Mahar's Public Bar

Mahar's Public BarMahar's Public Bar
Mahar's Public BarMahar's Public Bar
Bar, Eatery

1110 Madison Ave
Albany, New York, 12208-2248
United States

// CLOSED //

Monday - Saturday 4pm - midnight
Open the last Sunday of the month and every Sunday throughout December 2pm - 8pm
View: Place Reviews
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Photo of bigboybrewing
Reviewed by bigboybrewing from New York

3.53/5  rDev -19%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4
I've been to Mahar's a few times and I do enjoy it but heading into to look around to see what you want isn't really possible. Tap handles are normally dirty and tough to read and they get you a beer list for that day when you go in. When you decide what you want, you normally do have to wait some time before placing and receiving your order. It's a decent place to check out to do their beer list and if you're sold on the incentive to have your own glass and all that, but not really if you're looking to hang out or have something really good. Some of the cask stuff isn't bad but it's very pricey for the average joe going in to check out a few new beers. It can also get pretty annoying in there when it fills out. There's not a lot of seating and it's fairly narrow and tough to maneuver through when crowded.
Oct 08, 2012
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Reviewed by BMC

4.41/5  rDev +1.1%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5
Great place, wish I still lived in the area. As others mention you don't go to Mahars for music or for girls you go there for the beer. The main bartender Bill is a great guy who sometimes is misunderstood, when it is not packed he will get into an in-depth beer conversation with anyone interested.

A few points, make sure you sign up with an ID# so you can use the computer to track the beers you have had. They close at midnight and last call is usually well before that. The best time to go is a weeknight when it isn't packed.
Aug 23, 2012
Photo of Tesla518
Reviewed by Tesla518 from New York

4.3/5  rDev -1.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3
I love mahar's.

Bill and all of the barmen are great. They've always been good to me even when they shouldn't have been.

The beer selection is not only more than most places but more exclusive than most places. They have a great cask collection and sometimes have pin kegs for a 1 night exclusive.

I go there mainly for the seasonal selections but they have a great selection of major styles.

Overall Its a great beer bar don't go there for anything but great beer and good conversation there is nothing else going on and I like it so much because of that.
May 23, 2012
Photo of thehenbarris
Reviewed by thehenbarris from New York

4.46/5  rDev +2.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5
I. love. Mahar's.

Bill, while a bit gruff, has always been cordial to me, and Murph (Chris), is fantastic. They don't put up with any shenanigans (and I can't blame them), so if you're looking for a place with loud music where you can slam Bud Lights and chow down on wings, this is not your place.

They have a "beer tour" system so you can track what beers you haven't have. While it seems intimidating at first, signing up is incredibly easy. Go to the back, hit enter on the computer and select a beer list based on country, style, or serving type (they have a draft-only list). Put your name and birthday at the top, go up to the bar, and proceed to order.

50 beers gets you a t-shirt, 125 beers gets you a mug and 20% off all draft purchases, 200 gets you a case of beer, and 500 beers gets you a spot on the plaque on the back wall. Until you hit 200 beers, you're limited to 4 beers/night.

Check out

Go to Mahar's!
Feb 10, 2012
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Reviewed by rlee1390 from Indiana

3.89/5  rDev -10.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5
I've been a few times just never reviewed the place. I would say they have about 20 taps, which rotate frequently and showcase seasonal beers as well. The best is the beers on cask, I believe there are 4-5 cask beers at any one time. Every time I've gone these have been predominately Middle Ages beers. They also have an extensive bottle list as well.

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

Service is well, notorious. Know what you want to order, order it, say please and thank you, leave the bar and go sit down/stand with your friends.
Dec 11, 2011
Photo of Flashy
Reviewed by Flashy from Vermont

4.5/5  rDev +3.2%
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
Aug 16, 2011
Photo of FourQuarters
Reviewed by FourQuarters from New York

