Mahar's Public Bar
Taps: 28 / Bottles: 100
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 64 | Reviews: 64 | Display Reviews Only:
2.93/5 rDev -32.5%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 1 | selection: 4 | $$$$
mahar's. where to start.
i was very excited to check this place out, based on the reviews and the good word from mikeys01 (see two reviews below). i ventured in on the friday night before belgium comes to cooperstown, 7/14/06.
the place itself feels like a hobbit-hole. as my girlfriend expounded, the people here also kinda had the dungeons and dragons vibe. the interior is best described as a wood-drenched, low-ceiling-having cave. the bar extends the length of the room on the left side, and has no stools. on the right side of the room are the stools.. odd, bulky clawfoot wooden stools lined up in several u-shapes. very odd setup and not socialization-friendly. there are a couple of standard tables set up in the back. there seem to be shelves everywhere.. built into the ceiling, lined against the bar.. all around. the shelves contain old library books for reading, dusty chess boards and beer bottles. the crowd is decidely grumpy old folks with white beards and middle-aged weirdos. some collegiate types. lots of taps and handpumps visible though, many beer bottles in low fridges and mug club mugs on display. regardless of the bizarre atmosphere, this place bleeds beeriness.
the menu had some highpoints but was overall not that impressive. if it wasn't for the middle ages drafts (which i don't get in ct, but are common in this area), i would put this place lower selection-wise than bars i frequent here in beer-starved CT. there were alot of inbev products available as well as the more commonplace us microbrews. still, i found solace in a expertly served middle ages X cask pint. served nice and imperial, although my wallet felt the blow. this place ain't cheap. my final beer of the night was to be a rye ipa from hebrew brewing, which was available in bottles. that experience was not so good... on to the service.
first problem with the service. attitude. yeah, i know, these people are beer geeks and it's part of the elitist beer atmosphere. well y'know what? fuck that. if these people had a kulminator-caliber beer list.. ok. this place has a way to go to match the brew quality to the snobbiness the staff shows. specifics? here ya go.
1) asked the bartender for a beer list. "press enter twice on the computer". ok fine. where's the computer? what computer? huh? it took me a couple minutes to figure this one out, but i mean come on. i want a beer, i don't want to play global thermonuclear war on this 1980's beer computer monstrosity. what a waste of paper and a stupid way to run a mug club. i could go into the specifics but you really need to check this model of inefficiency out for yourself.
2) asked the bartender, "can i have a bittersweet lenny's ripa and two glasses?" he responds, "no.". umm, fuck you too, asshole. i stand there, shuffling through the stupid beer printouts to figure out what to have instead, and he comes back with a 22oz bottle of the bittersweet lenny and a smile on his face. ok, problem solved. also ordered another beer at the same time for another patron, and the total came to an exorbitant $22. ok, it's my last beer, whatever. i paid, he handed it to me and walked away. got back to the table and poured the beer. warm. warmer than room temp. they must not have had any cold, and one was located in a box somewhere. for a place that respects beer to such high levels of assholishness, this is an unacceptable mistake. allie suggested that the total shouldn't have been 22 and sure enough, they overcharged me by $6. again, i curse the douchebag bartender.
no food available here. well, there were some wilted saran-wrapped sandwiches in a tiny fridge on display, but they looked barely edible.
i had one excellent beer here and a decent time hanging out, so i can't say i absolutely hate mahar's. and i see how the locals praise this place. for albany, i'm sure it's the bee's knees. for me, this is a must-AVOID as long as pump house stays in business. i won't be back here if i can help it. mostly because of atrocious service.
07-20-2006 15:43:31 | More by goodbyeohio
3/5 rDev -30.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2 | selection: 4 | $$$
I know other people have highly rated this bar and I do not argue with it being the best that there is in the Albany area. I have been here twice and have been a bit disappointed. My party of three had to wait outside for 15 minutes because the bar was at capacity (65 people). Once we got in, we requested a beer menu and were directed to go print one out on the computer. Previously, we went and there was no crowd and were served promptly. I would recommend avoiding this place on high traffic days, mainly Thursday through Saturday. The bartenders were more attentive to their frequent patrons than to newcomers. The practice of getting in a service line took a bit getting used to. The beer that was ordered was served well above temperature and thus disappointing. The glasses were very warm and the beer itself tasted like it was served around 60F. I appreciated the fact that they didn't let more people in than they could handle but I wish the service was a little more attentive. Their selection is the best in the area but their markup seems a bit on the pricier side in comparison to some of the places I've been to in Boston (i.e. Publick House & Monk Cell, Sunset Grille, etc.). If you are really looking for these beers I suggest visiting Oliver's in Albany and saving some cash.
