I think soul is hard to manufacture. Its something that a bar has to earn. Thus, many new beer bars opening up (whether they are genuinely passionate about craft, or just trying to capitalize on the trend), have a difficult time cultivating that atmosphere. Soul comes from tradition, from building relationships with regulars, the local community, etc. It doesn't happen overnight. I agree w/ many above that the quality of the beer matters - but if choosing between 2 bars with similar offerings, I'd take the one that feels to me most like a relaxed place I'd enjoy spending time in. It also helps that I live in a city with a few hundred different bars to choose from.