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

Atmosphere: An interesting vibe greets the first-time visitor to Mahar’s. It’s a clapboard building resembling a salt-box house (NOT any UK-style storefront I’ve ever seen!) wedged between some neon lit restaurants and other bars on Madison at the far end (from the Capitol) of the commercial district and across from Saint Rose College. It’s so unobtrusive that we drove right by it the first time. One enters a narrow vestibule with glass cases filled with breweriana (mostly tap handles), which also fill the front window and every available shelf inside not already occupied by mugs. Up a few stairs, the bar is to the left and runs almost the length of the place, with several “bays” on the right. The front bay has two tables that look out the front, while the other bays (a couple of which were empty when we got there) have demi-lune tables attached to the wall with free-standing stools. There’s also a back area with some more seating. On my visit, the bar was mostly occupied, and the bartender growled at me when I approached the one open spot (reserved by a tipped pint glass and a “personal” beer list). There was a small sign between two brass rails (the kind that normally delineate the waitstaff section of the bar) that cautions the patron to order, say please, and leave. Am I in McSorley’s? One of my friends whispered, “I guess this guy is like the Beer Nazi instead of the Soup Nazi.” One might expect this in NYC, but not Albany. Behind the bar is a wall of mugs reserved for regulars.

Quality: Everything served was in excellent shape. The cask Tally-Ho was superlative as was the Cantillon and the Beamish pours were picture-perfect. Mahar’s did seem to have a selection of glassware, but everything we had was served in Guinness-style tulip pints. Temperatures were appropriate to the beers.

Service: I’ve already described the service (which did warm up as we drank) to some degree. I don’t want to bash, but this is definitely a place that seems to cater to regulars. A medium-sized group of BA’s coming in might be deemed a nuisance or worse. Let me assure you, this was our first stop. We weren’t rowdy, impolite, or loud.

Selection: Again, I don’t want to trash-talk, but the selection is not so overwhelming as to approach the level some reviews seem to accord it. One gets a “new member” list (a la The Peculier Pub) running 3 pages of mostly single-spaced blocks of type (organized by country), which includes all of the current offerings. I didn’t do a hard count of the taps (I was too scared to dally at the bar), but I thought I saw 4 beer engines (two in use: Adnam’s Tally-Ho and a Scottish bitter I didn’t catch the name of) and about 15 or so regular taps. Oddly the regular taps included both Beamish AND Guinness, as well as beers ranging from Cantillon Bruoscella to Coniston Blue Bird. There were some bottle treasures, but also quite a few middle of the road offerings and a surprisingly sparse number of regional microcrafts. I’d have expected a full range of Middle Ages, Ithaca, Wagner Valley, Southern Tier, Lake Placid, etc. Prices can also run high, with some bottled beers offered at a 200%+ markup. Still, the reviewer remarking on $4-6 pints, must be living in fantasyland. How much cheaper should it be?

Food: It appears as if the regulars make and/or bring their own food. Propped on the rails of the bays, there was a pizza, a platter of wings, several dips in their plastic containers and baskets of crackers. However, I think this is an informal set-up and may vary from day to day. We were there on a Saturday night.

Backwash: I know that if I lived in the area, I’d LOVE Mahar’s. As an outsider, it’s a bit less enjoyable, but still boasts a great selection of beers in top condition. I don’t have nearly the experience of some BA beerflies, but I have seen several other places that offer at least this much variety. However, the cask offerings are nice and the offerings seem to turnover with regularity. From a New Jersey perspective, I’m jealous. From a wider perspective, this is a nice beer bar and a great asset to Albany.

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Photo of ommegangpbr
4.8/5  rDev +10.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

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

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Photo of newyawker
3.45/5  rDev -20.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 2.5

Am I the only one not that impressed with this place? In a nondescript part of Madison Ave with a front you could easily walk by without knowing its there, this small, narrow bar is very woody. Not many seats, you have to stand to drink your beer. Pretty fun game for their mug club, but since I don't live in Albany I wasn't that impressed. tap selection was good. Maybe 15 different taps, but nothing really wild I don't see at Gingerman or David Copperfield's when I've been there. They make some OK grub in the back of the bar, behind the bar, but just simple pub stuff. Bartender wasn't the nicest or most knowledgeable, but efficient. OK, a decent college bar, but the best in the state? Not in my opinion.