4.04/5  rDev -7.3%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 5
Living in the area, I've been to Mahar's many times. It has a great beer selection and you're always sure to find a tasty version of the style you're looking to enjoy. That being said, figuring out what they actually have at any given time isn't easy. Beer menus are scare, so I find it's ask and hope -- and generally the hoping is rewarded. The place is small and crowded and on busy nights I could almost brew a beer as quickly as I can get served one. On less busy nights it's a great place for great beer and conversation. Plan on eating before you go or after you leave. I've never seen food at Mahars or anything resembling a food menu (like Bigfoot and their beer menu, it's elusive if it even exists). I assume the staff is knowledgeable about beer, but it's hard to tell as the only thing I've ever heard from any of them is "What do want?" and a repetition of my order to make sure that they got it right. Small, crowded and slow, but a great selection of beer.
Oct 13, 2010
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Reviewed by Edwinivich from New York

4.38/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5
It's too small, the bartenders can be gruff, the hours are strange (and they're not open on Sundays), there's almost no seating, you often have to stand at the bar, there's virtually no food, and I think there's one small television. BUT I'D GO IN A MINUTE!!! And if you're a beer connoisseur, so should you!!!

This is consistently rated as one of the top twenty beer bars in America. I'm not sure why BECAUSE IT SHOULD BE # 1 - or at least in the top five. Seriously, I went to many of the other pubs/bars on Pubcrawler's list of the top 50, and they don't compare.

Mahar's has cask ales (hand pumped up from the basement), obscure microbrews, a draft selection surpassing anything I've ever seen (and I'm a draft beer whore), virtually every bottled beer in existence, and my undying loyalty and grateful patronage.

Seriously, this place makes it almost worth going to visit my mother-in-law in Albany (almost).
Sep 28, 2010
Photo of Lazerlobe
Reviewed by Lazerlobe from Washington

3.95/5  rDev -9.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4
The atmosphere was exactly what I wanted in a bar. Free tables, light music and a tight space. The overall English pub feel is what I seek in a bar.

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

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

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

Overall, I would love this place if I was local and will continue to swing in when I am in town but wouldn't recommend it to someone timid for a bar visit.
Sep 27, 2010
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Reviewed by pandashaver from South Carolina

4.85/5  rDev +11.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4
THIS IS BEER HEAVEN!!! If there were any way to have this place within walking distance for the rest of my life and not live in Albany, I would. That being said, here's my breakdown:

The place is very wooden, very small, no TV, no darts, very little besides beer. That being said, it is cozy and a great place to bring a few close friends (or make some new ones). Modeled after English-style pubs, though I've never actually been to one in England. Excellent that you can actually hear yourself speak and carry on a conversation. The hundreds of taphandles that line ceiling, awning, and the bar itself are just plain cool. There is also a wall of mugs behind the bar, as well as brass "service line only" rails. My only suggestion for improvement would be to turn up the speakers to a more audible (but not blaring) level.

There is simply no better place for beer on Earth, I'm convinced. If there is, then I will have truly died and gone to heaven. This place carries the finest beers, serves them in English/imperial pints, and the staff have incredible knowledge of beer in general.

Don't be an ass, and don't order a Heineken light, and you will find the service to be top-notch. Ask about any beer, and you will be given ample information before ordering. Step to one of the 3 brass "service line only" rails, and you will be promptly served a well-poured pint. The other day, a bartender spilled a bit off the top of my pint when he quickly placed it in front of me, and before I could blink he topped it off and replaced it - now that's service.

There are 4-6 casks at this place at all times, some imports/Belgians/1-time brews. Generally around 30 draft beers, constantly rotating, from around the country and around the world. If for some reason a draft doesn't catch your fancy for the day, there are literally hundreds of bottles available (cellared at the precise temperature for the style, of course).

Food, while scarce in selection, get the job done. Toasties are a great deal for 5-6 bucks, and the quality cheese runs from $4.50-9 per block, and comes with an entire roll of crackers on a cutting board. Some servers will even make an expert cheese-beer pairing selection, warming the cheese to the perfect temp if necessary.

Considering the pints are 1/3 larger than American pints and generally priced from 5-7 buck for drafts, it's not a bad deal. Belgians and imperials can run $8-12 per pint or more. The bottles, however, are generally at least twice the price as at the store. 1 nice option not advertised is that you can buy a 10 oz. (half) pint of any beer for half the price listed. You can also buy an American (14oz) pint for about 20% off the listed price.