09-06-2008 04:03:37 | More by Troy518
3.33/5 rDev -23.3%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | $$$
The place doesn't open until 4 (if I remember correctly.) I found this out a year ago when we swung through Albany almost exclusively to visit Mahar's...we finally got there last month.
I have to say, I was expecting more based on the reviews. It was clean, moderately quiet, but not overly welcoming. For a Tuesday night, it was pretty busy and there were a bunch of college-aged kids taking over two of the large tables. We ended up standing and drinking our beers. It took forever for the bartender to serve us, thanks to the aforementioned crowd.
I was disappointed that there was such a small selection of American beer on tap. Maybe only 10. I was hoping to find nice local drafts, but in all honesty, it wasn't anything special that I wouldn't be able to find at a good beer store.
12-04-2006 07:21:52 | More by ccs
3.34/5 rDev -23%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 1.5 | selection: 5 | $$$$
Often referred to by friends as the beer library, Mahars is a very unconventional bar that takes something good to a level so ridiculous it begins to stink of obnoxious snobbery. The austere atmosphere is enough to put you to sleep. Last night, I was taken aback when I think I actually heard some music playing under the chatter of people speaking carefully in their inside voices. Dont get me wrong, I am just as annoyed as the next guy by the cacophony of douchebags conversing about complete nonsense at unnecessarily loud volumes. However, this is a bar, like it or not maybe a little music and dimming of the lights would serve as a nice reminder. Anyway, dont expect to pull a seat up to the bar, as the stools have been removed I assume to keep people from staying for too long. The menu of beer can be a bit misleading. For example, last night I heard someone try to order a Sam Adams Hefe, which was clearly on the list [Note: world tour beer club members are provided a print out of draft & bottled beers]. However, the bartender didnt think it was a very good beer and refused to pour it. While I agree, its not a very good beer, I dont quite understand what it is doing on the menu if they dont want people to have it. I once had a similar experience trying to order a Urthel Hop-it. Hops in a Belgian beer didnt jive with the bartender and he only agreed to pout it if I ordered the smallest size (10 oz glass). Mahars does everything they can to keep people out of the bar. In its defense, its located in the heart of the student ghetto and one probably doesnt want to deal with that clientele. I suppose the snob shtick is a line of defense that keeps out those who dont respect the incredible list of beers offered. So whats on that list? Well, currently available: Sam Hefe, Hoegaarden, Youngs Double Chocolate Stout, Hobgoblin, Double Dragon, Old Speckeled Hen, Guinness, Smthwicks, Boddingtons, Belhaven Wee Heavy, Strongbow, Samichlaus, Corsendonk Brown, Delirium Tremens, Murphys Irish Stout, New Castle, Stone Bastard, Fullers ESB, Sea Dog Blueberry, Rouge Imperial Porter, Spaten Oktoberfest, Paulaner Oktoberfest, Saranc Rootbeer maybe a few more. A few casks of Middle Ages beers were available. The bottle list is several pages long; however, the mark up is outrageous. Drive a few miles down the road and you can get the same beer for about 1/3 the price at Olivers. I once saw a bottle of Weyerbacher 11 on the menu at Mahars for $20. The next day, I bought a bottle for $7 at Olivers. Mahars is pretty packed just about any day of the week, despite every effort to keep people away. I dont know if its the quality of beer or the determination of beer enthusiasts that makes that so. However, I look past all of Mahars snobbery each week and I think any person who cares enough about beer could do the same.
09-22-2006 19:47:34 | More by bwyker
3.45/5 rDev -20.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 2.5
Am I the only one not that impressed with this place? In a nondescript part of Madison Ave with a front you could easily walk by without knowing its there, this small, narrow bar is very woody. Not many seats, you have to stand to drink your beer. Pretty fun game for their mug club, but since I don't live in Albany I wasn't that impressed. tap selection was good. Maybe 15 different taps, but nothing really wild I don't see at Gingerman or David Copperfield's when I've been there. They make some OK grub in the back of the bar, behind the bar, but just simple pub stuff. Bartender wasn't the nicest or most knowledgeable, but efficient. OK, a decent college bar, but the best in the state? Not in my opinion.
01-11-2005 21:37:50 | More by newyawker
3.53/5 rDev -18.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4 | $$$
I've been to Mahar's a few times and I do enjoy it but heading into to look around to see what you want isn't really possible. Tap handles are normally dirty and tough to read and they get you a beer list for that day when you go in. When you decide what you want, you normally do have to wait some time before placing and receiving your order. It's a decent place to check out to do their beer list and if you're sold on the incentive to have your own glass and all that, but not really if you're looking to hang out or have something really good. Some of the cask stuff isn't bad but it's very pricey for the average joe going in to check out a few new beers. It can also get pretty annoying in there when it fills out. There's not a lot of seating and it's fairly narrow and tough to maneuver through when crowded.
