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Mahar's Public Bar

Not Rated.
Mahar's Public BarMahar's Public Bar
BA SCORE
96
world-class

64 Ratings
Ratings: 64
Reviews: 64
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 11.52%
Taps: 28
Bottles: 100
Cask: Y
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Bar, Eatery ]

1110 Madison Ave
Albany, New York, 12208-2248
United States
phone: (518) 459-7868
// CLOSED //



Notes:
Monday - Saturday 4pm - midnight
Open the last Sunday of the month and every Sunday throughout December 2pm - 8pm

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
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Ratings: 64 | Reviews: 64 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of goodbyeohio
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.

Photo of Troy518
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.

Photo of ccs
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.

Photo of bwyker
3.34/5  rDev -23%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 1.5 | selection: 5

Often referred to by friends as the “beer library,” Mahar’s 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.” Don’t 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, don’t 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 didn’t think it was a very good beer and refused to pour it. While I agree, it’s not a very good beer, I don’t quite understand what it is doing on the menu if they don’t want people to have it. I once had a similar experience trying to order a Urthel Hop-it. Hops in a Belgian beer didn’t jive with the bartender and he only agreed to pout it if I ordered the smallest size (10 oz glass). Mahar’s does everything they can to keep people out of the bar. In its defense, it’s located in the heart of the student ghetto and one probably doesn’t want to deal with that clientele. I suppose the snob shtick is a line of defense that keeps out those who don’t respect the incredible list of beers offered. So what’s on that list? Well, currently available: Sam Hefe, Hoegaarden, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Hobgoblin, Double Dragon, Old Speckeled Hen, Guinness, Smthwick’s, Boddingtons, Belhaven Wee Heavy, Strongbow, Samichlaus, Corsendonk Brown, Delirium Tremens, Murphy’s Irish Stout, New Castle, Stone Bastard, Fuller’s 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 Oliver’s. I once saw a bottle of Weyerbacher 11 on the menu at Mahar’s for $20. The next day, I bought a bottle for $7 at Oliver’s. Mahar’s is pretty packed just about any day of the week, despite every effort to keep people away. I don’t know if it’s the quality of beer or the determination of beer enthusiasts that makes that so. However, I look past all of Mahar’s snobbery each week and I think any person who cares enough about beer could do the same.

Photo of newyawker
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.

Photo of stalker5
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.

Photo of ProfessorHomer
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...

Photo of crwills
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.

Photo of belhav0322
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.

Photo of STEG
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.

Photo of rlee1390
3.89/5  rDev -10.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5

I've been a few times just never reviewed the place. I would say they have about 20 taps, which rotate frequently and showcase seasonal beers as well. The best is the beers on cask, I believe there are 4-5 cask beers at any one time. Every time I've gone these have been predominately Middle Ages beers. They also have an extensive bottle list as well.

The place can get crowded, it is not that large and seating can get scarce.

Service is well, notorious. Know what you want to order, order it, say please and thank you, leave the bar and go sit down/stand with your friends.

Photo of Lazerlobe
3.95/5  rDev -9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4

The atmosphere was exactly what I wanted in a bar. Free tables, light music and a tight space. The overall English pub feel is what I seek in a bar.

This was not your best kept bar by any stretch of the altered imagination. That said, this same quality is what lends it charm. Glasses were clean than the bartender if that is what you mean.

The service comes split. If you need advice/have questions, these will be provided in earnest. If you walk up, don't observe some unstated/unclear customs and order a beer, you get the feeling that you are a nuisance to the bartender and would be better of trying a new spot. If this was the place where I was working at the mug club, it would be superb but the impression I got is that the bar was very regular-centric to the casual visitor's lament.

The line-up of taps guarantees something for everyone and they are forever rotating so come every week and expect to try something new.

Overall, I would love this place if I was local and will continue to swing in when I am in town but wouldn't recommend it to someone timid for a bar visit.

