Is Albany really as much of a beer wasteland as they say?

Discussion in 'US - Northeast' started by Fluke828, Sep 4, 2012.

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  1. Fluke828

    Fluke828 Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2011 Massachusetts

    Going to be in town for a wedding this upcoming weekend and from what I can tell, Oliver's and Westmere are really the only spots worth checking out? How are the growler options usually? Looks like fairly decent options are available for growlers according to their website(s). Will they fill any growler or does it have to be blank? Anything from Captain Lawrence, Ithaca, etc. ever make any appearances in the area? Any other recommendations? Cheers!

  2. darknova306

    darknova306 Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2005 New York

    I've never had growlers filled in either of those spots, but yes Ithaca has a presence out there and I'm pretty sure some Captain Lawrence beers make it there, though I haven't looked in a long time. I'd recommend hitting up the Albany Pump Station, which is a brewpub near the river just off 787. They just changed brewers a few months ago, though, so I'm not sure if the beer has changed at all. It was quite good the last time I was out there.
  3. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,105) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    Can't answer the distro in Albany question, but in NY you can get any growler filled pretty much anywhere. It is the only exceptionally good thing about our state.
  4. dmeadows

    dmeadows Initiate (164) Aug 6, 2002 New York

    Both places will fill pretty much any growler. There's not a whole lot of Captain Lawrence, but a couple of offerings available. Ithaca is generally available, the brewery expansion has reduced its availabilitypretty much everywhere.
  5. Fluke828

    Fluke828 Initiate (0) Feb 2, 2011 Massachusetts

    Thanks for all the insight friends!
  6. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

  7. merc7186

    merc7186 Initiate (0) Dec 5, 2010 New York

    As an outsider who travels from Buffalo to Albany every month...I wouldnt call it a craft beer wasteland but depending on where you are coming from, you may not find much that will blow you away from your normal local distribution. The few options of Captain Lawrence sent up there are pretty weak, in my opinion. I always liked going to the Albany Pump Station myself but not sure if the beer recipes will change with the new head brewer. Browns is very average and could be avoided for other options.

    There are several good beer bars like Bier Abbey and the Ruck that usually have good and different selections too.
  8. sandman3479

    sandman3479 Initiate (0) Dec 8, 2006 Connecticut

    City Beer Hall is cool during the week.
  9. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

    Yeah if you like Jenga and Bingo, you filthy hipster.

    OK, I'll actually try to be helpful from this post, but we need some more info.
    • Where are you staying?
    • Are you looking to stay local to your lodging?
    • What walking, driving, or taxi distance would you be willing to go for a beer?
    • Just looking for bottle shops or are you looking to belly up to a bar and grab a few?
    • What part of MA are you from and how good is the distro there?
    The problem with Albany, other than getting crappy distribution, is that there are really only a handful of bars worth going to, and none of them are remotely near each other. Any amount of bar hopping is going to involve some douchebag Heineken bars.

    The Ruck is a 15 minute drive from Downtown Albany, and while it's my local watering hole and you would hardly be the first people to walk in from a wedding, you might feel a little out of place with its dive bar atmosphere. Also expect 90+% of their taps to be from the good ol' US of A. They are starting to concentrating on casks these days and on Fridays they generally have a one off cask dry-hopped or infused with something you can't get anywhere else. 30 taps total and they do growler fills, too. Their tap list is available on Beer Menus if you want to see if it's worth the drive.

    The Bier Abbey is in Schenectady, so plan for a 25 minute drive or so but they have a little more of a variety and generally have a few sours and stuff you usually don't see in the area. The owner, George is a long-time BA and won't mind BSing with you over a pint if they're not too busy. They do beer steamed mussels, frites, burgers and a few sandwiches. No growler fills as far as I'm aware.

    I have a love hate relationship with The City Beer Hall. As I said earlier, holy fucking hipsters. I'm the type of man who enjoys a good beer without a lot of bullshit distractions and The City Beer Hall is full of them. Bingo, Jenga, Mechanical Bull, "free pizza with every pint!" (which means beer prixes are about a dollar or two off from everyone else's in the area), and even a "Speakeasy" in the basement. While I can't say I've had a bad experience there, and I've had a great time at some of their beer dinners, all of the bullshit gimmicks are a real turn off, bra. They do growler fills as well.

    Mahar's is worth a mention because they were really the ones that pioneered craft beer in our area. However, they get really limited distribution lately and I haven't walked in an been impressed by the tap selection in a while. Do a search here for Mahar's and you'll see a few threads about the bartenders being "Soup Nazi"-ish and while I haven't been there in a while, I can attest to that.

    Depending on where you're staying Lionheart might be an option. They have a lot of taps, but also a lot of dickbags and on the weekend, they pack 'em in there like sardines. No growler fills. This Saturday they have an New York Tap Takeover that's actually worth checking out if you've never had the beers. Crossroads, CL, Keegan's, Ommegang, Ithaca, Chatha, etc. The tap list for it can be found here.

