Mahar's Public Bar

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Mahar's Public BarMahar's Public Bar
64 Ratings
Mahar's Public BarMahar's Public Bar

Type: Bar, Eatery

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

(518) 459-7868

// CLOSED //

Monday - Saturday 4pm - midnight
Open the last Sunday of the month and every Sunday throughout December 2pm - 8pm

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Ratings: 64 |  Reviews: 64
Photo of HopDerek
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.

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Photo of williamherbert
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.

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Photo of madmanjf
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.

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Photo of crwills
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.

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Photo of Rippeddisc
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).

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Photo of BeerTruth
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.

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Photo of ccs
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.

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Photo of drseamus
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.

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Photo of Litterbean
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.

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Photo of dlee
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.

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Photo of weissja
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?

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Photo of bwyker
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.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
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...

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Photo of RatAgain
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).

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Photo of goodbyeohio
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.

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Photo of plaid75
4.66/5  rDev +6.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

I started going to Mahar's about 10 years ago as a college student in Albany. It soon became my Friday night haunt. I can remember it before the changes, when you could sit down and have a meal. You could summon a member of the staff over for another beer or another helping of chips and dip by simply switching on the light located on the wall next to your table. I recall how much fun it was to look at your personalized list of beers to see which ones you haven't tried yet.

Well, I recently returned to Mahar's. And while the place has changed and the faces are different, it is still the same warm place. A place where you can sample a countless exotic tap and bottled beers or simply have a pint of the best Guinness this side of Dingle.

An Albany landmark.

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Photo of mikeys01
4.43/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 5

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

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

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

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

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Photo of AlbanyAdvocate
4.78/5  rDev +9.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

A very cool beer bar, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have it just uptown from me. Too far to walk from my apartment in the Lark Street Area, I've been known to take a bus from the Armory up Western Ave, and most of the time we just choose a DD.

The highlight of Mahar's is its cask-conditioned real ale, many imported from England and lately a number of casks from Middle Ages in Syracuse.

On tap, Mahar's has a variety of American craft beers, rare beers from Europe and elsewhere, and some of the better European standards -- including a well-served pint of Guinness, NOT extra cold, and with plenty of texture.

If this isn't enough, there's also an *extensive* bottle list from around the world, with a good number of American craft beers as well. The markup on bottles tends to be about 100% from retail prices, so make a visit to Oliver's first! You'll still find lots at Mahar's unavailable elsewhere.

The entire food menu consists of a small fridge underneath the bar, at the back end. Their meat pies -- usually steak and mushroom, but I've had steak and kidney too -- are awesome. An excellent place to pair a cheese with a beer too. Don't go expecting a full dinner, but I've intentionally gone to Mahar's for dinner and love what they have.

The hours are limited, but very easy to remember: 4pm to midnight, Monday through Saturday.

Mahar's is not for everybody. Seating is limited, music is either off or quiet, there's no pool or darts, etc. They can also be leery of groups of young people (Mahar's is between the city's so-called "student ghetto" neighborhood and UAlbany's main campus), but not excessively so: I first started going when I was an upperclassman myself.

This place is about BEER. For a BeerAdvocate visitor, I strongly recommend it.

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Photo of ericj551
4.6/5  rDev +5.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

I've been to Mahar's a couple of times now, and had a pretty different experience. The first time I went with my girlfriend on a week night. We walked in to a mostly empty bar, a couple small groups of people scattered. There was no music playing, and it was brightly lit, it seemed more like someones kitchen then a bar. The walls were lined with what must have been thousands of tap handlesI went up to the bar and picked up a printed out list of beers. The bar tender immediately told me I was looking at someone else's beer list and one would be printed for me. After reviewing the list, I asked if I could have a pint of Pliny the Elder. The bar tender answered no, and after a long pause explained that they were out of Pliny. I went back to the list and ordered an Old Foghorn, and was rewarded with a pint. The beer was excellent, but we didn't quite feel at home, and left after.

My second trip to Mahar's was much better and is what I base my score on. I went with my girlfriend and a couple beer loving friends, on a Saturday night. The place was packed, but we managed to get a corner table after a few minutes. We picked up a beer list off of the printer, 30 or so beers on tap, and probably hundreds available in bottles. The service was much better, the lighting seemed less bright, and there was music playing at an appropriate volume. I had a Brooklyn Monster Barleywine, and a Beast Bitter, both of which I enjoyed thoroughly, and both served in full pint glasses, not the typical 14 oz glasses that I am used to. I walked out of the place happy I wasn't driving, and with a much better appreciation for the place.

