Porter, Thunderhead IPA, and Blackout Stout. And their food is impressive too. Wood fired oven pizzas top the list, but there's a great selection of traditional pub fare like fish and chips, steaks, burgers, sandwiches, cottage pie and pasta. Plenty of vegetarian options, as well. No doubt, there is something for everyone on the menu. And if you're a beer connoisseur, you will want to stop by for a drink, even if there isn't a big game on the screen. There are two locations in Tucson: Downtown and the Foothills Mall. (520-797-2652)
7 Good Oak Bar
Good Oak Bar is an Arizona craft beer and wine bar that celebrates the state's finest locally made beers and wines. Located in downtown Tucson in the historic Rialto Building, just across the street from Hotel Congress, Good Oak Bar is adjacent to Diablo Burger Kitchen. This is a great place to sample the best brews made in Arizona, including regional favorites like Old Bisbee Brewing Co.'s Copper City Pale Ale, Papago Brewery's popular Orange Blossom Madarin Wheat Ale and several Tucson-made craft brews. There's also an assortment of Arizona-made wines. The bar also has a full menu that includes gourmet pub fare made with locally sourced ingredients. ((520) 882-2007)
6 The Shelter
A lot of folks will tell you that this bar used to be a fallout shelter, but the truth is it was actually built as a bar back in 1961. The round, windowless structure is packed to the rafters with 60s era kitsch, from JFK memorabilia to black velvet paintings and groovy lamps. The retro vibe is augmented with a continual showing of 60s B movies and plenty of period music, occasionally provided by DJs fond of deep cuts and rare grooves. Bartenders mix up all the retro cocktails you can handle, but don't fret if your personal favorite is something invented last year--they can make those too. And if you're in the market for some new bad jokes to share with your friends, a visit to the restrooms here should be high on your list of things to do. (520-326-1345)
One of the best ways to get to know a city well is to take part in its nightlife, and if you like live music that steers well away from Top 40, Plush is where to go. Performers are scheduled nearly every night, and might be a local fave like Calexico, or a national or international act like Brian Jonestown Massacre, Shonen Knife, Sufjan Stevens, Michelle Shocked, Mike Doughty's Band and Okkervil River. Since this is one hip bar, artsy and dimly lit, there are plenty of couches and comfy chairs for lounging and socializing. The bar staff are expert mixologists, equally adept at pulling a draft Bud and putting together the trendiest cocktail. (520-798-1298, 520-798-1302)
4 Barrio Brewing Company
The Barrio Brewing Company, located in one of downtown Tucson's historic warehouse districts, has quickly established itself as a local landmark. This vibrant bar, grill, and brewery, which opened back in 2007, proudly brews up 12 microbrews, several of which you'll find on tap on any given night. This dark, cool converted warehouse has quickly become a favorite with locals in the know. Tucson Blonde, Red Cat Amber, Copperhead Pale Ale, Barrio India Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Nolan's Porter, Taylor Jayne's Raspberry Ale, Hefeweizen, Nut Brown (fall seasonal), Rich Rod Red (seasonal) are just some of what you'll find on tap at Barrio Brewing Company. ((520) 791-2739)
Sidecar is a hip, neighborhood cocktail bar located in midtown Tucson. The emphasis is on Prohibition-era cocktails like its namesake, as well as unique concoctions like the Oaxaca Dry Sour, a smoky cocktail made with small batch gin, mezcal, absinthe, dry vermouth, habanero shrub, and house salted lime cordial. There is also a good selection of craft brews and wines. The atmosphere strikes the right balance between chic and sophisticated without being pretentious. The waitstaff are trained mixologists who will discuss the makings of a good cocktail. With large windows facing west, this is a good spot to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine while watching the sun go down over the Old Pueblo. ((520) 795-1819)
2 Tap & Bottle
Tap & Bottle is a beer-lover's paradise. The intimate tap room at this beloved Tucson bar is home to one of the city's best-curated selections of craft brews. Tap & Bottle celebrates home-grown Southern Arizona beer, as well as many of the best regional and international brews currently being made. The brew pub atmosphere is lively and friendly, making this a great place to rub elbows with locals and fellow beer connoisseurs. Tap & Bottle even hosts its own monthly curated "Beer Club" dedicated to pleasing the palate of even the most ardent beer snob. There's no food menu at the bar, but the city's best food trucks regularly feed the hungry masses at Tap & Bottle. ((520) 344-8999)
1 Scott & Co.
Established in 2010, Scott & Co was founded by the same folks that brought 47 Scott to Tucson, downtown's popular destination for modern American comfort food in an intimate bistro-style space. Scott & Co. is an intimate speakeasy style bar with a seasonal menu of hand-crafted cocktails. Head bartender Ciaran Wiese and the team of mixologists at Scott & Co. display a genuine passion for developing new and delicious infusions. Although the atmosphere at Scott & Co. is great, this is the kind of place you go to for truly exceptional mixed drinks. You won't be disappointed by house-crafted creations like The Lionheart, made with Blanco tequila, green chartreuse, bitter orange amber, rich allspice dram, and agave nectar. ((520) 624-4747)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.