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 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 DaveLikesAle
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.

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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 aerozeppl
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.

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Photo of Avryle
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.

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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 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 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 slk2go
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.

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Photo of pandashaver
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.

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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 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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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 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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Photo of togasports
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.

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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 yemenmocha
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.

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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 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 Loki
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.

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Photo of shuriyukum
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!

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Photo of CHickman
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.

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