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Photo of Hoves
4.55/5  rDev +4.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Mahars in Albany is right on Madison Avenue where Western Avenue splits off east of Crossgates Mall. The first time I went to Mahars was March of 2005 and my first impression was complete awe. I loved the hundreds of taps lining the walls and ceilings along with all the beer paraphernalia (signs, posters, tins, towels...etc.). I have continued going to Mahars up to the present and my total on the tour is now 75.

When you first walk into Mahars there is an original smell to go with the original decor. The long wooden stoolless bar runs on the left, the pillars connecting the bar to the ceiling beam are propped with books in between the top of the pillar and the beam. The tables that run the wall on the right are a great place to play cards, chess, backgammon or read (many games and books are available on the shelves for use).

The "menu" of beers is printed out in the rear of the store, after you sign up for the tour you can look up your tour number and print out a list of all the beers you have yet to try (you can print by country, type such as lager/ale..., or by draft/bottle). While on your tour the total number of beers you taste is added up on your sheet each visit and typed into the computer. When you reach 50 beers you receive a Mahars t-shirt which is black and has a tan depiction of the bar and taps on the front. At 125 beers you receive a mug that is placed on the wall for your future visits, you have the choice to have the mug engraved if you want. At 250 beers you receive a free case of any beer of choice and at 500 beers you receive a plaque on the back wall with your name on it.

There is also a selection of food. There are always a variety of cheeses in the cooler along with roast beef and ham toasties that they throw in the toaster for you. I like the roast beef toastie myself.

Overall I love spending time in this place and I would recommend it to anyone. The staff is very knowleadgeable even though sometimes they can be taken as a bit snobby about beer but I guess you are allowed to be when you have tried over 6,000 beers.

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Photo of slander
3.96/5  rDev -9.2%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5

Let's see. There was that Saturday a year or two back, when we did the Upstate/Downstate rumble, and had to bail much earlier than the time Mahar's opens to get back to Brooklyn for a wedding. And then, what, at least 2 or 3 Sundays where I found myself up north when the joint just flat out ain't open. I shouldn't have to work this hard to get a beer, is all I'm sayin'...
Got a parking spot front row center because I understand the art. Doesn't seem like much as you enter, a room deeper than wide. A long bar with no seating runs a good piece of the length to the left, and to the right, a pair of raised bar tables here, a pair of half tables there, and bar counters in between, with a pair of larger tables to the rear, one on each side.
The room is done mostly panel wall lowers with a large Mahar's mural to the rear of the room, plus wood posts and trim throughout, and a hardwood floor with a runnning strip of carpet. The walls are adorned with beer signs, placards, and bar mirrors. Tap handles, some from breweries and beers long gone (Elm City Blackwell Stout, Woodstock Braveheart Scottish, Catamount Amber, Post Road Snowshoe Brown, Red Hook Double Black Stout, Rhino Chasers Amber, Miller Velvet Stout), line the ledges above running all about the room. Tables all decorated with bar towels.
The bar back is a wall of mug club mugs, everywhere. Taps in front of and behind the bar, and bottles in a front nook. Now, there's a sign that says "Customer Service Area, 1) Order beer, say please. 2) Pay for beer, go away". They totally mean it. The sign is not playfully ha-ha, that's their general disposition here. Not like you ain't heard it before.
A big old beer list printable from the 'puter to the rear. As our arrival was on the heels of the Heavyweight cask event and they were all gone, the cask scene was in shambles. 6 casks, and not even half of them occupied. I also wasn't too crazily impressed by the tap selection. 28 taps, some nice beers, but for the most part, I don't know, average Irish, English, German selections. 6 Belgians and 3 of them are wasted on Hoegaarden, evil saccharine Duchesse, and Lindeman's Framboise (although the other 3 were Cantillon Gueuze, DT and Corsendonk Brown Ale). The American micros were solid enough. A pair of barleywines (Anchor Old Foghorn & Rogue Old Crusty '04), Hop Rod Rye, Rogue Glen Ale, Sierra Nevada Crystal Wheat, Post Road Pumpkin, and they still make Celis Raspberry??) Bottles, yeah, they got a boat load of 'em. Impressive English (good bunch of JW Lee's and George Gale's here), and Belgian, and about 100 US micros (Russian River anyone?). Well over 300 bottles in all.
Need me a beer. I first thought, "I'm going to get me a Post Road Pumpkin" and then real life snapped. "What the hell am I talking about?" and ordered the Cantillon Gueuze. I don't know where the hell I was there for a minute.
The food menu consists of chips & dip, a variety of cheese & crackers, and nachos chips with salsa. There's no TV here, no jukebox, and no Phil's golf game, but there is one excellent beer scene.

