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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: n/a
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

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Ratings: 64 | Reviews: 64 | Display Reviews Only:
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 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 yemenmocha
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.

Photo of francisweizen
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

Photo of Loki
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.

Photo of plaid75
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.

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 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 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 Flashy
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Having attempted to visit Mahars for almost 20 years and for one reason or another never being able I finally made it. I was passing, had the time and found the Mahars open.
Put off a bit by it's (his) reputation for being a beer nazi I was pleasantly surprised. I was even offered free pizza!
It was slow- never attempt to visit when busy unless unavoidable- as this place is SMALL. The bartender (owner) was pleasant. The beer selection was not the greatest, but with rotating taps that happens- I imagine they get some great stuff in here most times.
Plenty of parking, but I imagine with all the restaurants and bars on the block that could change depending on the date and time of your visit. But with Albany PD across the street I don't imagine the neighborhood is unsafe to park on a side street.
I will go back and order beer, say please, pay and leave area

Photo of GreatPondBrewer
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.

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 HopDerek
4.72/5  rDev +8.8%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Originally we thought we wouldn't it on this trip, but decided to just go for it anyway. Got there shortly after 11pm so we didn't have too much time to check the place out. Not much seating when we arrived, but plenty of standing room at the bar. I prepared for the worst as far as the bartenders and their attitude went, but they were both very friendly, even apologetic that they couldn't sell me a pint glass at the time. Only had time for 1 beer, so I went with one of the 6 cask ales behind the bar. A nice wide variety of International, Domestic, and American Micros, both bottled and on tap, though not as huge as I assumed based on previous reviews. Has a very nice vibe with plenty of beer decor scattered throughout a British pub/hole in the wall motif. The reviews are right, this is one of the best places to have a beer in America, I know I'll eagerly return sometime in the future.

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 aerozeppl
5/5  rDev +15.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5

Ahh Mahar's. I have been going here on and off for about 4 years now. Recently moved back to Albany and now live so close to the bar that I am scared. It is all things to all people. The bartenders can be curt and they can be extremely generous. They are people. Be polite and you will be fine. The beer they have is top notch and they are constantly rotating things out. They do pot luck on Saturday which is nice. They do have food most of the time in the way of sandwiches located in the fridge at the end of the bar. Really hard to describe this place. It is a very Albany place and then it is not. To go just once really doesn't do the place service. This is a place to be a regular at. Bill recently said the 30,000th person signed up for the tour recently. They must be doing something right.

Photo of CHickman
4.64/5  rDev +6.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

I have been to Mahar's twice and enjoyed both visits immensely. The atmosphere is great and very conducive to beer drinkers socializing and discussing all things beer, or just kicking back and have a few brews and listening to the music.

To me, there are a few things that stand out about Mahar's: first, the bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly; second, the selection is outstanding and I like the fact that it's beer only at this place; third - the old computer and tracking system is a trip and a great way to keep new beers flowing as well as maintaining a great log as well as some competition on the beer expert front.

I have been lucky enough to go with a regular and felt that the other regular's there were a good group of people all out to enjoy quality beer. I'm also pleasantly surprised that Albany has such a great beer scene...working in NYC has me spoiled as I'm used to great beer bars throughout the city, but Albany is a very good place to drink beer.

Photo of sponberg
4.94/5  rDev +13.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Don't miss this place when you're looking for it - a small bar located between and on the same block as Bruegger's Bagels and Peking Restaurant. Look for the blue building with the Lees cask over the door. Parking can be scarce, so try behind the building or on a side street.

Hmm, let me try to be objective about a place in which I've had roughly a thousand beers... The tap selection is always interesting and changing - if it's out there, Mahar's had it or will be getting it. The bottled selection is generally huge (150+), and the beers are generally in great shape. Everything from cask to micros to Belgian oddballs to you name it, it's either here now, been here before, or is waiting to be tapped in the basement. The staff know their stuff & the owner (Mahar) and manager (Bill) are cool, interesting folk. It's small, the rules are strict (e.g. no feet on the chairs, no harassing/loud yelling, etc.), the hours are short (4-12, sometimes open at noon), and the food menu is very limited, and it's a wonderful place to enjoy a pint or two or three or four or... taxi!

Re the beer tour: The ultimate prize (after 500) is to have your name engraved on a plaque that hangs over the bar. I find it to be a convenient place to hang my liver when I visit.

Edit: Scratched the "sometimes smoky" part, courtesy of the NYS smoking ban in restaurants and bars. Smell the beer... ahhh!!

Photo of ommegangpbr
4.8/5  rDev +10.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

I lived in Albany for awhile and heard about this place from others around when I first moved there. These others hated this place and I should have known then and there that I should have made Mahar's my first and only bar in Albany. Alas, I only visited a time or two nearing the end of my stay in Albany. Silly, silly me.
This place is about beer. This place serves nothing but beer, and you know, I don't think you can get Budweiser there.
When walking in you feel like you've entered someone's warm, welcoming home. Go have a pint there. Go have many pints there. If you visit enough times you get prizes!
And who doesn't like prizes?

