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The Chapter House

Not Rated.
The Chapter HouseThe Chapter House
BA SCORE
95
world-class

31 Ratings
Ratings: 31
Reviews: 28
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 8.99%
Taps: 49
Bottles: 0
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: Y
[ Bar ]

400 Stewart Ave
Ithaca, New York, 14850-4559
United States
phone: (607) 277-9782

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap 

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
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Ratings: 31 | Reviews: 28 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of drummstikk
4.56/5  rDev +5.1%

Chappy served me my first legal beer. It got me through papers and introduced me to many of the beers I love today. I love the Chapter House!

Now that my bias is duly noted: Chappy has a huge selection in a dank wooden atmosphere. You'll feel like you're drinking in the 19th century in the middle of the Northeast's golden years of beer. What more could you want? Deeply etched picnic-style tables and benches are thrown together in a room inexplicably separated from the tiny room that houses the bar. Greasy and small window panes are housed in steel grids, all in swinging wooden frames that never quite shut in the winter. Free popcorn and foosball reside in the third room. Bathrooms are down a narrow and steep staircase. Aside the obligatory English football scarves, there are old photos of Cornell students, some actually from the 19th century, as well as, if I'm remembering correctly, a rowing shell.

If you're staying in Collegetown or on campus, be forewarned: the Chapter House is at the bottom of precipitous Williams Street. Be prepared for a sober skip down and a drunken slog back up!

If you're a Cornell student, don't go to Dunbar's or Johnny O's. You'll be able to find bars like these wherever life takes you. Go to the Chapter House, because you'll never visit anywhere else quite like it.

drummstikk, Mar 26, 2010
Photo of Hojaminbag
3.91/5  rDev -9.9%

The Chapter house is on the hill just off the Cornell campus. It's kind of isolated, there isn't really anything around except apartments until you head up the hill to the other side of Collegetown. It is usually packed with students, especially on weekends when it gets crowded and pretty damn loud. During the week it's pretty empty, with normal people and graduate students. The Chapter House is kind of known as a grad student hang-out actually.

When you walk in there is a bar on your left. If you walk toward the back of the bar you can make a left and head into the other room, which is full of tables, a pool table and a couple of dartboards.
The whole bar is kind of sticky, dirty and divey. Let's just say that you wouldn't want to eat anything that fell on the floor. I think they are deliberately going for the dive bar look and feel though, so it's possible that everything just LOOKS dirty and is actually really clean (they probably came by their grime honestly though). The bathroom is small, seldom very clean, and down a set of stairs.

On to the beer. That's one thing the chapter house has going for it. Around forty beers on tap, and they rotate regularly. Troegs, Sierra Nevada, Victory, Saranac, Ithaca, Southern Tier, Brooklyn and many other American craft breweries are included. There are always a few beers on special also. Last time I went 12oz Sierra Nevada Bigfoots were 3 bucks a piece.

Quality takes a hit from me because the first time I was here I ordered a Troegs Hopback and got a beer that came out of what was obviously a really dirty tap line. The place was slammed so I didn't bother to complain, but I should have. Every time that I have been back since, I have had no problems.

Service has always been fine for me, pretty quick when crowded actually. I've never really had any conversations or talked beer with any of the servers.

I'm not sure that I love the vibe of the chapter house, but it has a good beer selection, fair prices and is worth a stop every once in a while, especially on a week day.

