I like this place...try to get here whenever I pass through (which is not easy as it isn’t that close to the main highways for a traveler). Part of why I may like it more than others is that I only get here a couple of times a year. I get this place...and the atmosphere...love the selection...and don’t find things too expensive coming from north NJ and often drinking in NYC. I agree with the reviewer that says this place would rank a bit lower if in NYC...given the competition it would face there...but for the area it is quite good. The word "eclectic" comes to mind too. Any true craftbeer traveler needs to check this place out while passing through and decide for themselves. They will likley be glad they came as long as they are not in a rush or come when it is too crowded.
While I actually like the serving policy at the place, I’ve taken real issue with the way the beer is served (not proper temp, not proper glassware, sometimes poured into a pitcher and then a glass if their tap lines are screwed up), and the apologies that don’t follow when this happens. Prices are also unapologetically high at times. Given the recent influx of other craft beer bars in the area, you will rarely find me here anymore. A shame, because it used to be a great place.
I love Mahar’s!
Are they occasionally gruff? Yes.
Is there food? TVs? No.
Is that a problem? Not for me.
I’ve heard the complaints that Bill (the main bartender--larger gentleman with a ponytail) can be rude at times, but I’ve never had a bad experience with him. He knows a great deal about beer and is more than willing to make a recommendation or to discuss good beers with you if you’re polite.
Mahar’s operates under a simple set of rules that make the place perfect for some people and entirely wrong for others. If you’re looking to get wasted and rowdy, go down the street to Junior’s. If you’re looking to have a relaxed pint with some friends and chat, head to Mahar’s on the quick.
It’s true that some of their beers are preposterously overpriced, but it is equally true that they have one of the best, if not the best, selection of beers in the capital region. Combine that with the fact that they’re constantly rotating and you have a premiere beer bar.
While it’s true it "wouldn’t be top 10 in NYC," Albany isn’t NYC, so I think it’s wholly unfair to compare the two locales. Stop in, have a pint, and enjoy.
Mahar’s is not like most bars you’re used to. They have 6 casks, 28 taps, and over 100 bottles. Their selection is constantly rotating, so it’s never the same old stuff here.
The average pint is priced in the $6-$8 range which may SEEM expensive, but really isn’t. You see, Mahar’s "pints" are measured in Imperial units, not American units, so a pint is actually 20oz instead of the usual 16oz. You also have the option to order a 10oz which splits the price in half
Bottled beer prices also vary with American beers in the $4-$6 range and imports in the $6-$9 range. Imperials, bombers, and high-end imports are noticeably more expensive in the $12 - $18 range. Overall, I’d say Mahar’s prices are reasonable.
Mondays through Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons are traditionally slow and quiet with an older demographic, where the bar’s atmosphere is exactly as intended. But Thursday through Saturday nights it becomes an elbow-to-elbow crowded scene of young people in their 20s and 30s. I’ve never seen a fight break out, or someone who was obliterated drunk. The bartenders are excellent readers of customers and will refuse service or toss unruly patrons.
I think the best thing about Mahar’s is its signature "beer tour" with prizes you earn after drinking so many beers. Each time you visit you go to the back of the bar and print out your menu from the computer - which is a list of all the beers that you haven’t had yet. When you buy a beer, it is crossed off your list so you can’t count it again on your tour. You are limited to 4 beers a day for your first 200 beers. The best strategy to rack up beers fast without breaking the bank is to only order 10oz beers on tap and cask since they are only half the price. Plus you can have 4 beers during a night out and not end up completely hammered.
This place has one of the best selections of beer I have ever seen. The prices are a bit steep but you really can’t find alot of the beers they have there in the store so it’s a trade off. The food is ok but it’s just sandwiches and cheese/crackers but you don’t go there for the food. Bit on the smaller side but if you are in the Capital District and love beer you need to go here.
We cut the road to Philadelphia in two by sleeping in Albany on a Friday night. Mahar’s was packed. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the place with its random, old beer smelling furniture and general dirtiness, but people seem to be having a good time, so that helps. I like the express service bar area though. Crowd consisted mostly of late-20s, early-30s. As far as beer goes, they had a solid tap list for upstate NY stuff and the few broad distribution imports, but I was still happy to try Celebrator on tap, though I could have lived with a cheaper price than 9$ per pint. Middle Ages is particularly well represented. The bottle selection, while good, does not contain so many rarities. The 300 suggested bottles on the ratebeer page must be outdated a fair bit. It must be closer to a hundred and the times of the odd bird from Captain Lawrence seems to be past. Not particularly friendly service, but chracaterful. Still a solid selection, but this would not be top 10 in NYC.
I went here because I heard about the cask ale served via beer engines. I was not disappointed as they had 6 hand pumps and the ale was served at the proper temperature. Pretty crowded on a Thursday night. I come to Albany on business frequently and I am mad at myself for not discovering this place sooner. Sign up for the beer tour and definitely enjoy some English style cask ales.
I have a love/hate relationship with this place. I love Mahar’s because it’s unique and it’s the only place outside of NYC where you can find more than one cask ale on tap. when you drink at Mahar’s there are a few protocols you should follow. It’s kind of like dealing with the ’soup Nazi’. Just order your beer, don’t ask a lot of stupid questions and be grateful that they’re doors are still open. I’ve drank enough in the place to now be recognized by the bartenders and not get the snarky attitudes I use to get as a newb. Lately I’ve been a little disappointed with their poor quality of the beers they’ve served me. I don’t know if it was due to bad run of bottom of the barrel swill or what, but the last five or so beers I had have been really horrible. Oh yeah, I don’t ever buy bottles of beer...I only drink their draft selections. Long live the real ales!
Nice bar that gets extremely crowded. Rarely will find a place to sit on a weekend. Huge beer menu that comes on a print out. The staff is not exceptionally friendly, but they know the beer and they serve it correctly.
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.