The best value of this bar that keeps you coming back is the Mahar's Beer Tour. Free to sign up, you get a shirt, an engraved mug (with 20% discounts for life!), a case of beer, and your name immortalized on a wall plaque at 50, 125, 200, and 500 beers, respectively. However, you can only drink 4 beers a night (on the tour at least), until you reach 200 beers. However, 4 beers of larger size and ABV than the norm really equates to 6-8 standard 5% bottles, which should be more than enough.
Sep 04, 2010
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Reviewed by STEG from New York

3.85/5  rDev -11.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4
Where to begin with this place, lets start with the beer, when ordering you get to look at the tap handles or ask for the beer list which is nearly impossible to read and usually covered in old beer. Then once you figure out what you want you have to wait for the simpsons comic book guy to saunter his way over to you to get your beer. I went here recently with one of my college professors and a small group of better than average college students (who were slightly into beer). I was able to make my way through to order good beer, but comic book guy was kind of pretentious when they either had no idea what they wanted or were asking for less than good offerings that the bar wouldn't ever carry stuff like blue moon or Sam Adams. The quality of the beer and and the offerings has diminished lately going from having ten fidy on tap to leffe blond and other average beers from england. Occasionally they'll get something good in but meh. The beer is also expensive. Its a great place for beer snobs but not for the average new to beer or less discerning consumer.
Aug 12, 2010
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Reviewed by drinkiusmaximus from New York

4.38/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5
So here it is this is the place where I had my first Stone Sublimley self righteous on tap score one for Mahars....
The atmosphere was awesome just what you want in a beer bar to have a beer and relax and enjoy some conversation while sipping an exceptional pint.
The service on the other hand is the only downfall tenders can be a bit gruff at times but hey,can't find better tap selection in the capital district of albany so who cares...right?

Selection is very good with an extensive tap selection and about 6 cask engines going. they have a website which is updated frequently which helps with knowing what to expect when you arrive.

For a craft beer enthousiast this is a must visit bring your own entertainment/conversation because they provide none..what they do provide is exceptional beer at reasonable prices..Prost!
Jul 30, 2010
Photo of Loki
Reviewed by Loki from North Carolina

4.66/5  rDev +6.9%
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.
Mar 12, 2010
Photo of slk2go
Reviewed by slk2go from Pennsylvania

4.85/5  rDev +11.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4
This is one of my favorite beer bars in the entire country. I agree if you only roll in on a friday at the peak hour, you will get mediocre service. I however suggest coming in on a tuesday afternoon or better yet on monday for "pie night". Once Bill and the rest of the crew gets to know you, you get treated very well. No different than any other bar. In fact they are quite knowledgeable and helpful once you crack the shell. Yes the beer can be a bit expensive but where else can you find a tap selection like this. Additionally, if you are a regular the price drops considerably once you have your 125th beer and get your mug. Further, I don't think there is any other place that carries 6 casks. The food although basic is enjoyable. Pies are tasty as are the "toasties" with horseradish sauce. It is also enjoyable to grab some beers with an entourage and grab some cheese and crackers. Certainly not gourmet but the food is inexpensive and certainly tasty for what it is. It is also one of the few bars I know of that has an extensive beer library. They also have chess and backgammon boards. This is a great place to hangout at on a weekend or come in and do some reading during the week. As for people that complain about the attitudes, I say if you walked into a fine french restaurant and ordered a burger and fries they would make an ass of you this joint is no different. If you want a coors light and a cosmo, go somewhere else.
Feb 27, 2010
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Reviewed by ProfessorHomer from New York

3.6/5  rDev -17.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2 | selection: 5 | food: 1.5
This famously odd place has beers you will find no where else in a 100 mile radius of Albany. A real man's real beer bar. Bring cash - and lots of it - features the most expensive pints in Albany.

Atmosphere: Previously, and accurately, described as a "Beer Cave" or "Hobbit Hole". Difficult to find, small but deep with sanding-room-only nooks. Only regulars can stand (no sitting!) at the bar. The rest of us peons need line up in a specific spot to "Order Beer Here; Pay; Go Away" per their sign. They bolt all their old taps to sills throughout the place, and they have ALOT of them - impressive!

Quality: They get kegs and casks you ill find nowhere else. And some regular brews too. VERY expensive, pints are from $8 to $12.