Photo of Shiredave
4.94/5  rDev +13.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

What can you say about what is arguably one of the top 3 beer bars in New York state? ( my 3 picks? The Country Inn, Mahars, The Blue Tusk)
Mahars is small, it's different and it kicks ass with an unrivaled variety in tap selections that can only be chosen by a true Beer Lover and Advocate.
That would be Mr. Mahar. As knowlagable as anyone in the biz, Mahar goes to great lengths to provide his customers with the finest quality, rare and exceptional tap offerings available. Belgians, cask British and US Ales, Traditional Ciders, keg only offerings and limited production seasonals all find thier way to Mahars. I believe more than 5000 different beers have been served at Mahar's since he opened. I wonder if that includes the Raspberry Hoegaarden....?
At least 25 beers and up to 6+ cask ales on tap with a staggering list of hard to find specialty bottles. Walk in and set yourself up on his computer, and you can begin your beer tour. They keep track of the beers you have tried by marking your list and entering data at the end of the night. No bar stools or live music, a few tables and , sadly, usually no women, but this is a place for drinking and talking beer. Always a BA type to talk to and always something great to drink you probobly never had before.
Without doubt, a Must visit for any BA that finds him/her self
( notice I invite the Lady BA's ) in the Capital region of NY.
Bless you Jim and Bill.

Photo of mikeys01
4.43/5  rDev +2.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5

We visited Mahar’s on a Saturday afternoon with some friends of ours who live in the area. Walking up to the place, it doesn’t stand out as anything special, indistinguishable form any other neighborhood bar, with it’s blue awning and simple block letters overhead and on the door. A pair of street lamps flanking the entrance are a small hint at the pub awaiting inside.

Inside Mahar’s, the furnishings and environment have every bit the comfort and feel of a true pub, very reminiscent of English pubs I’ve visited. A long bar runs nearly the length of the room, though it’s truly a standing bar only – no stools. Several hand pumps are visible and many draught taps as well, a very respectable mix of top notch American craft breweries and traditional and special European brews. There are several heavy wood tables with large and sturdy stools tucked along the wall and into the available space all around the bar. Cloth pub placemats top every table.

At the time we visited, Mahars was lightly filled with a bunch of locals and regulars, most of whom were quite friendly. There were crock pots of food as well as cheese and crackers brought in by the locals, for sharing. Atmosphere was very relaxed and conversational, with faint folk music playing from one corner, this is the place to go to drink great beer and enjoy some good talk.

The publican was extremely knowledgeable an fairly helpful, though definitely a bit elitist at times when dealing with customers – this was my only nit about the place. Beers were fairly reasonably priced and extremely diverse in the offerings. All told, probably 20-30 draft and cask beers, and easily a couple hundred bottled beers. Middle Ages comprised many of the (6) cask offerings. Service was relaxed like the atmosphere, not necessarily fast, but you won’t be overlooked for a beer as long as you want one. Food on the menu is very limited, sandwiches and cheese offerings, but this place doesn’t try to pose as a restaurant so that’s perfectly fine. I’d definitely call this place a hidden gem, and worth visiting again.

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 MTMugs
4.8/5  rDev +10.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Mahar's is THE beer bar for the tri-city area. And they do it by their own rules: close at midnight every night and maybe they'll open for lunch when the beer is delivered. Otherwise it's 4:00-12:00. 25+ taps always changing. Hundreds of bottled beers. There's a "beer tour", after so many beers you get a shirt, then a mug and so on. Knowledgeable people serving the best they can find.

Photo of Avryle
4.95/5  rDev +14.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

If you're looking for a place to listen to some douche-bag local band, play darts, pick up chicks/guys & suck down $2 happy hour swill, this is not the place to go. However if you're looking for a phenomenal selection of cask beers, local & imports on tap as well as a variety of bottles to rival a distributor, this is it.

What's available: There is invariably a variety of Middle Ages on cask as well as brews from Bluepoint, Stone and whoever is the hook-up of the week. Tap selections... where to even begin! Lots of micros- Brooklyn, Southern Tier, Weyerbacher as well as Belgians, British & just about any other country that exports beer (even Trinidad, but I don't recommend it.) All I can say is, get it on tap when you can 'cause often times its gone when its gone.

Atmosphere: Hey, a beer bar where people know beer! Patrons are generally pretty genial folk. Sometimes the Thurs-Sat crowd can be a bit less amiable than the quieter nights. I've met some pretty nice folks there and have never had a bad experience.

Complaints come from the folks who go there and order a martini and are laughed at. There is no hard alcohol served. Beer only... oh, and Saranac root beer on tap. I've seen people get a bit miffed when they don't receive the "Me-me-me." service they think they're entitled to but the staff know their beer and will assist patrons with selection if they can.

Food is limited. The toasties are excellent and not a bad deal at $5 a pop. There are also chips and often times a selection of cheeses & crackers for purchase. If you're looking for something more substantial, come here, pick up a couple of bottles & go next door for your meal.

En tota, this is the best beer bar I've been to on the east coast & highly recommend it to any poor shmuck passing through Albany.

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 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.

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