Hojaminbag, Mar 06, 2010
Photo of jameswaldo
4.94/5  rDev +13.8%

I've been a Chapter House fan since I first came to Ithaca 40 years ago. For a little while they had their own brewing setup, but it took valuable floor space and rarely produced a beer as good as most of the 50 they keep on tap. They had a mediocre pubfood minikitchen in south room for a while, too, that I don't miss at all. Now they do what they're best at: draft beer you will like. (I've read some reviewers wonder about dirty lines, but know bartenders will pour you something else satisfaction guaranteed if you complain!) The ambiance here is so down-home funky, you need to know Japanese aesthetics to realize that the wabi sabi here is on purpose. When crowded, this place is extremely hopping. It's not set up for the best musical experience when excellent bands play here, but I'll forever remember the best shows of Mectapus, Horse Flies, Boy With a Fish that I much enjoyed here despite the awkwardness of stage and loudspeaker placement. I lived up the street on Stewart Ave for 3 years in seventies, then after Peace Corps higher uphill on College Ave in Collegetown from 77-80 and would have hung out at CH more but it was too smoky then; now that smokers have to do it on the sidewalk outdoors, CH is an even more beautiful old space. I like to bicycle around Cayuga Lake once or twice a year and always stop by CH on the way home. Bartender will let you try tastes before you commit, so take advantage of this to find a flavor you love. For sure try to get here when it's not too crowded. Happy hours sell you beer at especially good pint prices; there for sure will be something on tap to suit you. The free popcorn will help beer from sloshing too much in a hungry tummy, but no food served here these days. Ride your bicycle here if you can, or hike around Cascadilla Gorge just a block to north. Their website is really well-designed, too.

jameswaldo, Feb 28, 2010
Photo of sholland119
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Stopped in here for a couple of pints as we were passing through Ithaca. Cool vibe inside with a long bar inside the door, a room off to the side with tables and some pool tables in the back. This place must be jumping when school is in session; not sorry I missed that.

The tap list is massive, with about 40 taps. Most taps were American crafts, with a good selection of NY beers. A few Ithaca taps (Flower Power, yummy!) were the highlight. Also a few Saranac and Middle Ages along with a Roosterfish hefeweizen that was just awful. Some pretty run of the mill selections from Victory, Stone and Rogue round out the American end of the craft list. Import taps are of the Guinness/Newcastle/Boddingtons/Hoegaarden "so what" variety.

Our bartender was a pleasant, outgoing guy. No food, but great free popcorn.

Worth a stop if you are in the area.

HV

sholland119, Jun 15, 2009
Photo of HeyItsChili
4.26/5  rDev -1.8%

Went here with some regulars while visiting Cornell for an open house. The atmosphere was stellar. This, my friends, was a bar for savoring beer with friends. Plus, you can't beat free popcorn. The first thing I noticed was a plethora of taps filled with tasty selections at good prices. Hoegaarden line was a bit dirty not a big deal. Service was friendly and good, if I end up in Ithaca I will definitely be a regular here.

Bottom line, if you're in Ithaca and enjoy beer, why the hell aren't you here?

HeyItsChili, Dec 29, 2008
Photo of madmanjf
4.19/5  rDev -3.5%

Stopped here AFTER the 2008 Ithaca Brewfest.

Needless to say, it wasn't very busy yet, but I'm sure that's not the norm.

40 lines ... impressive selection.

A rather dark and spent atmoshphere ... this is by no means bad. Clearly a place that gets crowds and enjoyed by all.

I certainly wasn't able to enjoy this place as much as I would've liked. Clearly, I need to go back when I have more time and can get the feel for the place better.

I really can't say anything bad. It obviously has the best selection in the area. It certainly rivals the better beer bars I've been to within NYC :)

There isn't any food available at this establishment.

madmanjf, Sep 07, 2008
Photo of penguinjive7
4.41/5  rDev +1.6%

In my four years of living in Ithaca I never visited this place. I always meant to, but just never got around to it. I finally made my way over there while visiting a friend and man do I wish I had gone more often while living there. On a Thursday night at around ten, it was not very crowded or loud at all. There is a choice in three main rooms, with one of them being a place for a group of friends to share a few pints, and another having pool tables if that be what you're looking for.

The list of brews on tap there is quite impressive. About 50 or so taps with mostly US micro brews. Nice selection from Stone and others out in California to Ithaca beers brewed right down the road. The only complaint was that one of the Stone IPAs I had there was a bit off. It could have been the batch, but it also could have been sitting in the keg too long, not too sure.

Overall a great place to go for some good beer and never have to have the same brew twice in a night.

Oh yeah and free popcorn.

penguinjive7, Feb 26, 2008
Photo of zdk9
4.66/5  rDev +7.4%

One of my favorite places to just chill out and have a beer. The interior is filled with lots of character in the wooden tables and benches. There are pool tables in one room and a stage that usually has music (for a cover) on the weekends. It can get pretty crowded with college students at select times so if you're simply looking to enjoy a quiet brew be careful with that. As for selection they about 30ish taps of ranging styles and regions. I'm not sure if they are as equiped with bottles and very few Europeans so that's not the best, but it shouldn't be hard for anyone to find multiple beers they will like there.