Photo of Dantes
3.96/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5

Atmosphere: An interesting vibe greets the first-time visitor to Mahar’s. It’s a clapboard building resembling a salt-box house (NOT any UK-style storefront I’ve ever seen!) wedged between some neon lit restaurants and other bars on Madison at the far end (from the Capitol) of the commercial district and across from Saint Rose College. It’s so unobtrusive that we drove right by it the first time. One enters a narrow vestibule with glass cases filled with breweriana (mostly tap handles), which also fill the front window and every available shelf inside not already occupied by mugs. Up a few stairs, the bar is to the left and runs almost the length of the place, with several “bays” on the right. The front bay has two tables that look out the front, while the other bays (a couple of which were empty when we got there) have demi-lune tables attached to the wall with free-standing stools. There’s also a back area with some more seating. On my visit, the bar was mostly occupied, and the bartender growled at me when I approached the one open spot (reserved by a tipped pint glass and a “personal” beer list). There was a small sign between two brass rails (the kind that normally delineate the waitstaff section of the bar) that cautions the patron to order, say please, and leave. Am I in McSorley’s? One of my friends whispered, “I guess this guy is like the Beer Nazi instead of the Soup Nazi.” One might expect this in NYC, but not Albany. Behind the bar is a wall of mugs reserved for regulars.

Quality: Everything served was in excellent shape. The cask Tally-Ho was superlative as was the Cantillon and the Beamish pours were picture-perfect. Mahar’s did seem to have a selection of glassware, but everything we had was served in Guinness-style tulip pints. Temperatures were appropriate to the beers.

Service: I’ve already described the service (which did warm up as we drank) to some degree. I don’t want to bash, but this is definitely a place that seems to cater to regulars. A medium-sized group of BA’s coming in might be deemed a nuisance or worse. Let me assure you, this was our first stop. We weren’t rowdy, impolite, or loud.

Selection: Again, I don’t want to trash-talk, but the selection is not so overwhelming as to approach the level some reviews seem to accord it. One gets a “new member” list (a la The Peculier Pub) running 3 pages of mostly single-spaced blocks of type (organized by country), which includes all of the current offerings. I didn’t do a hard count of the taps (I was too scared to dally at the bar), but I thought I saw 4 beer engines (two in use: Adnam’s Tally-Ho and a Scottish bitter I didn’t catch the name of) and about 15 or so regular taps. Oddly the regular taps included both Beamish AND Guinness, as well as beers ranging from Cantillon Bruoscella to Coniston Blue Bird. There were some bottle treasures, but also quite a few middle of the road offerings and a surprisingly sparse number of regional microcrafts. I’d have expected a full range of Middle Ages, Ithaca, Wagner Valley, Southern Tier, Lake Placid, etc. Prices can also run high, with some bottled beers offered at a 200%+ markup. Still, the reviewer remarking on $4-6 pints, must be living in fantasyland. How much cheaper should it be?

Food: It appears as if the regulars make and/or bring their own food. Propped on the rails of the bays, there was a pizza, a platter of wings, several dips in their plastic containers and baskets of crackers. However, I think this is an informal set-up and may vary from day to day. We were there on a Saturday night.

Backwash: I know that if I lived in the area, I’d LOVE Mahar’s. As an outsider, it’s a bit less enjoyable, but still boasts a great selection of beers in top condition. I don’t have nearly the experience of some BA beerflies, but I have seen several other places that offer at least this much variety. However, the cask offerings are nice and the offerings seem to turnover with regularity. From a New Jersey perspective, I’m jealous. From a wider perspective, this is a nice beer bar and a great asset to Albany.

Photo of slander
3.96/5  rDev -8.8%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5