    You talk about getting Ithaca and Captain Lawrence here. Yeah we do but as Merc said, it's nothing special. Sure we get Flower Power but that's about the most interesting thing you'll see here from Ithaca. I think the only other thing from them I've seen on tap here is Apricot Wheat. Whooooo. As for CL, I hope you like Xtra Gold and Liquid Gold. You might be able to land a Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA in a bottle shop here but that's it.

    There's a third bottle shop in our area worth checking out in Troy, not far from The Ruck, called Hoosick Street Beverage. I know they are starting to get some stuff from 12% Imports that I don't think have hit Oliver's and Westmere (yet). Expect some Evil Twin, Stillwater, and Tilquin and a few others from 12%, plus a few more taps that do growler fills. He doesn't update the tap list as often so you might have to ask on facebook.

    This being said, all of this is relative to how good your distro is where you live. If you live out in the middle of no where you might find a few gems around here worth picking up. If you live near Boston well there really isn't going to be much around here that's going to wow you.
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  10. sandman3479

    sandman3479 Initiate (0) Dec 8, 2006 Connecticut

    I do like the bingo there!
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  11. RochesterAaron

    RochesterAaron Initiate (0) May 24, 2007 New York

    As a former RPI student (I was a year ahead of Trevor) I have gone to the Ruck post wedding in a tux or suit on multiple occasions. One of my college roomates and his wife met there and definitely went in tux/wedding dress after the ceremony. I love what Dave has done with the place since he took over.
  12. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

    I just had my 30th birthday there, I'm no stranger to the place. I'm just saying, if you've never been there before, not familiar with how great and friendly the staff is, you might feel out of place dressed to the nines. Unless it's 1-2 o'clock in the morning by the time you get there and you're already plastered. Then no matter what you're wearing you're gonna feel right at home...
  13. TomFoley

    TomFoley Aspirant (259) Mar 19, 2005 Pennsylvania

    >I love what Dave has done with the place since he took over. <

    All he probably had to do was clean the floor and blow up the bathrooms.
    I went to RPI '79>'83 when the place was known as Sutters. The beerbar in town, back when beerbars were a rarity, was Holmes & Watsons. Haven't been back since the Albany Dead shows in the early ninties.

    Still can't wrap my head around the fact that Sutters is now a beerbar.
  14. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

    Holmes & Watson shut down last year unfortunately. Their tap lists were pretty stagnant. It's an Irish pub called Finnbar's Pub and with a heavy emphasis on the menu now. The previous manager of Hollywood Cafe opened it last month. Still haven't been but would like to check it out.
  15. TomFoley

    TomFoley Aspirant (259) Mar 19, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Spent a lot of time and cash in that place. Lots of firsts. My first Belgian, my first Sammy Smith's, my first German Hefe-Weizen. Also a couple of fun dates there. Drinking age in NY was 18 when I went there.
  16. RochesterAaron

    RochesterAaron Initiate (0) May 24, 2007 New York

    Didn't mean to question your post, more just sharing the Ruck love.
  17. merc7186

    merc7186 Initiate (0) Dec 5, 2010 New York

    The Ruck is a dump....lets be honest here people. I walked into the Ruck the first time wearing shorts, t shirt and flip flops and felt over dressed. The tap list is worth checking out about once a month.
  18. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

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  19. sandman3479

    sandman3479 Initiate (0) Dec 8, 2006 Connecticut

    I can't wait for the DeCicco's Brewster review...
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  20. darknova306

    darknova306 Initiate (0) Jan 13, 2005 New York

    When I was at RPI in the 2000-2006 time frame, the Ruck started as an awful dive bar. When the new owners bought it they started seriously changing it, and now it's pretty much my main drinking destination when I'm back in the area. Since they removed the crappy drop ceiling, the place looks so much nicer and more open. It doesn't seem to draw quite the same scumbag crowd that it used to, either.
  21. mikeburd1128

    mikeburd1128 Zealot (547) Oct 28, 2011 New Jersey

    So it looks like this thread is geared mostly towards bars. Any good bottle shops in Albany? I'll be passing through on my way back from VT to NJ Saturday afternoon and would love to grab some Flower Power (or anything else anyone can recommend).
  22. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

    Oliver's or Westmere Beverage should still have FP. Hoosick is another solid bottle shop but not sure if they have that in particular in stock.
  23. Flashy

    Flashy Devotee (492) Oct 22, 2003 Vermont

    Don't know if it was covered, but Hoosick Street fills growlers as well as having a pretty good selection. And there is always the Man of Kent.​
  24. mani

    mani Initiate (0) Jun 16, 2012 New Jersey

    Man of Kent and Hoosick are good options depending on how you are coming back from VT.

    You do know you can get FP in NJ right?

    And I'm another fellow RPI grad ('99). The ruck has come a long way from Sutters.
  25. CheapBeerBuzz

    CheapBeerBuzz Champion (885) Dec 20, 2011 California

    Being in Albany right now, I figure I can chime in for those that research this thread in the future.