As a side note they have had copies of BA mag for your reading pleasure in the past couple months.

zdk9, May 12, 2007
Photo of JimFalzone
4.64/5  rDev +6.9%

This place has already been thoroughly reviewed by others, but I'll point out a few things.

The selection kicks ass. And what's better? The bartenders typically know what they are talking about. If you walk in and say, I want something crisp and refreshing - they'll point you to a pint of locally brewed Ithaca Flower Power IPA. If you say that you like Guinnes but you're looking for something a bit sweeter, they'll point you to a Murphy's or Fullers.

The location is in the heart of "college town" this is the affectionate label of the part of town near Cornell University but close to Ithaca College. On a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night - this place can quickly become Animal House (in a good way). But unlike other college bars that serve swill and wine coolers, the Chapter House emphasizes beer and would laugh at you if you ordered a bud light.

The bands that play here are 90% awesome. Some of the local talent is unlike anything you will here in the world. Johnny Dowd, Plastic Nebraska, Sim Redmond, etc

If you come during the day, I highly recommend that you walk down one of the gorges in Ithaca. In fact, there is one about 2 blocks from this bar that is simply spectacular. We used to walk up this trail and reward ourselves with pints after the long (1.2 mile) hike. It earned the name "The Mush & Rick Fitness Trail" in honor of two friends who regularly made the trip.

JimFalzone, Dec 27, 2006
Photo of slander
4.36/5  rDev +0.5%

At the time, the hour round trip off the highway to and from Ithaca seemed like a good idea, but now I'm looking down the barrel of a 4 and change hour drive home. I'd say that it's just now that I'm thinking that a beer or two may take the edge off some, though really it was by design from the get go, I knew what I was in for...
Lots of old well worn wood here, the bar "C" shaped running the length to the rear, seating about a dozen. The mirrored barback has a beer can display running above it, just below the mounted set of rowing oars that probably belong to the boat that hangs from the ceiling. Glass lamp lighting above and wall mounted lamps behind the bar. The walls are covered with old Cornell fraternity and sorority composite photos, athlete and club pictures. 4 blackboards hanging to the rear list the tap and bottle selections and a collection of old beer coasters line the area above these boards and on the trim of the panelled glass front windows.
Dozens of ancient ceramic mugs and glasses from a past mug club of yore hang alternating from the ceiling, twisty metal lock games dangling on hooks from the bar back, and a single TV to the rear near the blackboards. The front area below the windows has a small sign reading "Wise guy's corner". I sat there because... well, yeah.
A row of taps 30 long sits on the bar, with a pair more holding 10 each below both ends of the bar. 50 taps in all, nothing on the hand pump (sooo sad), and oddly enough, a single bottle being Delirium Tremons. Good taps, locals & regionals (Ithaca, Middle Ages, Southern Tier, Wagner Valley, Brooklyn, Victory, Magic Hat) and not (Lost Coast, Bear Republic, Great Divide, Anderson Valley, Rogue, Anchor, North Coast), and so so imports (Youngs Double Chocolate Stout, Fullers ESB, Guinness, Harp, Bass, Paulaner Hefe, Stella, Hoegaarden, Jever, Boddingtons, Pilsner Urquell). Beers were fresh, no problems there, and the bartender let me try one of these and one of those, too, thank you.
Beyond the bar lies a room holding a pair of pool tables, electronic darts, a pinball machine, a foosball table, and a popcorn machine. There's a side room with some big tables, more Cornell pics and Phil's golf game, and a far room with an area for bands to set up, a giant arial Ithaca photo, some beer label displays, and about 8 tables, scratched, carved, and beaten to all comfortable hell.
I pledged my fraternity in the 80's, during the "hazing is amazing" years. My chapter house was never this good.

slander, Feb 27, 2006
Photo of GreatPondBrewer
4.36/5  rDev +0.5%

Visited on a wintery February night the Chapter House was a welcome comfort from the blustery dark. Plenty of wood paneling and old pictures from Cornell's days of yore adorning the walls gave off quite a lived in feel. Everything was just a little worn and faded. There were not too many people when we got there and it stayed that way. The bartender was quick with the pints and there was some great beer to be had. Heavily influenced by the immediate areas Southern Tier, Ithaca, Middle Ages and Wagner Valley were all well represented. The rest of the taps were taken up with the likes of Victory, Rogue, North Coast, Stone etc. All the beers were fresh and not too cold. All in all this is a must visit if you are in the Ithaca area.