Service: They pour and take your money. Ask nothing else for ye shall only me met with stony silence and despair.

Selection: Very eclectic. From local brewskis to exotic European seasonal kegs - they seem to be able to get almost anything yet tap randomly - you have alot of choice. Had six casks on tap when we visited - intriguing.

Food: They have food?

Value: You will find beers from your beer "Bucket List" that you will find nowhere else. You will pay dearly for them.

Come here at least once - but the place is almost always packed so arrive early for best standing room. Bring your own fun, this is a true beer-snob's bar staffed by true beertender snobs. Nevertheless, I remain intrigued...
Jan 17, 2010
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Reviewed by CHickman from New York

4.64/5  rDev +6.4%
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.
Jan 06, 2010
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Reviewed by DaveLikesAle from Ohio

5/5  rDev +14.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5
Hard to find anything to complain about. If I were creating my own "beer cave", it would look like Mahar's. SIX cask ales. They were not all full (I think only 3 during my visit on Tuesday), but obviously availability can be a factor. I had Fuller's Mr. Harry, which I had never even heard of - an outstanding English ale. The barkeeper was extremely knowledgable and answered all questions that we had. He sells 10 oz. pours as well as 20 oz., so we got to try a couple of things - a nice touch. This is a destination. If you are ever near Albany, go to Mahar's.
Apr 09, 2009
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Reviewed by deleted_user_43521

4.36/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
Yes, there's a lot of wood. I am having some trouble understanding why that is something to complain about. This place looks like an English pub, but brighter. I like the way it looks. It's true that there are no bar stools at the bar, but traffic-wise this makes good sense. It's true that it's very small. No problem. The only reason I didn't give 5 stars to the atmosphere is because I get picky when there is dust on various bits in a bar. There were a few places where the many tap handles in the place had dust. Definitely not all of them.

The menu thing is a bit weird, I agree. Having to go to a computer to print one out is cumbersome, but we had no trouble finding one laying around at the bar. At one point we even borrowed one from a "member." On top of that it's not exactly hard to see the draft handles. The bottles aren't not necessarily visible so a menu would be necessary. Further, the rotation at this place is so great that printing out menus to have laying around would be a big waste. I've beer to places with a better selection so I didn't rate that ultra high here. But the selection clearly exceeds many, many places.

The clientele, to say the least, was man-heavy. Basically a bunch of beer geeks with a few "regular people" mixed in. This bar is in a college area and attracts plenty of those folks.

One disappointment was the Hoptical Illusion on cask. It tasted like medicine. I've read some reviews on here and no one has mentioned this, so I'm guessing it was particular to them. Otherwise all beers I had were great. Proper temp, wheat glass when having a weizen, etc. It's not like every glass had a logo from the brewery (I don't need that) but they were appropriate in shape at all times. I don't have to have that either, but I prefer it.
Sep 11, 2008
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Reviewed by Troy518 from New York

3/5  rDev -31.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2 | selection: 4
I know other people have highly rated this bar and I do not argue with it being the best that there is in the Albany area. I have been here twice and have been a bit disappointed. My party of three had to wait outside for 15 minutes because the bar was at capacity (65 people). Once we got in, we requested a beer menu and were directed to go print one out on the computer. Previously, we went and there was no crowd and were served promptly. I would recommend avoiding this place on high traffic days, mainly Thursday through Saturday. The bartenders were more attentive to their frequent patrons than to newcomers. The practice of getting in a service line took a bit getting used to. The beer that was ordered was served well above temperature and thus disappointing. The glasses were very warm and the beer itself tasted like it was served around 60F. I appreciated the fact that they didn't let more people in than they could handle but I wish the service was a little more attentive. Their selection is the best in the area but their markup seems a bit on the pricier side in comparison to some of the places I've been to in Boston (i.e. Publick House & Monk Cell, Sunset Grille, etc.). If you are really looking for these beers I suggest visiting Oliver's in Albany and saving some cash.
Sep 06, 2008
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Reviewed by yemenmocha from Arizona

4.72/5  rDev +8.3%
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.
Jul 04, 2008
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Reviewed by Avryle from Vermont