    Most of the locations others have mentioned are not in Albany, they are in neighboring towns. Troy isn't far, but it is still a little work for someone who is not from around here.

    As an add-on to the list already provided, I will give one update and one (or two) addition(s).

    The update would be on C. W. Evans Brewing (or whatever it is called). It is located near the river, downtown, at the old Albany Pump Station building. Great reuse of an old building. Wonderful history and glad to see that it hasn't been torn down. The brewery, meh. It still makes a ton of different beers. None of them outside of the Brown Ale is anything noteworthy. The food is decent, very large portions. The place is lively, but cavernous. Kid friendly as well.

    The 2 additions would be:

    1) Capital City Gastropub. This place is a gem. Fantastic food (coming from an SF foodie). You can still get nice portions of Foie Gras there, unlike California. Great fried chicken, decent pizzas, other gourmet specials like brisket and fresh pasta. The real winner is the beer. Small bottle selection of a nice tailored list, but nothing hard to find. The tap list is a nice solace to a limited beer town. About 10 in total, all nice local craft brews with a couple from the West Coast. Recently, 2 Sixpoint limited beers, 2 Smuttynose kegs, Stone IPA (surprised to see that), some local "wench" beer, and numerous others. This place is tiny, but worth it. Not really kid friendly (no high chairs), but they try to accommodate. Still highly recommended. They are near the Hospital on New Scotland.

    More to follow.
  26. TheBierAbbey

    TheBierAbbey Initiate (0) Oct 18, 2012 New York

    I thought I told you that you were not allowed to use the Ruck as your home base anymore Fuj?!
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  27. Kiwi

    Kiwi Initiate (125) Mar 15, 2004 New York

    Druthers Brew Pub in Saratoga Springs- any Albany BA's have an opinion on this restaurant brewpub?
  28. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

    If you like Albany Pump Station or Brown's, you'll like Druthers. Beyond that, they're not doing anything special. Like a typical upsate NY brewpub, they're doing very basic brews, some good, some awful. I can't imagine many BAs getting their panties wet about Druther's, but in perspective, the last Brew Pub I went to was Peg's Cantina for their Rare Beer event on Friday.
  29. merc7186

    merc7186 Initiate (0) Dec 5, 2010 New York

    ...he was younger and dumber he is just dumber.
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  30. nyrblue2

    nyrblue2 Disciple (341) Jun 9, 2012 New York

    Most good options in/near Albany have been mentioned, but I'll mention another:

    The Merry Monk on Pearl St. in downtown Albany (and a 2nd location that just opened in Saratoga - haven't been to that one) has a decent selection of Belgian drafts, good bottle choices, plus a solid food menu. I like having 12-16 solid Belgian choices in one spot, but they rarely have a list that blows my mind - it's "adequate".

    I much prefer The Bier Abbey in Schenectady for it's larger draft list (30 or maybe a couple less if someting has kicked), better "premium" options (St. Bernardus, Aventinus, Vicaris, Trois Pistoles, etc. - I haven't seen Unibroue products on tap anywhere else in the area) as well as a good selection of non-Belgians to add some variety (IPAs, barleywines, 1 cask, etc.). Good food, but not as big of a selection as the MM.

    I like the Pump Station as well - the Belgian Strong Ale, Honey Wheat Saison and Old Musty Barleywine are terrific. Was pissed I missed out on their Poor Soldier Porter (aged in the used whiskey barrels from the distillery next door).

    One interesting place in Colonie is Garden Bistro 24. Certainly nothing to go out of your way for, but it's a tiny little cafe/bistro (with excellent food, mind you) with a small bar. They only have 6 things on tap and don't change, but it's an interesting selection for a "non-bar" - Ommegang Hennepin, Keegan Mother's Milk, Saratoga Lager, Souther Tier IPA and they just recently added Oskar Blues Hella Pils and Troegs Hopback.
  31. CheapBeerBuzz

    CheapBeerBuzz Champion (885) Dec 20, 2011 California

    Nice additions, thanks. Another question. I remember Wolf's Biergarden being a lot of fun with some good food, but no beer of note. Kinda like a bastardized version of a beer garden for the Albany crowd. More of a younger hangout for the new college grad crowd. Still, a great place to watch the World Cup soccer games with a nice patio and a very communal feel. Great for the summer. Still there? Decent beer?
  32. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

    Yup, place definitely tries harder to appear to be a beer garden than actually have the taplist of one. Still a good time but prepare to not be floored by what's available. A great choice for when it's nice out and and the garage doors are opened up, but the "birthday boot" crowd is still a huge turn off for me.
  33. CheapBeerBuzz

    CheapBeerBuzz Champion (885) Dec 20, 2011 California

    Thanks. Any recollection of the beers on tap? Just standard German beers? For some reason I recall Red Stripe in bottles and basic German brews. Food was better than the beer.
  34. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York

  35. CheapBeerBuzz

    CheapBeerBuzz Champion (885) Dec 20, 2011 California

    Thanks...that is what I recall. Seems like a good place to grab a fresh German beer and watch Football (soccer).
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