GreatPondBrewer, Feb 13, 2005
Photo of ithacabaron
4.7/5  rDev +8.3%

Where I cut my teeth as a burgeoning beer geek in college. It should be noted, although listed here as the Chapter House Brewpub, they no longer brew their own beer.

Don't worry, they've made up for it.

Almost perfect atmosphere here -- dark walnut walls, long tables, every inch of everything with something carved into it (and a few of them mine!). It's the kind of carefully worn-in place that's just about perfect when there's two-feet of snow outside, and you don't want to go face the 30 mile-an-hour winds outside just yet. I personally like to sit inside the cut-in windowsills and watch the snow fall. The only reason I can't give this place a 5 is because there are nights where a band is booked to play, resulting in two things:

1.) A cover charge
2.) It gets pretty loud inside, making conversation difficult.

On non-band nights, though, the room keeps at a decent volume, and you don't have to waste valuable pint money getting into the door. That being said, some of the bands are pretty good, so I can't complain too much.

Quality is very good, with beer served at the correct temperature, and with fair and generous pours. Service is good too, although sometimes it's hard to get the attention of a bartender.

The selection is fantastic, almost entirely on tap (a few bottles, and then, they're not everyday ones, like Unibroue 11 or St. Bernardus, etc.) 50 or so taps in all, all listed on a giant chalkboard, and grouped by price. This is very handy, because lord knows I've wandered in here a few times with just enough for a pint and a one dollar tip. Being able to see everything that is a certain price helps decision making easy. Prices range from 3 dollars (Ithaca, Boddingtons, etc.) to about 5 dollars or so (one-offs from local breweries, lambics, certain belgians, etc.). You'll pay a little more for vintage kegs, which they'll break out every once in a while, but it's worth it.

All in all, prices are very fair, and a friend once visiting from Boston was quite shocked to see them, stating "They're practically giving this beer away!" So put it this way: Decent prices for Ithaca, NY...great prices if you're from a more metropolitan area.

Food is not really a consideration, although endless baskets of fresh (and free!) popcorn is always fun.

Go here if you're anywhere within an hour or two of Ithaca.

ithacabaron, Jan 13, 2005
Photo of JackStraw22
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

The Chapter House is at its best on a cold snowy winter night. There's nothing better than warming up inside with a quality brew. The beer selection is great, the best in Ithaca for anything on tap. The people who work there are always helpful and they know what they're doing. The inside is all wood with years of carvings on both the walls and tables. There is a good mix of patrons, mostly older college aged/grad students plus some residents. There are a couple pool tables some darts, and of course free popcorn.

JackStraw22, Dec 11, 2004
Photo of shippos
4.28/5  rDev -1.4%

The chappy, ithaca's best and the only bar in town for the beer advocate. cool looking bar that waas an old frat house long ago with carved up tables and walls, just about everyting wood in the place has a message or name carved into it. excellent selection of micros imports and a great selection of regional NY specialties. 50+ selections that rotate fairly regularly. they have a hand pump but has fallen into disrepair but they used to have cask ale on it. They are also into cellaring kegs and occasionally release storm king or bigfoot that has been aged a year or two. They also have yards, half and full as well as growler's to go.

