Commentary

Guzzle down a cold one on the deck of The Esso Club in Clemson, S.C.

Updated: July 10, 2012, 1:03 PM ET
By Scott Austin and Deborah Satter

86 Guzzle down a cold one on the deck of The Esso Club in Clemson, S.C.

If they held a national championship for college sports bars, The Esso Club would be our pick to win it all. This converted gas station on the edge of the Clemson University campus isn't a mecca of memorabilia. It doesn't boast 48 big-screen TVs pumped by a satellite system. You won't find dozens of premium beers on the vast menu. No, what makes Esso great is its history, its people. While the small town of Clemson's been in business 52 years, Esso marks 65 with the state's oldest continuous beer license. The bar top is made out of wooden seats long ago retired from football's Death Valley. The patrons are made of mettle-with iron stomachs. Every day, a bunch of locals with handles like Knight and Punk taste-test the beer in a niche dubbed the "Educational Corner." And you can set your watch by the yellow lab named Jeff who barks to come in and cool off after downing his 3 p.m. sandwich from the barbecue joint next door. Esso is also the birthplace of Spitoono, a "festival of the redneck performing arts" (think tobacco spitting and beer chugging) now held at a bigger nearby location. "Nothing much to Esso," says owner Ron Lee. Oh, but there is.

Like Esso, these college watering holes will leave you warm and fuzzy. (You decide how fuzzy.)

State Street Brats Madison, Wis.

Take the Big Ass Burger Challenge-a fave of offensive linemen-and engulf a two-pound burger, a big basket of fries and a 24-oz. drink in a half-hour. Or forget the free T-shirt and gnaw on a brat.

Corner Club Moscow, Idaho

Ride in a free school bus to the U. of I's Kibbie Dome, then come back to join the football coaches in their postgame victory chant.

McDuffy's Sports Bar Tempe, Ariz.

"Women grow hair between the time they come in and when they leave," claim the owners of this macho ASU nightclub-on-steroids.

Nick's English Hut Bloomington, Ind.

Get your name carved into one of the 2,000 "Nick's Bricks" on the sidewalk. But hurry, Hoosier fans-space is running out.

The Houndstooth Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Order "The Doghouse" and admire Joe Namath's helmet or one of Bear Bryant's houndstooth hats.

Ivar's Baton Rouge, La.

Slide another ticket stub under one of the glass covered tables, then rub elbows with the "Bleacher Bums" in the place "where beautiful people come to get ugly!"

The Crimson Sports Grill Cambridge, Mass.

Talk Nietzsche and Nitschke at this Ivy League institution frequented by Lampooners and linemen alike.

44's Syracuse, N.Y.

Squeeze in with jocks at this late '80s arrival inspired by backfield greats Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little-and popularized by frontcourt bad boy Derrick Coleman.

Touchdown Cafe Ann Arbor, Mich.

Roll out of bed and get into game spirit with the 9 a.m. Kegs n' Eggs special: $1 pitchers and all the scrambled eggs you can eat.

Harpo's Columbia, Mo.

Bring your hacksaw. That's right. After a big Mizzou win, a goalpost is dropped in front for all to grab a slice. (Why do we think this is not a good idea?)

87 Learn to compute an ERA. (But don't waste time with QB ratings)