About a decade ago, if you wanted a beer that was out of the ordinary, there were few places you could go in East Lansing. However, that's changed in the past few years, and now several restaurants offer dozens of craft brews from around the nation and world on tap.
This guide will go over where to find a decent place to drink in East Lansing, whether you just want a quiet place to talk with friends or cut loose on a dance floor. Note: there is a Buffalo Wild Wings on Albert and Charles, but I'm leaving it out here because 99% of us know what to expect when entering a Buffalo Wild Wings. I will say that the service there is generally very good, especially when compared to some of the other B-Dubs franchises out there.
Places to sit, relax, and enjoy a craft beer
Crunchy's: 254 W Grand River
While there are places that have a greater number of beers on tap, few other places have served craft beers -- especially ones from Michigan -- as long or as devoted as Crunchy's. With 20+ beers on tap, you'll find something you like. If you have a group of four or more, they'll pour 256 ounces of the beer of your choice (assuming the ABV isn't too high) into a bucket. They have Karaoke nights Thursday and Friday, so take that into consideration depending on your feelings.
HopCat: 300 Grove St.
Let me ask you a question: does the idea of 100 craft beers on tap interest you? If it does, then check out HopCat. I haven't been to the one in East Lansing yet, but the original location in Grand Rapids is top-notch, and I haven't heard any complaints about the location in East Lansing.
Harrison Roadhouse: 720 Michigan Ave.
While not explicitly known as a craft beer place, the Roadhouse has 21 craft beers on tap, 12 of those specifically from Michigan. It's mainly a restaurant, so if you're looking for a place to get a bite to eat as well and want to be closer to the west side of campus, Harrison Roadhouse is for you.
Woody's Oasis Bar and Grill: 211 E Grand River
Note that the "Bar and Grill" portion is important, as there are other Woody's locations that do not serve alcohol. The one on Grand River is a bar though, and you can get several Michigan craft beers on tap here. If you're looking for a quiet place to have a couple pints before or after game day, this Mediterranean restaurant is probably where you want to head. The hummus here is excellent as well.
Bagger Dave's: 1351 E Grand River
Bagger Dave's is a quasi-chain burger restaurant that has 15-20 locations around Michigan. They're significantly further east than most of the East Lansing nightlife, so if you're looking to get away from most of the undergrads, you can get a burger and a beer here.
Peppino's: 213 Ann St
They only opened this past Fall, so I have not been to Peppino's yet. They advertise DJs on the weekends, so I assume some dancing gets done here, but I'm not entirely sure. If you've been here on a weekend night, how is it? Let me know in the comments. (EDIT: from commenter GKern58: "Peppino’s is more family friendly than the Hopcat, it’s not a dancing place by any means. It’s a pretty good sports bar, with good Pizza." - PR)
The Peanut Barrel: 521 E. Grand River
The Barrel doesn't have quite the beer selection as some of the aforementioned bars. What it does have is the best Long Island Iced Tea in town. The porch is one of the best places to sit in East Lansing on summer nights, and it attracts a more laid-back clientele than some of the other bars in town.
Dublin Square: 327 Abbot Rd
At night Dublin Square best resembles a mullet: business in the front, party in the back. While the front area serves as a restaurant, the back area serves as a place to get a couple of Harps and bust a few moves. If your group of friends can't decide whether to dance or relax, this may be the place for you.
Places to drink and dance
Rick's: 224 Abbot Rd
If you're looking for banging bass, striped shirts with collars, and people between the ages of 21-22, you're in the right spot. The last couple times I've been here on Fridays (for nostalgia purposes, I assure you), the party didn't get going until 11 PM at the earliest. Expect to pay cover (~$5) here on weekend nights. If you're over the age of 25 Rick's probably won't appeal to you, if you're under that age and like DJs and dancing, this might be where you want to head.
P.T. O'Malley's: 210 Abbot Rd
Essentially Rick's with natural light. If you know you want to go to Rick's but there's a line, head to P.T's, and vice versa.
The Riv: 231 M.A.C. Ave
So let's say you want to have a good time, but maybe want a slightly more laid back crowd and don't care for dancing too much. I'd say The Riv is for you. While they do have a good variety of beers on tap, when I was an undergrad I usually stuck to the $3 mugs of Labatt Light. If you know you want to have a few beers but not be overwhelmed by bass, I'd say go to The Riv.
Club Rush: 131 Albert St
If you want the closest thing to a night club with a bunch of lights and thumping bass within the borders of East Lansing, head here. They only serve beer from Harper's I believe, so you won't be able to get your typical selection of microbrews.
Once again, if I left out any of your favorites, put them in the comments.