The Chapter House
Taps: 49 / Bottles:
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: Y
Ratings: 29 | Reviews: 27 | Display Reviews Only:
4.94/5 rDev +14.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | $$
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.
02-28-2010 15:30:00 | More by jameswaldo
4.7/5 rDev +8.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | $
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.
01-13-2005 15:58:25 | More by ithacabaron
4.66/5 rDev +7.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $$
They say you cant go home again; not so at the Chapter House. I havent 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 youre 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.
06-28-2004 02:36:41 | More by cbl2
4.66/5 rDev +7.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $$
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.
05-12-2007 21:48:09 | More by zdk9
4.64/5 rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5
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.
10-23-2003 13:21:52 | More by BigMell
4.64/5 rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5
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.
11-11-2003 00:39:24 | More by DagFishHead
4.64/5 rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $
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.
12-27-2006 20:49:29 | More by JimFalzone
4.61/5 rDev +6.5%
vibe: 3 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | $$
Visited twice during a 4 day visit to the Ithaca area in mid July 2011. Awesome beer selection about 30 taps. Lots of NY and PA brews as well as other great ones. Had Ithaca Flower Power, Southern Tier IPA, Middle Ages IPA and tried tastes of a Victory Brewing choice and English Porter. they had a good selection of stouts, porters and wheats, mostly East Coast but a few West Coast as well. Something for everyone even PBR. No food which is a shame as we would have eaten here every meal because of the great beer selection. Sat at bar both times we were there, great service and good conversations with what appeared to be regulars. Highly recommend if in Ithaca.
07-24-2011 03:08:22 | More by bird18
4.58/5 rDev +5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 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.
06-19-2003 13:54:50 | More by Dantes
4.56/5 rDev +5.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | $
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.
03-26-2010 08:21:39 | More by drummstikk
The Chapter House in Ithaca, NY
95 out of 100 based on 29 ratings.