4.95/5  rDev +13.5%
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.
Mar 02, 2008
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Reviewed by togasports from New York

4.72/5  rDev +8.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5
There are so many great things about Mahars...First Off, is the selection...I have never seen a better selection in my travels. A great selection of taps and bottles, I have never been disapointed. The beer is always fresh, and its great the selection of beers on the engines that always change. Riht now is alot of Middle ages, and Bluepoin, but often there are nice selections from ridgeway and others as well. The prices on all the beers are very reasonable for a beer bar.
The food is sparse, but delicious. The only offerings are a nice s election of cheeses, toasties (paninis), and occasionally a nice meat pie. The prices are all incredibly reasonable.
Feb 20, 2008
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Reviewed by shuriyukum from Maryland

4.65/5  rDev +6.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4
My first beer bar experience and still my favorite. It is probably because this place feels like home. Anywhere you go to get your first start will always have a special place in your heart, you know?

Mahar's has a great atmosphere that takes a page out of an old Irish pub. There is no ATM, no darts, no pool table, and no TVs. For distractions, you can peruse the many beer books they have lying about or talk to a random person who is there on their own It is a comfortable place where you can easily strike a conversation with a stranger and not feel ostracized for it. Things can get noisy a bit from Wed. evenings on through Saturday nights, but show up early enough and you can easily find your corner or a seat at a table.

The selection is top notch and I have yet to go to a place that can match it, let alone rival it. They have anywhere from 200 - 3000 unique bottles at hand and they work hard to keep new beers rotating in. They feature a World Beer Tour that keeps track of the # of beer you've had while listing unique ones for you. They have ~ 30 beers on draft which feature English, Cask (6 hand pumps!), and Belgian beers regularly, with US craft beers constantly in rotation.

The friendliness and service can sometimes be volatile depending on the crowd and their attitude. I think this is their one weak spot. Still, be patient and know what you want will facilitate the best experience for you.

Concerning food, they have a number of toasted sandwiches, cheeses, and an occasional meat pie (which are quite excellent if you manage to find one!). For heartier fare, and more selection, you'll have to try alternate eating establishments.

Overall, this is a fantastic beer establishment and should not be missed. If you stop in Albany, be sure to visit Mahar's!
Feb 20, 2008
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Reviewed by aerozeppl from New York

5/5  rDev +14.7%
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.
Jan 07, 2008
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Reviewed by jgnatek from Massachusetts

4.08/5  rDev -6.4%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5
an oasis in a town of crap.

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

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

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

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

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

overall, not really a destination, but if you are in albany and don't want to goto that god awful pumphouse brewery, come here. its atleast real.
Sep 10, 2007
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Reviewed by HopDerek from Pennsylvania

4.72/5  rDev +8.3%
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.
Jul 23, 2007
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Reviewed by williamherbert from New York

4.3/5  rDev -1.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5
So this was the (in)famous Mahar's. I've heard so much about it, both good and bad. I've heard they have more bottles than God himself, and that the barkeeps are as rude as Lucifer.

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

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

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

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

It's quite a place. If you live in Albany and haven't been there, then shame on you. Get your behind over there this Saturday, 4pm sharp.
Jun 15, 2007
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Reviewed by madmanjf from New York

4.2/5  rDev -3.7%
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.
May 22, 2007
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Reviewed by crwills from Canada (ON)

3.74/5  rDev -14.2%
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.
Apr 30, 2007
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Reviewed by Rippeddisc from Hawaii

4.6/5  rDev +5.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5
I'm writting this out of nastolgia. Currently living across the country. I pine to get back for a beer. Working next door has it perks. Anyway on to the bar as I can still smell the beer.