10-08-2012 15:11:36 | More by stalker5
3.6/5 rDev -17.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2 | selection: 5 | food: 1.5 | $$$$
This famously odd place has beers you will find no where else in a 100 mile radius of Albany. A real man's real beer bar. Bring cash - and lots of it - features the most expensive pints in Albany.
Atmosphere: Previously, and accurately, described as a "Beer Cave" or "Hobbit Hole". Difficult to find, small but deep with sanding-room-only nooks. Only regulars can stand (no sitting!) at the bar. The rest of us peons need line up in a specific spot to "Order Beer Here; Pay; Go Away" per their sign. They bolt all their old taps to sills throughout the place, and they have ALOT of them - impressive!
Quality: They get kegs and casks you ill find nowhere else. And some regular brews too. VERY expensive, pints are from $8 to $12.
Service: They pour and take your money. Ask nothing else for ye shall only me met with stony silence and despair.
Selection: Very eclectic. From local brewskis to exotic European seasonal kegs - they seem to be able to get almost anything yet tap randomly - you have alot of choice. Had six casks on tap when we visited - intriguing.
Food: They have food?
Value: You will find beers from your beer "Bucket List" that you will find nowhere else. You will pay dearly for them.
Come here at least once - but the place is almost always packed so arrive early for best standing room. Bring your own fun, this is a true beer-snob's bar staffed by true beertender snobs. Nevertheless, I remain intrigued...
01-17-2010 19:12:06 | More by ProfessorHomer
3.74/5 rDev -13.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | $$
An oasis in Albany!
Was in town for a few days for work and found this place on Beerfly, so a friend and I decided to check it out. This was a Thursday night, maybe 7pm when we first got there, and it was really crowded already -- and it only got more crowded throughout the night. Standing room only, basically -- the one table and few stools were full up with what looked like regulars.
Great set of casks and taps, the latter placed at various locations around the room. All beers poured expertly, although with little enthusiasm or friendliness. I'd heard rumours about surliness and snark here, but all we really experienced was indifference.
Anyway, started off with a Middle Ages stout on cask, headed next door for some so-so Indian (no food in sight at Mahar's), and came back for a draft Stone RIS followed by a cask No Apologies DIPA, which pretty much ended my evening. Huge selection which I gather changes constantly, plus a cool little computer application for keeping track of what you've tried.
Really nice to find a place like this in Albany, whose food and drink scene is pretty mediocre. Will definitely go back whenever I'm in town.
04-30-2007 18:25:42 | More by crwills
3.75/5 rDev -13.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4
What an odd place. Like the rest of the reviews state, the place is pretty small and low-key. There is a long bar with no stools, but adequate standing room. Across from the bar there are about 5 or 6 tables. It is well lit and full of various taps and beer mats.
As for the beers, they have a great selection. The draft and bottle menu is listed by country or region. I prefer that it be listed by style, but if you know what you are looking for, it is pretty easy.
They have an extensive range from all over, and feature some obscure micro's. When I was there a few weeks back they had Perkuno's Hammer on cask! Yum!!
I have been here about 5 times and have never been impressed with the service. The bartenders are knowledgable and will answer any questions you have, but they seem put off by doing so (simple questions about what style a certain regional on tap is, since styles are not listed). Last time I was there, my group was the last one out of the place when they closed. We were quiet and respectful all night, and did not hold them up when it was last call. We all said goodnight and great job to the bartender, who was standing very near us, and he did not even respond. Whatever, I guess I am nitpicking.
All in all a great spot, but I feel it is not worhty of all the glowing reviews it seems to get. Still, whenever I am in Albany, I make it a point to get here.
08-20-2004 20:32:56 | More by belhav0322
3.85/5 rDev -11.3%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4 | $$$$
Where to begin with this place, lets start with the beer, when ordering you get to look at the tap handles or ask for the beer list which is nearly impossible to read and usually covered in old beer. Then once you figure out what you want you have to wait for the simpsons comic book guy to saunter his way over to you to get your beer. I went here recently with one of my college professors and a small group of better than average college students (who were slightly into beer). I was able to make my way through to order good beer, but comic book guy was kind of pretentious when they either had no idea what they wanted or were asking for less than good offerings that the bar wouldn't ever carry stuff like blue moon or Sam Adams. The quality of the beer and and the offerings has diminished lately going from having ten fidy on tap to leffe blond and other average beers from england. Occasionally they'll get something good in but meh. The beer is also expensive. Its a great place for beer snobs but not for the average new to beer or less discerning consumer.
08-12-2010 19:51:01 | More by STEG
Mahar's Public Bar in Albany, NY
96 out of 100 based on 64 ratings.