By Norman Miller/Daily News staff
Usually, if I really want to go to a top-flight beer bar, Boston is the place to be.
With plentiful selections of craft beers on tap and in bottles, it seems like there’s a good bar on almost every block.
But, I don’t always like driving to Boston. I don’t like dealing with parking, traffic and people.
Luckily, there is an option in Massachusetts’ second biggest city. The Dive Bar in Worcester offers more than enough good brews to make any beer lover happy.
Tucked in a corner at the intersection of Green and Temple streets, the Dive has 16 beers on tap and another 80 to 100 bottles available.
“I’ve always been a beer nut,” said owner Alec Lopez. “I’m in it because it’s where my passion lies. Money’s secondary for me. I don’t keep something on tap because it sells well. It’s nice to not have it be about money.”
The Dive Bar opened in 1995, and Lopez worked there as a bartender for about five years.
The bar was much different then, Lopez said. It served the college crowd, with a lot of young people coming in, drinking heavily and then leaving.
In 2003, Stuff magazine named the Dive Bar one of the top dive bars in the country, and the magazine remains on the wall to commemorate the achievement.
About four years ago, Lopez bought out one of the owners and started working on turning the small bar into a destination for drinkers of better beer, a daunting task in a city known more for the type of bar the Dive used to be.
“I wasn’t sure how it would go, with Worcester being Worcester,” he said. “I slowly started bringing in good beer and slowly moving out mass-produced beer. Worcester kind of surprised me. The bar is doing amazingly well. We had our most profitable year in 2007.”
The best way to describe the bar: It’s just a cool place to hang out. It’s small and dark with a long wooden bar. The tap list is written on a chalkboard behind the bar.
There’s two small televisions. No food is served. The walls are decorated with a mixture of oceanic-themed knickknacks and brewery stuff.
“It’s like a pawn shop,” said Lopez. “The Dive Bar was a concept of the original two owners’ love of Key West. The nautical stuff comes from that. I’m an avid diver. I surf and I boat, and I love the idea of that stuff.”
But, the real star of the Dive Bar is the beer.
On a recent trip, the beers on tap included St. Bernardus Prior 8 from Belgium, Southern Tier’s Choklat from New York, Great Divide’s Titan India Pale Ale from Colorado, Ephemere’s Apple Ale from Canada and Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid from California.
The tap list price ranged from $5 to $8, and all of the beers were served in the proper glassware.
Bottled beer included Bear Republic’s Racer 5 of California, Pizza Port’s Hop 15 from California, Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA from Delaware and Victory Brewing’s V-12 from Pennsylvania.
“It’s very rare I bring a beer in that I don’t like,” said Lopez. “If you notice, during the wintertime, my beer selection becomes very heavy-handed. I guess the bar is a reflection of me.”
Two breweries commonly on tap at the Dive are Berkshire Brewing Company of South Deerfield and Allagash of Portland, Maine.
Thursday night is a special night at the Dive Bar. Each Thursday, there is a new beer tapped that is cask conditioned. Cask-conditioned beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized and still contain live yeast.
Also, each Thursday the Dive Bar features live music, provided by drummer Duncan Arsenault and a variety of other musicians.
The bar will continue to morph, Lopez said. He is currently phasing out mass-produced liquors and will bring in liquors from small-batch distilleries.
This summer, Lopez plans to add food and open a beer garden in the bar’s rear parking lot. The plan is to have seating for 60 people with wrought iron tables and umbrellas.
“We want to make it feel like you’re not in the city,” he said.
The Dive Bar, 34 Green St., is open seven days a week from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.