Any homebrewers out there, we have our monthly homebrew meetings at the chapter house first tuesday of the month at 7:30.
check out our website: http://home.twcny.rr.com/jtonole/ipa/

shippos, Aug 27, 2004
Photo of cbl2
4.66/5  rDev +7.4%

They say you can’t go home again; not so at the Chapter House. I haven’t been to Ithaca in 3 years, but I was instantly recognized by the bartender (which only goes to show how much time I used to spend here).
Not much has changed: still very rustic with carved up tables and benches displaying various fraternity insignia. Fraternity photographs adorn the walls with the occasional beer bottle label collage. The popcorn is still available, and all you can eat, but it has found a new location near the dart boards. Why? The Chapter House now features live music, and thus a stage has been erected where their food bar (really just a nacho bar) used to reside. Hank Roberts and Wiggy Dog Boy happened to be playing that night, and so I was treated to an interesting blend of classical cello with jazz and rock influences. Another thing of note: Chapter House serves liquor again.
Beer selection is excellent as always (I counted 51 beers on tap). If you’re not sure what you want, the bartender will be more than happy to provide a small tasting. Many New York State selections are available including Ithaca, Middle Ages & Southern Tier. Stone is present here (Arrogant Bastard & IPA) as well as a few Victory selections. There were a few bottles now as well: McChouffe, LaChouffe, and one other that escapes my memory. Pricing is excellent, with beers ranging from $3 to $5.
This is one of my favorite bars of all time, and is not to be missed if you find yourself in Ithaca.

cbl2, Jun 28, 2004
Photo of etho1416
4.22/5  rDev -2.8%

The chapter house is the perfect college bar. They offer free popcorn, lots of dart boards, pool tables, and lots of space. There are 4 seperate areas which helps keep the place from getting too noisy. They offer long tables which allow you to meet new people or fit your entire group into a nice space. They have bands many weekends. It is a pretty rustic looking place and is not filled with lots of snooty rich college kids, it gets a good mix of people. They have at least 30 different beers on tap at any one time, usually more I believe. The selection is varied and there is a wide price range, along with nice happy hour deals on certain beers. They carry beers from all over the country with an exceptional amount of upstate ny beers. I have never gotten a skunky or stale beer here and highly recommend it.

etho1416, Mar 05, 2004
Photo of DagFishHead
4.64/5  rDev +6.9%

I've lived in Ithaca for almost 25 years now and this has always been by far the best beer in town, and my absolute favorite. In many ways I feel like I grew up here in terms of my beer life.

Atmosphere is a very subjective thing, but I love the ambiance of this place. The building is a re-built (after a devastating fire) barn-like carriage house with huge open spaces and quaint nooks and crannies, so you can situate yourself according to your mood. Very worn and utilitarian furniture. Graffiti (carved and scribbled) everywhere...some of the best in men's room reading to be found anywhere. Pool, foos, darts..all the fun pub stuff.

Quality: Okay, not not always the cleanest place in the world, but the handling, storage, and presentation of the beers is deadly serious and superbly done. They used to brew their own beers here some time ago, and the respect for the beer has no doubt carried through.

Service: The staff know their beers and how to properly serve them.
Samples are available as are growlers (although pricey) to take your favorites home with you. This place can get crazy busy, but the beertenders adapt well. I've seen many a bartender spend time with a customer to help him/her find something they'd like.

Selection: I have spent untold hours mapping out my strategy for sampling the huge array of brews on the chalkboard. And then re-strategizing the revised list posted during for my next visit. Seasonals, locals (MA & Ithaca), Imports of virtually all styles and origins (English, German, Belgian) always rotating. No macros. All this thinking sure makes a guy thirsty. Long bar with roughly 50 taps (including a beer engine) and all of the requisite glassware.

Food(?): Best popcorn in Ithaca. Nachos are great too. Beyond that, you're outta luck.

Phenomenal draught variety in comfortable/playful surroundings.

DagFishHead, Nov 11, 2003
Photo of BigMell
4.64/5  rDev +6.9%

I grew up in the Ithaca area, but relocated to Boston about 12 years ago. I have seen The Chaper House go through changes over the years (bar, club, brewpub, beer bar).

I get back to the area about twice a year, and I always make at least one stop here. The atmosphere is great for hanging out with good friends (in my case, old friends from my youth) and drinking some great beers from the numerous taps (its got to be like 50). Cornell nostalgia from years gone by hangs on the walls and from the ceiling, and the tables in the big rooms contain years of carvings left by many a beer drinker. Pretty cool stuff.