Let's see. There was that Saturday a year or two back, when we did the Upstate/Downstate rumble, and had to bail much earlier than the time Mahar's opens to get back to Brooklyn for a wedding. And then, what, at least 2 or 3 Sundays where I found myself up north when the joint just flat out ain't open. I shouldn't have to work this hard to get a beer, is all I'm sayin'...
Got a parking spot front row center because I understand the art. Doesn't seem like much as you enter, a room deeper than wide. A long bar with no seating runs a good piece of the length to the left, and to the right, a pair of raised bar tables here, a pair of half tables there, and bar counters in between, with a pair of larger tables to the rear, one on each side.
The room is done mostly panel wall lowers with a large Mahar's mural to the rear of the room, plus wood posts and trim throughout, and a hardwood floor with a runnning strip of carpet. The walls are adorned with beer signs, placards, and bar mirrors. Tap handles, some from breweries and beers long gone (Elm City Blackwell Stout, Woodstock Braveheart Scottish, Catamount Amber, Post Road Snowshoe Brown, Red Hook Double Black Stout, Rhino Chasers Amber, Miller Velvet Stout), line the ledges above running all about the room. Tables all decorated with bar towels.
The bar back is a wall of mug club mugs, everywhere. Taps in front of and behind the bar, and bottles in a front nook. Now, there's a sign that says "Customer Service Area, 1) Order beer, say please. 2) Pay for beer, go away". They totally mean it. The sign is not playfully ha-ha, that's their general disposition here. Not like you ain't heard it before.
A big old beer list printable from the 'puter to the rear. As our arrival was on the heels of the Heavyweight cask event and they were all gone, the cask scene was in shambles. 6 casks, and not even half of them occupied. I also wasn't too crazily impressed by the tap selection. 28 taps, some nice beers, but for the most part, I don't know, average Irish, English, German selections. 6 Belgians and 3 of them are wasted on Hoegaarden, evil saccharine Duchesse, and Lindeman's Framboise (although the other 3 were Cantillon Gueuze, DT and Corsendonk Brown Ale). The American micros were solid enough. A pair of barleywines (Anchor Old Foghorn & Rogue Old Crusty '04), Hop Rod Rye, Rogue Glen Ale, Sierra Nevada Crystal Wheat, Post Road Pumpkin, and they still make Celis Raspberry??) Bottles, yeah, they got a boat load of 'em. Impressive English (good bunch of JW Lee's and George Gale's here), and Belgian, and about 100 US micros (Russian River anyone?). Well over 300 bottles in all.
Need me a beer. I first thought, "I'm going to get me a Post Road Pumpkin" and then real life snapped. "What the hell am I talking about?" and ordered the Cantillon Gueuze. I don't know where the hell I was there for a minute.
The food menu consists of chips & dip, a variety of cheese & crackers, and nachos chips with salsa. There's no TV here, no jukebox, and no Phil's golf game, but there is one excellent beer scene.

Photo of BrewMan13
4/5  rDev -7.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

I live not far from this place, so it was only a matter of time before I went in. First of all, the vibe is definitely one for regulars. In fact, the 1st thing that was said to me from the bartender was "I know about everyone that comes in here, but I dont know you, you must be new". Yeah, nice to meet you too :)
I didnt know the usual "policy" so I asked for a list, and the bartender went ahead and printed me one (it seemed most peopel had a self-printed list with beers highlighted). Took me a few min's to choose. Personally, I found the bottle list more impressive then the tap list. Sure they have some cask and quite a few draft offerings, but when I went in, those consisted of mostly English pale ales and bitters and other 'typical' summer fare (ipa's, pale wheat beers, etc). (I was expecting more local micros, but there were few in sight). Being a fan of heavy beers year-round, I went to the bottle list. Impressive but pricey. I got a Gulden Draak, a belgian I've never seen in the beer shop I frequent. It was carefully poured into the proper glassware. Seemed to have a touch of age on it, but still very enjoyable. Prices on most bottles seem to be at least double what they would retail for in most cases. Sure, I expect to pay more then retail, but doubel or more is a little much. I do like how they had a bunch I've never seen at the beer shop, but due to the prices I dont see myself becoming a regular.
I must say the people (regulars) there are incredibly nice. A crowd a bit older then myself, but very nice people. It seems on saturdays the regulars bring in snacks for everyone at the bar to share, which we were encouraged to partake in.
I expect if I became a regular my review would go up, but this is how it stands on my 1st visit.

Photo of BeerTruth
4.03/5  rDev -7.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5

Very unique bar to visit. If you plan on being someone to get drunk and crazy don't even think about going here. This is the place you go to sit down for a beer or two to enjoy beer. The outside is somewhat of a false front once you enter the bar. Enjoy yourself here and make sure you pick out the perfect beer for yourself because they have plenty to choose from in terms of bottles. Their beer menu is quite extensive. They offer a good amount of cheese and crackers to clean the taste buds so you can experience another one of their many brews in which they offer. If you happen to be in the Albany area, make sure you stop by this bar for a brew or two. Also, while you're in the Albany area...make sure to visit the Albany Pump Station in downtown Albany just of 787 for good beer and good food.