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Photo of JoeWelcome
4.6/5  rDev +5.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I've only recently checked out Mahar's, as I was not drinking when I was an Albany resident (yeah, there are actually ex-straight-edge people on BA). This place is remarkable and somehow manages to be 100% Albany as well as a true world-class pub. Located in MIDTOWN Albany, where Madison Avenue begins off of Western Avenue (look for the Bruegger's Bagels on the corner), Mahar's is easily the most sincere and serious pub I've ever experienced. That said, it's also one of the most unique and it would take a few trip to get one's bearing, moreso for non beer afficionadoes. The reason being, this place exudes attitude. This is not necessarily a bad thing- I don't mean that they make a point of being rude or disrespectful. However, not respecting beer here will not make you any friends. Walk inside and you are bombarded with beer paraphernalia- and I don't mean pre-fab sports bar nor macro paid-advertising. The entirety of this cozy, mostly-wood pub is covered with very carefully places tap handles, trays and placards for beers that most of this country can't even imagine existing. Along the right wall and in the rear are circular tables with beer towels well placed in front of most seats. There is no menu nor apparent list of beers. What there is, is a small printer and computer screen in the rear where lists of what is available that day (as well as the "beer tour"- a personalized tour of what you have and have not tried at Mahar's) can be printed. Yes, students, you are expected to hand in your list after the publican has marked off what you've tried that day and he will enter this data in the computer at the end of the night.

That's attitude.

I can understand quite easily why some people are uneasy about Mahar's- the first time there I already had a bit of condescending from Bill (it must have been) from behind the bar while discussing the cask selections. Was it really something important? Not at all- it was merely one of many testaments to the fact that Mahar's is a temple where one thing is sacred. And guests are expected to understand. Anyone who's ever taken a hobby seriously can appreciate this- Mahar's is a place where love of beer is taken so far that every beer is numbered so that they can keep count of how many they've had, EVER. If you can't appreciate love of beer to that level, Mahar's might be a bit difficult to handle. For people, like myself, who can understand taking something that you love to a whole new stratum, this place is heaven.

The beer list will include the food items. Food is mininal, very traditional pub inspired and prepared ("readied" is more like it) by the publican, the sole person who seems to work there at any time. They might have a nice hearty English style pie and a toastie or so in addition to their small cold case which features quite a few quality cheeses. Purchase a round of cheese and it'll come on a wooden cutting board with a knife and plenty of crackers- purchase one of the pre-made (but definitely fresh) pies and the publican will heat it for you.

Taps are staggered all over the bar. There's a gigant case behind the bar full of reserved glassware for "regulars" who somehow have their own glass there- I don't know the specifics. At the end of the bar and closest to the street is a closet with all the bottles kept to temperature. Mahar's uses the appropriate glassware, naturally. As is keeping with what I'm often told is a UK tradition, you might have to wait patiently for the publican to come take your order. Casks are prominently displayed both on the printout and in the center of the bar. These engines are often used, and I've noticed no less than 3 casks active at any given time. The beer list is endless and it's literally impossible to try everything they have- there's too much and it changes with new arrivals too often.

Overall, the place is magic. This is a real-deal pub, made great by a conversation you might have while you're here or by what you're drinking. When I was there last, a CSX railroad engineer was rattling off tales from the rails. The beer list makes available some very exotic (and reasonably expensive) vintage and aged varieties as well as some unusual standbys- a Salvadorian beer seems to be in rotation regularly.

All in all, Mahar's is one of the best "secrets" of the Capital District. It has something to offer anyone who thinks there is some art and quality towards drink. Not only is Mahar's a serious beer haven, it's also a lot of fun. I usually feel as if I've found a very special part of the world when I'm here. You need not go to Mahar's to extend your beer education as there are several more common beers available here. But audit the course and you might find yourself enrolling sooner instead of later.

Mahar's is easily the best beer bar I've ever seen.

