The Abbey

The Abbey (1115 16th St., Miami Beach; 305-538-8110) is a rarity in Miami. Almost invisible from the street at night, the clandestine microbrewery is marked only by a neon sign that reads "Bar." No flashing marquees, no long lines. Just a dark storefront and a door.

Staying true to its name, the bar is monastic with its dark, wooden interior and contemplative atmosphere, but beer is the religion at this Abbey. Those who crave a simple Heineken or Budweiser, head elsewhere. Here a variety of rare and microbrewed ales is worshipped by local beer monks — connoisseurs who take booze-guzzling seriously.

But unlike reclusive abbots, the patrons at the Abbey are friendly and outgoing. Mike K., who swore the "K is for kindness," was giving out hugs all night (from which alpha types shied away) and telling the same stories to everyone who crossed his path. "My wife and I have a new rule: I'm allowed to drink on Friday and Saturday. I think I overdid it tonight," he said, stretching the syllables in an effort to not slur his words.

Vacant seats were scarce in the small, narrow space, but the Abbey just happens to be the kind of place where people can join strangers in their booths with no altercations or uncomfortable feelings. And so a pair of Brits and a girl eating out of a bag of raspberries did just that, and conversations resumed as if all parties had been acquainted for years.

Skateboarding tournaments played on television while the bartender's iPod provided music. As alluring as the menu of White Castle burgers and cheese pizza was, there was no food available that night, even though the menu states they serve till closing. Still, people don't come here to eat. Instead I treated myself to a Left Hand Milk Stout. It was everything I'd hoped it would be — rich, creamy, and sweet.

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