This is a beer bar. And a paradise at that. Expect nothing more than old english pub feel, wooden everything and a rotating beer list that to my knowledge was over 5000 (as in more than 5000 beers have come through there since they opened the doors; they keep 30 on tap and over 150 in bottles organized on the print out by country). Keep track of what you drink and different varietys via the computer system is just plain fun. My beer maturation process was formed here. As for the staff. Basically just Bill. At points can not be the friendlist guy in the world. Opinionated. Very knowledgable. And if you can get him on a good night (read: dead) entertaining to talk to. Best to hit this place when it's dead, or at least you hope it is. No one like's it crowded in there, including the bartenders so try mon-thurs nights or early afternoons (remember college town so subject to be busier at the normal times of year). Easier to talk about the beer and to your local barmates. This place...I miss. If anyone reads this and visits. Say Aaron that moved to SLC says hi.

p.s. The irregular 'beer fests' (i cannot recall the actual name they have for them) are a great deal. For $50 you get 10 beers never before served at mahars and food during the day (this is done on sunday's usually when the bar is closed and unopened beers can be taken home).
Apr 13, 2007
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Reviewed by BeerTruth from Connecticut

4.03/5  rDev -7.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5
Very unique bar to visit. If you plan on being someone to get drunk and crazy don't even think about going here. This is the place you go to sit down for a beer or two to enjoy beer. The outside is somewhat of a false front once you enter the bar. Enjoy yourself here and make sure you pick out the perfect beer for yourself because they have plenty to choose from in terms of bottles. Their beer menu is quite extensive. They offer a good amount of cheese and crackers to clean the taste buds so you can experience another one of their many brews in which they offer. If you happen to be in the Albany area, make sure you stop by this bar for a brew or two. Also, while you're in the Albany area...make sure to visit the Albany Pump Station in downtown Albany just of 787 for good beer and good food.
Jan 27, 2007
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Reviewed by ccs from New Hampshire

3.33/5  rDev -23.6%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3
The place doesn't open until 4 (if I remember correctly.) I found this out a year ago when we swung through Albany almost exclusively to visit Mahar's...we finally got there last month.
I have to say, I was expecting more based on the reviews. It was clean, moderately quiet, but not overly welcoming. For a Tuesday night, it was pretty busy and there were a bunch of college-aged kids taking over two of the large tables. We ended up standing and drinking our beers. It took forever for the bartender to serve us, thanks to the aforementioned crowd.
I was disappointed that there was such a small selection of American beer on tap. Maybe only 10. I was hoping to find nice local drafts, but in all honesty, it wasn't anything special that I wouldn't be able to find at a good beer store.
Dec 04, 2006
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Reviewed by drseamus from New York

4.1/5  rDev -6%
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.
Dec 03, 2006
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Reviewed by Litterbean from New York

4.18/5  rDev -4.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4
Awesome place. The atmosphere is perfect. Beer paraphernalia and tap handles adorn the entire length of this long and narrow pub. No TVs, and low music where you can hear the people you are talking to.

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

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

The regulars also like to bring in food for everyone to enjoy, so that was nice and really added to the atmosphere. If you want a great place to drink a quality beer, then do yourself a favor and check this place out.
Nov 26, 2006
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Reviewed by dlee from New York

4.72/5  rDev +8.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5
Mahar's is an exceptional beer bar. It opens at 4 and is located in a small, dark, quiet (no tv, minimal music) room that allows for the full appreciation, and advocation, of beer.

Visitors are instructed to go to the computer at the back of the room and hit the enter key twice to print out the beer list. If you write your name at the top of the list and leave the menu when you leave, they will enter you in the system so that you can print out your customized menu each subsequent visit. Here's the deal: when you order a beer the tender will mark your selection on your menu with a highlighter, then when you leave at the end of the night someone will enter into the computer all of the beers that you drank. When you come back and print out your menu, your menu will only contain beers that you have not already had. Apparently they track how many unique beers you have had and have prizes for different levels.

The beer list is fantastic: 3 pages, 2 columns, single spaced and grouped by country.

There are about 20 beers on tap plus 3 hand pumps with cask. On the pumps were 3 Middle Ages beers: Wailing Wench, Duke and IPA. I had the IPA and it was delicious.
Nov 19, 2006
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Reviewed by weissja from New York

4.38/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5
My buddies and I are regulars at Mahar's. We stop in a couple times a month, are all members of the mug club, and have a couple hundred beers a piece to our names on the tour. The funny thing about Mahar's is that just about everything said in the other reviews, the very posative and the very negative ones alike, is true. It's a no nonsense beer bar. The bartenders are rather "off putting" until you become a regular. Then they treat you like a long lost friend every time you walk in the door. If you're serious about good beer Mahar's is the place for you. If you're not, they would just as soon have you go somewhere else. This place, like many of the beer's they serve, is an aquired taste... but then again... aren't most of life's finer things?
Nov 03, 2006
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Reviewed by bwyker from New York

