Mahar's Public Bar
Taps: 28 / Bottles: 100
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 64 | Reviews: 64 | Display Reviews Only:
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.
11-20-2005 06:33:55 | More by slander
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...
08-22-2006 03:07:02 | More by TurdFurgison
4.86/5 rDev +12%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5
Well we drove over four hours in the aftermath of a nice snow storm to get here. The number one rated US pub on this here site. Was it worth the drive and the time to get here. In one word: Yes!
The atmosphere of this place is unreal. A nice UK style storefront welcomes you in from Madison avenue. Upon entering you start to read the interesting non-smoking signs, and "house rules". Even in the vestibule of this place I had good feelings:-) The atmosphere is really nice in here. All wood, and quite old looking with books and games scattered around little nooks and crannies of wood. A few stools are around, but none of them are by the bar. They invite you to look at their recently (daily?) printed beer-list. Select a beer and leave the bar area :-) The quality of all of the ales sampled was exceptional and the selection is quite awesome as well, though not as mind-blowing as I expected. I ended up trying the new brooklyn sustainable porter, a rogue 12pa fresh off the tap, and a heavyweight pegalina. The beers were a bit on the pricey side at $4-6 a pint, but for the rare stuff ordered it is perfectly understandable and fine by me. When you pay, you should always pay for quality. Service here is quite nice with the bartender of the evening being a veritable beer encyclopedia. When I quizzed him on the pegalina by heavyweight, he poured me a generous sized (5oz?) sample of it for free, I than got a half of that and some water as well. Nice service, indeed. Truly, one of the best beer bars in the US
01-11-2005 01:06:00 | More by francisweizen
4.72/5 rDev +8.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4 | $$
Quaint atmosphere, especially with the stand up bar area. Numerous tap handles and other beer decorations create the right mood.
Selection is top quality local craft, east coast craft, and a good range of imports. I was able to savor an imperial pint of Coninston Bluebird Bitter here, well before it made its way into beer retail merchant stores.
On my weeknight visit I found the service to be good and the bar uncrowded, but I can imagine it is rowdy on Friday or Saturday night. There has to be a reason why they resort to standing at the bar in that narrow corridor, and I'd bet it's not good.
07-04-2008 04:31:43 | More by yemenmocha
4.66/5 rDev +7.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $$
What a great bar. I wish I could have been with some friends as there are no seats at the bar. I'm used to drinking alone when I travel (that almost sounds bad), but having a pint or two by myself at a six top wood table that looks like it came out of somebody's kitchen 30 years ago was a bit weird. I would have liked to be able to sit at the bar and talk to the bartender, but minor issue.
Atmosphere: Mahar's made me feel like I was back in a time where people went to their local Pub to have a beer and share time with their friends on a regular basis. While I was there five to six small groups came in and out talking, having beers, and hanging out. The place just gives the feel of a time that has sadly gone by.
Quality: List is packed with nothing but quality ales from top to bottom. No less than four cask ales on at all times and I believe they had six while I was there. I had two of them. The rest of the draft and bottle list is equally as impressive.
Selection: Top notch and very broad selection of ales from around the world. I haven't been in too many bars with a better selection.
I didn't try their food, but they did have a selection of pre-wrapped deli sandwiches and a good selection of cheeses.
I thought the pricing was very good for the quality and selection they had on hand.
03-12-2010 13:03:07 | More by Loki
4.66/5 rDev +7.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $$
I started going to Mahar's about 10 years ago as a college student in Albany. It soon became my Friday night haunt. I can remember it before the changes, when you could sit down and have a meal. You could summon a member of the staff over for another beer or another helping of chips and dip by simply switching on the light located on the wall next to your table. I recall how much fun it was to look at your personalized list of beers to see which ones you haven't tried yet.
Well, I recently returned to Mahar's. And while the place has changed and the faces are different, it is still the same warm place. A place where you can sample a countless exotic tap and bottled beers or simply have a pint of the best Guinness this side of Dingle.
An Albany landmark.
04-10-2006 21:27:13 | More by plaid75
2.93/5 rDev -32.5%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 1 | selection: 4 | $$$$
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
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.
07-10-2005 16:31:25 | More by NEhophead
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.
05-03-2004 18:26:42 | More by Longstaff
4.43/5 rDev +2.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5
A stop off on my way home from college. Very easy to find tucked in between some non-descript buildings all that would let you know its a beer bar by the cask of J.W. Lees jutting out over the door. Very promising indeed! Walking in revealed a very small but cozy looking room with a very worn bar on the left housing all the mugs for"mug club members" and limited seating on the right. There were no stools at the bar. Definitely standing room only. All of the walls were adorned with taps of yesteryear which fit in nicely with the exposed beams.
The beer selection and quality was excellent. 2 casks, about 25 taps and about 75 bottles ranging from the verylocal such as Berkshire all the way to Belgium and Germany. The selection was thoughtful and very mindful of the season. Plenty of holiday beers. The tap lines were obviously well maintained as there was no off flavors etc.
Service was pretty good. The barkeep was a bit gruff and would not believe me when I told him that Gearys just started brewing the winter after the HSA went year round. Besides that he was generally helpful,but he probably would have been more so if I were a regular.
All in all Mahar's is a wonderful stop. It is cozy and oriented towards repeat customers. By the time we had left there were about 12 people there all of whom were obviously regulars. The first thing they all did was go to the back and print out the current draught and bottle list. This is definitely the kind of place I would like in my neighborhood and would recomend seeking it out.
12-14-2003 03:49:45 | More by GreatPondBrewer
Mahar's Public Bar in Albany, NY
96 out of 100 based on 64 ratings.