Photo of FourQuarters
4.04/5  rDev -6.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

Living in the area, I've been to Mahar's many times. It has a great beer selection and you're always sure to find a tasty version of the style you're looking to enjoy. That being said, figuring out what they actually have at any given time isn't easy. Beer menus are scare, so I find it's ask and hope -- and generally the hoping is rewarded. The place is small and crowded and on busy nights I could almost brew a beer as quickly as I can get served one. On less busy nights it's a great place for great beer and conversation. Plan on eating before you go or after you leave. I've never seen food at Mahars or anything resembling a food menu (like Bigfoot and their beer menu, it's elusive if it even exists). I assume the staff is knowledgeable about beer, but it's hard to tell as the only thing I've ever heard from any of them is "What do want?" and a repetition of my order to make sure that they got it right. Small, crowded and slow, but a great selection of beer.

Photo of NEhophead
4.06/5  rDev -6.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Located right in downtown Albany. I would never have found this place if it wasn't for word of mouth. From the outside this place looks like your typical convenience mart store front. Inside is a spacious pub with a long wooden bar lining the left hand side of the establishment. Plenty of tables to accomodate a crowd; yet on a Saturday night around 7pm, it was pretty dead. We sat at a large table and were even able to play some cards while enjoying the selection. Speaking of the selection; they have computer print offs of all the brews they are featuring at the time, located in the back of the pub. A few highlights included the Old Rasputin, Pranqster Golden, Duchesse de Borgogne, etc. A very solid selection of 30 taps, but not in the Moan and Dove category. Service consisted of walking up to the bar, waiting for the bartender, and ordering. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion; and the staff seemed to know their stuff too. A nice pub with a great atmosphere to enjoy a few pints with some friends.

Photo of TurdFurgison
4.06/5  rDev -6.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

I stopped here while in Alabany in mid-August, looking for some east coast beers on tap. There were about 25 taps and 3 casks available when I visited. The taps included some Belgians (Piraat and others), Germans (Hacker Pschor and others), English (Hobgoblin and others), and USA (mosly east coast). The casks were all from Middle Ages.

The bartender was pretty cool, he took the time to answer questions about the more obscure selections.

The atmosphere is cool, quiet and thinky. I tried this because it was on the "top 50 places to have a beer" list on BA. Not a bad place at all, but not as outstanding as I expected...

Photo of jgnatek
4.08/5  rDev -6%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

an oasis in a town of crap.

this is your old man standing around drinking cask type of joint. atmosphere is fine, with beer stuff all over the place. we got one of the few tables, since you stand at the bar.

the beer was pretty good. they didn't have anything that really excited me, but atleast had a bunch of different casks to try.

didn't really deal with the service, as my friend ordered, but since he knew him, seemed friendly enough.

so selection. yes, they have a billion bottles of beer. thats pretty cool. too bad so much of it is uninteresting. i had a beer from costa rica because i used to live there. it was a terrible sweet lager, but i knew that already. they do a computer database that keeps track of the beers you have had and what you need to have. pretty clever. we met the guy that had drank the most, that was still living or something. nice guy, pretty nutty about beer. i guess you'd have to be to drink five thousand beers in the same place.

didn't have any food, but i don't think they offer any.

overall, not really a destination, but if you are in albany and don't want to goto that god awful pumphouse brewery, come here. its atleast real.

Photo of drseamus
4.1/5  rDev -5.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 2 | selection: 5 | food: 4

Mahar's is kind of like that bar in the Sam Adams commercial where the bartender says they have "hundred-fifty kinds of beer" except they have more beers than that and if you order Sam Adams you will get a weird look. When you enter the bar, you go directly to the back and print out your tour list. This keeps track of every beer you have had at Mahar's. You get some rewards along the way at 50, 125, 200, and 500 beers including a personal engraved mug on the wall and a case of your choosing. I have personally had about 200 beers there so far. The list is generally separated by draft or bottle, and then by country although you can have the list separated by style as well. The selection is amazing; they generally have 20ish rotating beers on draft and another 200 in the bottle.