The service is great, and the bartenders are friendly. If its a slow night, they usually strike up a conversation.

Definitely recommened if you are in the area and are looking for a good place to go to have good beer. In fact, I can't think of another place in the area that has what the Chapter House offers.

Good stuff.

BigMell, Oct 23, 2003
Photo of FeloniousPhil
4.24/5  rDev -2.3%

The Chapter House was indeed an unexpected find. They now have 50+ taps with as many as five or six beers from each of the following breweries: Middle Ages, Victory, Brooklyn, and Ithaca. As well as several each from Allagash, Lake Placid and Wagner Valley and of course old standards such as the Hoe, Boddingtons, Guiness etc.

All of the beers I had were fresh, properly served and poured. I admit to being concerned about the number of taps as I questioned their ability to move enough product to keep it all fresh. This, however did not seem to be a problem. Business was brisk (even in summer) and all of the beers I had tasted as they should.

There is tons of space in its cabin like interior containing several seperate rooms. Foosball, Pool, Pinball, Darts and Video Golf for entertainment. The crowd here was great when compared with 'collegetown'. I am told that it is primarily a graduate student bar these days. The staff was friendly and prompt. They answered questions and let me taste anything I asked about, which was good since they had beer from at least one smaller brewery I had not heard of. They will also sell growlers of anything they have on tap.

FeloniousPhil, Jul 21, 2003
Photo of Dantes
4.58/5  rDev +5.5%

Atmosphere: Geographically and spiritually distinct from Collegetown and the “downtown” Ithaca College bars. The crowd is a combination of undergrads, grad students, and “townies” and spreads out between the bar area, the pool/foosball area, and the back room with long tables. The rooms are well-worn and covered with carved initials, etc. Free popcorn was strewn over the floor, but the place is well-maintained, so the floor, tables and benches are not sticky.

Quality: has soared in recent years. An obvious effort has been made to upgrade the service, quality and variety of beer. The beer is well-poured at appropriate temperatures.

Service: I'm usually here during busy weekends (Reunions, Homecomings, hockey or football games) when people pile up at the bar, but service was good. Bartenders are usually willing to answer questions, offer samples, and make suggestions.

Selection: There are now ~50 taps (35 behind the bar and 2 banks at either end of the bar) and one beer engine. Offerings were listed on a blackboard, and ranged in price from $3 to $6.50 for draughts such as Aventinus, $5; Dreadnaught, $4.50; HopDevil, $3.50; Ithaca Brewing, $3. 75¢ extra for Imperial pints. 48oz. pitchers were priced at 3X the pint price. Some barley wines etc. come in 12oz. servings. Bottles like Unibroue 11 range to $11.

The Chapter House has come through several owners and A LONG WAY from being a run-down “townie” bar and one incarnation as an alcohol-free club. Reopened as a brewpub offering decent beer. More recently, it has become a major outlet for Ithaca Brewing and other micros. Selections during my last visit included Ithaca’s Flower Power IPA (seasonal, but shouldn’t be), nut brown, pale, and Anniversary Stout. Also, Dreadnaught IPA, Middle Ages Old Marcus, Blackheart Stout, Druid Fluid, and Ye Olde Kilt Tilter and London Pride on the beer engine. They also offer a good variety of glassware for proper service: (Shaker, tulip, Imperial, and half pints, chalices, yards and half-yards). They also have a growler program.

Backwash: As far as I know, the best beer-bar in Ithaca and a MUST VISIT!

Revisited 10/23-25/03: This place gets better and better. I had a long talk with James, who gave me several samples and filled a growler with 2002 Dragonslayer. They also had MA Wailing Wench and 3 kegs of 2000 Bigfoot scored from a defunct upstate bar! I upgraded Service and Selection scores to 4.5 and 5.0 respectively.

Dantes, Jun 19, 2003
Photo of John
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Though the Chapter House no longer brews their own beer, it's definitely worth a stop while in Ithaca. This was a regular stop for us on our annual rugby road trip to Cornell. The staff always tolerated us so well, bless them. Quality micros and imports on tap.

John, Jul 30, 2002
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The Chapter House in Ithaca, NY
95 out of 100 based on 31 ratings.