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Photo of francisweizen
4.86/5  rDev +11.5%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5

Well we drove over four hours in the aftermath of a nice snow storm to get here. The number one rated US pub on this here site. Was it worth the drive and the time to get here. In one word: Yes!

The atmosphere of this place is unreal. A nice UK style storefront welcomes you in from Madison avenue. Upon entering you start to read the interesting non-smoking signs, and "house rules". Even in the vestibule of this place I had good feelings:-) The atmosphere is really nice in here. All wood, and quite old looking with books and games scattered around little nooks and crannies of wood. A few stools are around, but none of them are by the bar. They invite you to look at their recently (daily?) printed beer-list. Select a beer and leave the bar area :-) The quality of all of the ales sampled was exceptional and the selection is quite awesome as well, though not as mind-blowing as I expected. I ended up trying the new brooklyn sustainable porter, a rogue 12pa fresh off the tap, and a heavyweight pegalina. The beers were a bit on the pricey side at $4-6 a pint, but for the rare stuff ordered it is perfectly understandable and fine by me. When you pay, you should always pay for quality. Service here is quite nice with the bartender of the evening being a veritable beer encyclopedia. When I quizzed him on the pegalina by heavyweight, he poured me a generous sized (5oz?) sample of it for free, I than got a half of that and some water as well. Nice service, indeed. Truly, one of the best beer bars in the US

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Photo of belhav0322
3.75/5  rDev -14%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4

What an odd place. Like the rest of the reviews state, the place is pretty small and low-key. There is a long bar with no stools, but adequate standing room. Across from the bar there are about 5 or 6 tables. It is well lit and full of various taps and beer mats.

As for the beers, they have a great selection. The draft and bottle menu is listed by country or region. I prefer that it be listed by style, but if you know what you are looking for, it is pretty easy.
They have an extensive range from all over, and feature some obscure micro's. When I was there a few weeks back they had Perkuno's Hammer on cask! Yum!!

I have been here about 5 times and have never been impressed with the service. The bartenders are knowledgable and will answer any questions you have, but they seem put off by doing so (simple questions about what style a certain regional on tap is, since styles are not listed). Last time I was there, my group was the last one out of the place when they closed. We were quiet and respectful all night, and did not hold them up when it was last call. We all said goodnight and great job to the bartender, who was standing very near us, and he did not even respond. Whatever, I guess I am nitpicking.

All in all a great spot, but I feel it is not worhty of all the glowing reviews it seems to get. Still, whenever I am in Albany, I make it a point to get here.

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Photo of cbl2
4.94/5  rDev +13.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

I spent 3 weeks of the summer up in Albany last summer taking a class for teaching, and was lucky enough to stumble upon Mahar's. Part of what got me through that 3 week period in my life was my attempt to earn a tshirt at Mahar's (50 different beers required).

Mahar's opens promptly at 4 during the week, and I was there promptly at 4 each day. Word to the wise: no underage drinking here! Bill the bartender carded me every day for a week, even though I had discussions with him every day. The bar is somewhat small, but entirely covered in beer paraphenalia. Each table has 4 beer towels on it. There are old taps lining the walls, and the occassional brass plaque for those that have consumed 500 different beers at Mahar's.

Each beer you drink is kept track of by highlighting a personalized computer sheet. The next time you frequent Mahar's, the highlighted beers from your previous venture will no longer appear on your menu.

Selection is phenomenal. Things on tap are listed first, followed by an alphabetized listing of countries, and their respective beers. At any given time I'd say there are 150-200 beers in the bottle, and about 15 or so beers on tap. Prices are a little high (it cost about $300 for my Tshirt), but well worth it.

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Photo of Longstaff
4.14/5  rDev -5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4

I was expecting a larger more upscale place, but when a bar focuses on beer, it could be in a dump and I would feel comfortable. A narrow bar like the kind you would expect in NYC with a bar (no stools) on one wall and a few tables lined up on the other and in the back. 25 taps and an impressive 300 bottles. A lot of middle of the road and flagship beers though, leaving a smaller selection that is worth getting excited over. I thought the Belgian and German selections were just average for a place with this many choices. And I expected the selection of American micros would have included more breweries from NY and deeper selections from each brewery represented. A small selection of snacks and one entree' made up the food menu. All in all a good beer bar that definitely focuses on beer. A great asset to the Albany area, but is it the best in the land? I've been to better.