The prices initially seem expensive, but when you consider what beers you are getting, they are reasonable. They usually have some vintage english beers, belgians, and a bunch of beers from countries that you didn't expect to make beer. The part owner and main bartender Bill is usually very helpful in helping you choose a beer and the other bartenders are as well.

Although this is primarily a beer bar, they do offer some food as well. They offer homemade meat pies, sandwiches that they will grill for you, some pasta dishes, and cheeses and crackers. All things considered, this is my favorite bar in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area.

Photo of Longstaff
4.14/5  rDev -4.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

I was expecting a larger more upscale place, but when a bar focuses on beer, it could be in a dump and I would feel comfortable. A narrow bar like the kind you would expect in NYC with a bar (no stools) on one wall and a few tables lined up on the other and in the back. 25 taps and an impressive 300 bottles. A lot of middle of the road and flagship beers though, leaving a smaller selection that is worth getting excited over. I thought the Belgian and German selections were just average for a place with this many choices. And I expected the selection of American micros would have included more breweries from NY and deeper selections from each brewery represented. A small selection of snacks and one entree' made up the food menu. All in all a good beer bar that definitely focuses on beer. A great asset to the Albany area, but is it the best in the land? I've been to better.

Photo of Litterbean
4.18/5  rDev -3.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Awesome place. The atmosphere is perfect. Beer paraphernalia and tap handles adorn the entire length of this long and narrow pub. No TVs, and low music where you can hear the people you are talking to.

The bartenders were prompt and polite and they seemed to know a bit about beer as well.

The selection is spectacular. 6 beer engines plus something like 20 taps and over 300 bottles. The casks are mostly Middle Ages stuff but it's still great. Their beer list is truly spectacular and you can print one out for yourself on the back computer in the pub.

The regulars also like to bring in food for everyone to enjoy, so that was nice and really added to the atmosphere. If you want a great place to drink a quality beer, then do yourself a favor and check this place out.

Photo of madmanjf
4.2/5  rDev -3.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 3 | selection: 5

A hidden gold mine.

You'll find things on tap or cask that you've never imagined or heard of (depending on how much of a beer snob you are).

The selection is simply phenominal. It goes beyond anything I've seen in NYC or Boston in terms of a quality selection.

The computerized beer tour is great ... and the management/ownership takes it serious and keeps it well updated.

The staff can, actually "will", come off as very harsh to new comers. Unfortunately, my best suggestion is to not ask too many question. Follow the rules, be respectful, and you'll do fine.

Photo of williamherbert
4.3/5  rDev -0.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5

So this was the (in)famous Mahar's. I've heard so much about it, both good and bad. I've heard they have more bottles than God himself, and that the barkeeps are as rude as Lucifer.

As it's been mentioned, there is a printable list of the beers they have. You put your name on it and they start subtracting the beers you've ordered. Lots of obscure beers from all over. Really an amazing selection. A little on the pricey side but worth it for the sheer selection all in one spot.

The look of the bar is that of a woody English pub. We got there early so there were plenty of tables and places to sit. There was also a more open area where it was possible to stand. (We met a couple of nice Albany-based former microbrewers and had some nice conversation, mostly about beer... what could be better, really?)

The food didn't appear to be supplied by the bar, but rather brought by customers? I couldn't really tell. Either way I had just eaten so I didn't try anything but the wings got raves.

I had heard some things about the bartenders here, so I braced for some attitude when I made my order (I went with a Rogue, hoping it would help me avoid scorn). Though it took the barkeep a while to get to me due to the line in front of me, he was pleasant enough, even if slightly condescending in his tone after I asked what I needed to do to fill out the sign-up sheet.

It's quite a place. If you live in Albany and haven't been there, then shame on you. Get your behind over there this Saturday, 4pm sharp.

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Mahar's Public Bar in Albany, NY
96 out of 100 based on 64 ratings.