3.34/5  rDev -23.4%
vibe: 2 | quality: 4 | service: 1.5 | selection: 5
Often referred to by friends as the “beer library,” Mahar’s is a very unconventional bar that takes something good to a level so ridiculous it begins to stink of obnoxious snobbery. The austere atmosphere is enough to put you to sleep. Last night, I was taken aback when I think I actually heard some music playing under the chatter of people speaking carefully in their “inside voices.” Don’t get me wrong, I am just as annoyed as the next guy by the cacophony of douchebags conversing about complete nonsense at unnecessarily loud volumes. However, this is a bar, like it or not – maybe a little music and dimming of the lights would serve as a nice reminder. Anyway, don’t expect to pull a seat up to the bar, as the stools have been removed – I assume to keep people from staying for too long. The menu of beer can be a bit misleading. For example, last night I heard someone try to order a Sam Adams Hefe, which was clearly on the list [Note: world tour beer club members are provided a print out of draft & bottled beers]. However, the bartender didn’t think it was a very good beer and refused to pour it. While I agree, it’s not a very good beer, I don’t quite understand what it is doing on the menu if they don’t want people to have it. I once had a similar experience trying to order a Urthel Hop-it. Hops in a Belgian beer didn’t jive with the bartender and he only agreed to pout it if I ordered the smallest size (10 oz glass). Mahar’s does everything they can to keep people out of the bar. In its defense, it’s located in the heart of the student ghetto and one probably doesn’t want to deal with that clientele. I suppose the snob shtick is a line of defense that keeps out those who don’t respect the incredible list of beers offered. So what’s on that list? Well, currently available: Sam Hefe, Hoegaarden, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Hobgoblin, Double Dragon, Old Speckeled Hen, Guinness, Smthwick’s, Boddingtons, Belhaven Wee Heavy, Strongbow, Samichlaus, Corsendonk Brown, Delirium Tremens, Murphy’s Irish Stout, New Castle, Stone Bastard, Fuller’s ESB, Sea Dog Blueberry, Rouge Imperial Porter, Spaten Oktoberfest, Paulaner Oktoberfest, Saranc Rootbeer…maybe a few more. A few casks of Middle Ages beers were available. The bottle list is several pages long; however, the mark up is outrageous. Drive a few miles down the road and you can get the same beer for about 1/3 the price at Oliver’s. I once saw a bottle of Weyerbacher 11 on the menu at Mahar’s for $20. The next day, I bought a bottle for $7 at Oliver’s. Mahar’s is pretty packed just about any day of the week, despite every effort to keep people away. I don’t know if it’s the quality of beer or the determination of beer enthusiasts that makes that so. However, I look past all of Mahar’s snobbery each week and I think any person who cares enough about beer could do the same.
Sep 22, 2006
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Reviewed by TurdFurgison from Ohio

4.06/5  rDev -6.9%
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...
Aug 22, 2006
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Reviewed by RatAgain from Massachusetts

4.36/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5
Simply put, I love Mahar's. Yes the bartenders can be intimidating and blunt but when you are polite and know exactly what you want no worries. I personally have only been working on the selection on tap so far so I have had no problems with warm beer as other BA's have. The selection is overwhelming to say the least, but I find it fun to look it over. Beers are served in speciality glass where when it applied and just adds to the experience. The prices are a bit high but as being the only place in the greater Albany area that carries such a large selection what else can you do. The atmosphere is probably one of my favorite things about Mahar's; it is small, with mostly standing room and a table or two. There is no music that I can remember hearing which hightens the time with the people you go with. You enjoy good beer in a relaxed evironment with good company. Mahar's it seems become more enjoyable the more you go as you get to know it and it gets to know you (being a frequent customer increases the service).
Aug 08, 2006
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Reviewed by goodbyeohio from Connecticut

2.93/5  rDev -32.8%
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.
Jul 20, 2006
Mahar's Public Bar in Albany, NY
Place rating: 4.36 out of 5 with 64 ratings