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Photo of BrewMan13
4/5  rDev -8.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5

I live not far from this place, so it was only a matter of time before I went in. First of all, the vibe is definitely one for regulars. In fact, the 1st thing that was said to me from the bartender was "I know about everyone that comes in here, but I dont know you, you must be new". Yeah, nice to meet you too :)
I didnt know the usual "policy" so I asked for a list, and the bartender went ahead and printed me one (it seemed most peopel had a self-printed list with beers highlighted). Took me a few min's to choose. Personally, I found the bottle list more impressive then the tap list. Sure they have some cask and quite a few draft offerings, but when I went in, those consisted of mostly English pale ales and bitters and other 'typical' summer fare (ipa's, pale wheat beers, etc). (I was expecting more local micros, but there were few in sight). Being a fan of heavy beers year-round, I went to the bottle list. Impressive but pricey. I got a Gulden Draak, a belgian I've never seen in the beer shop I frequent. It was carefully poured into the proper glassware. Seemed to have a touch of age on it, but still very enjoyable. Prices on most bottles seem to be at least double what they would retail for in most cases. Sure, I expect to pay more then retail, but doubel or more is a little much. I do like how they had a bunch I've never seen at the beer shop, but due to the prices I dont see myself becoming a regular.
I must say the people (regulars) there are incredibly nice. A crowd a bit older then myself, but very nice people. It seems on saturdays the regulars bring in snacks for everyone at the bar to share, which we were encouraged to partake in.
I expect if I became a regular my review would go up, but this is how it stands on my 1st visit.

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Photo of NEhophead
4.06/5  rDev -6.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Located right in downtown Albany. I would never have found this place if it wasn't for word of mouth. From the outside this place looks like your typical convenience mart store front. Inside is a spacious pub with a long wooden bar lining the left hand side of the establishment. Plenty of tables to accomodate a crowd; yet on a Saturday night around 7pm, it was pretty dead. We sat at a large table and were even able to play some cards while enjoying the selection. Speaking of the selection; they have computer print offs of all the brews they are featuring at the time, located in the back of the pub. A few highlights included the Old Rasputin, Pranqster Golden, Duchesse de Borgogne, etc. A very solid selection of 30 taps, but not in the Moan and Dove category. Service consisted of walking up to the bar, waiting for the bartender, and ordering. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion; and the staff seemed to know their stuff too. A nice pub with a great atmosphere to enjoy a few pints with some friends.

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Photo of maristfan
4.78/5  rDev +9.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

This review has been a long time coming, as I was a regular at Mahar's for about 3 years and saw it's interior transform several times without losing that "Ol' English Pub" charm. The beer is, well I am just going to say it, perfect. As stated in previous reviews there is a tour which is sorted by draft or bottle, then by origin. You must clearly state preferred size when ordering draft(10,16,20) or you will be served the imperial 20oz every time, which in this case is not a bad thing. The taps are ever changing, you can drink 4 draft beers towards your tour one day, and by the next the list is still exactly the same size from replacements. They frequently clean out their lines but you can always find Lindeman's Framboise on the same tap because that fruity taste just will not go away without replacing the entire line. In the side room lay all of the bottles, a hidden treasure trove of phenominal beers from all over the world. Hat's off to Jim Mahar for being able to locate the selection that he has. Everyone has their favorites, from Arogant Bastard Ale, just ask Bill to show you his tattoo, to Coniston's Bluebird Bitter, and my favorite Delirum Tremens, but it is the rare microbrews that keep bringing you back. There are no stools at the bar, which adds to the charm. You can discuss politics(a very popular subject due to the state offices nearby), to sports(the Red Sox/Yankees is always popular), to just everything beer. One gentleman has been going to Mahar's since it's inception and has a binder full of stories and beers, the only customer in that place who can show you a list of 1 or the item is so new it must be written on a sheet of paper because it is not yet in the computer. Beers usually run from $4-6 but I have had a $40 DeuS Brut Des Flandres there. I think that covers the atmosphere, selection, value and quality. The service does cater towards the regular, it took me a while to warm up to the publicans but they are good people and really know their beers. Don't be an idiot and you can have many pleasant, funny conversations. The food is scarce but this place is not about going to get a meal, it's about drinking beer. They do have a shebeen occasionally that you can sign up for in advance and go have all new beers, a great spread of food and good times on a sunday afternoon.(Note: This is the only time they are open on Sunday..normal hours are 4 to midnight no exceptions). If you are going to get food I suggest the steak and kidney pie. Awesome pub grub. That pretty much covers it, in my opinion it is rightly the number one beer bar in the U.S. and should warrant a visit any time you are in the Albany Capital District area.

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Mahar's Public Bar in Albany, NY
Place rating: 4.36 out of 5 with 64 ratings