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Photo of Charthepirate
5/5  rDev +14.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Wow, just wow.

Came in for a tasting of brooklyn beers with Garret Oliver. Had a bit of trouble finding the place down the long strip of stores, but the crowd outside smoking and talking about barleywine tipped me off ;).

Inside it is a long bar, some seating, no barstools. About 25 tap lines, and 2 beers and 1 farmhouse cider on cask. At least 100 bottles were also available.

Mugs lined the wall behind the tap lines, these mugs are reserved for repeat customers, who have "joined the club." Keep trying beers, and eventually you can get one.

Bartenders were on top of things, knew beer fantastically well, and were very friendly. Patrons were all friendly, especially the various BA's I met there.

Some cheeses are available, other than that no food that I could see.

Just a great place, I must return.


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Photo of hollicetales
5/5  rDev +14.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

You can move away from Albany, but you'll keep coming back to go to Mahar's even if you move all the way to California. There's no better selection and atmosphere in the Northeast and well anywhere that I have traveled for that matter. It really is the ideal for the perfect pub. The atmosphere is laid back and cozy and the staff is so extremely knowledgable, these people know thier beer and they take it seriously. Most of all, you have to love Mahar's because people go there for one reason and one reason drink good beer.

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Photo of longpondbeerman
4.36/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

This is the quintessential neighborhood public house--intimate, clean, and devoted to beer (and nothing but). Tucked away on the the first floor of a broad urban street in Albany, Mahar's has an unassuming front, and that basic, straightforward attitude pervades inside. Here you come to drink beer with others who like to drink beer and talk about beer (and occasionally, baseball--even in the gloomy, frigid deeps of December). The setup is long and narrow, as befits the urban setting, with the long and unpretentious bar running long the left side (a great touch: no bar stools--you stand up to drink here) and a series of five or six small tables along the right. There are beer mugs all behind the bar and used taps everywhere. The place is well-lit.

Clearly, Mahar's is a local kind of place; as an out-of-towner and therefore not a regular, I found I was received respecfully but not especially cordially--which is OK. The barkeep knew his stuff, and the patrons knew their stuff. The selection was excellent, as outlined on the daily computer printouts (the locals made a beeline to these as soon as they walked in). I had a cask-conditioned Hop Back Hopfest from England, and there were 23 other drafts available from the US, UK, and continental Europe, a fine selection.

This place is a treat, and it has enough appeal (maybe) to make me consider for a second or two moving to upstate NY.

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Photo of GreatPondBrewer
4.43/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5

A stop off on my way home from college. Very easy to find tucked in between some non-descript buildings all that would let you know its a beer bar by the cask of J.W. Lees jutting out over the door. Very promising indeed! Walking in revealed a very small but cozy looking room with a very worn bar on the left housing all the mugs for"mug club members" and limited seating on the right. There were no stools at the bar. Definitely standing room only. All of the walls were adorned with taps of yesteryear which fit in nicely with the exposed beams.

The beer selection and quality was excellent. 2 casks, about 25 taps and about 75 bottles ranging from the verylocal such as Berkshire all the way to Belgium and Germany. The selection was thoughtful and very mindful of the season. Plenty of holiday beers. The tap lines were obviously well maintained as there was no off flavors etc.

Service was pretty good. The barkeep was a bit gruff and would not believe me when I told him that Gearys just started brewing the winter after the HSA went year round. Besides that he was generally helpful,but he probably would have been more so if I were a regular.

All in all Mahar's is a wonderful stop. It is cozy and oriented towards repeat customers. By the time we had left there were about 12 people there all of whom were obviously regulars. The first thing they all did was go to the back and print out the current draught and bottle list. This is definitely the kind of place I would like in my neighborhood and would recomend seeking it out.

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Photo of Shiredave
4.94/5  rDev +13.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

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

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Photo of sponberg
4.94/5  rDev +13.3%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

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

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

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

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

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Photo of MTMugs
4.8/5  rDev +10.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

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

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