Grin and beer it
Time was when Bangalore was known as the pub capital of India. Strict nightlife laws (dancing is prohibited in places that serve alcohol, and all restaurants and pubs are forced to draw down their shutters by 11.30pm) have dulled the shine of the glory days a fair bit, but the Brigade Road-MG Road area is still one of the best places to go pub-crawling in India. While there are a number of venerable institutions, let's start with the ones closest to the Chinnaswamy Stadium and then walk along MG Road onto Brigade.
Hard Rock Café, 40 St Marks Road
The energy of this place is incredible. With possibly the best music system of any Bangalore restaurant or pub, clichés like "the music really hits you" can be thrown around truthfully. Wednesday nights are Ladies Nights (women get discounted rates). On Thursdays you have rock bands playing live. Saturdays see bartenders juggle flaming bottles. It gets crowded over the weekend, so carry cash - cards can take ages to swipe. Wash down great American burgers, Tex-Mex food or pasta with local light lagers or the superlative Belgian Trappist beers. Or try the pomegranate martini or any of the variants of the reliable Long Island Ice Tea.
Koshy's, 39 St Mark's Road
Down the road from HRC is Koshy's - completely frills-free (no, they don't play any music) but infinitely more "atmospheric". This is where Bangalore's arty set hangs out, amidst checkered tablecloths and lazy waiters (there's a secret room they all disappear to when you need them). The between-meals fare includes excellent minced meat or liver on toast, cutlets, sandwiches and eggs done various ways. Koshy's offers standard bottled beer (no draught) and what is known as Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL). You might need to wait for a table, but once ensconced you can linger for hours for a reasonable tab.
Tavern, 1, Museum Inn, Museum Road
Off St Mark's Road, this one's an expat favourite. The long bar is a great place to hang out, strike up conversations with strangers, and conduct vociferous arguments about the day's cricket. The prices are steeper than in similar pubs, but that doesn't prevent it from getting jam-packed on most days. Watch out for waiters pushing past patrons, trying to balance pitchers of chilled Kingfisher beer and hurriedly made, avoidable cocktails.
13th Floor, 84, MG Road
Since Bangalore doesn't have too many tall buildings, this lounge bar on the 13th floor of a building on the city's arterial road is a big draw. Besides the great views, the good cocktails (I personally love Big Bertha and Zero) and super food are definite attractions. I've never had a dish here that I didn't like, but the kebabs and spare ribs are outstanding. Saturday nights are couples-only and if you want a table, it's advisable to reserve in advance.
Le Rock Café, Rest House Road, Off Brigade Road
A rock pub that starts out slow but gets progressively noisier and ends with an hour or so of heavy metal. Le Rock has a great music system and LCD screens all around. Their cocktail pitchers (especially the Smirnoff Strawberry) are fantastic. There is Kingfisher on tap (served in funky mugs), but if beer is your poison, make sure you arrive early: It tends to run out on super-busy nights. The seafood platter and bacon-wrapped prawns make for yummy bites.
Guzzlers, Rest House Road, off Brigade Road
Another expat favorite, this laidback place its great for days when you're not in the mood for an intense rock pub experience and just want to chill out with a beer. The music is unobtrusive and low enough to allow for easy conversation. You'll find most people here nursing a draught pint or a whiskey.
Pecos, Rest House Road, off Brigade Road
Possibly the cheapest pitcher of beer at a real pub. The patrons here fall into two categories: college students and those who wish they were college students. Pecos mostly plays classic rock from the 60s and 70s. Till a few years ago, their music was played off cassette tapes - what do you know, some of them still work. Less well known is their excellent food: the appams and stew they have for breakfast is to die for, as is the prawn curry, and the dosas, the thick fluffy type. You may even be forgiven for never getting to the main courses because of the spicy beef/pork/bacon chilli fry, which goes wonderfully well with beer. Be warned that draught beer (Fosters) is all you get there. They serve no other liquor, not even bottled beer.
Styx Junction of MG Road and Brigade Road
A pub frequented by long-haired metalheads. The bartender makes a mean Brass Monkey and there is a choice of Kingfisher and Fosters on tap, besides standard bottled beer and IMFL. Grab a seat by the windows. Styx has a flexible floor designed for people to jump up and down on while headbanging. A must-visit just for the experience, since there are very few pure metal pubs in India.