Sregnar35 (13) Rotterdam, New York | November 3, 2004| Updated August 11, 2005
This place is my alltime favorite bar. Last time I weas there they had 272 bottle, 28 draughts and 5 casks. They import 75% of all of the cask beers in the US! If you live in the area, and love beer, you have to go to Mahar’s!
This is one of my favorite places. I was there a lot when I lived in Albany, and this is where I really grew my appreciation for beer. Best selection I have seen and a pleasant pub atmosphere makes this a must visit!
xproudfoot (37) Paleolithic, Pennsylvania | February 20, 2006| Updated March 4, 2006
This place is the real deal and then some. It’s in Albany for chrissakes! What these people have done is amazing - virtually created a beer culture where none has a right to exist -in a town without even a decent brewpub or any brewery. They created interest in this, and it’s the same league of beer excellence as Philly favorites Monks and Eulogy, in terms of selection and quality, and it beats both in cask offerings. What you get all depends on when you come in, because the selection (of well more than 300 bottles) is constantly revolving, so the patrons, like RBeerians, can keep track of what they have had on their ’beer tour’ - for which Mahars gives incentives for trying variety, like we do. They have numerous casks on, more than any by me, of delicious beer, a lot of taps, and nice patrons. Weeknights are better for chatting up the knowlegeable staff. Awesome, and a home run for a town like Albany to have this, deserves no knocking or yawning from jaded folks. Food = good cheese. I extremely regret not spending most of the time I lived in Albany here. It may not be a "world destination" but it should certainly count as a regional one, especially given how many people drive through Albany on their way other places.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Boliv (35) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | April 26, 2007
This place is beer Mecca as far as the Capital Region is concerned. Here, you’ll find those people who really love their beer, not just some yuppies hanging out getting wasted (usually). The place is small, the bartenders can be short sometimes (hey, it gets busy there), but the selection is unrivaled. Amazing how they have a database to keep track of all of their patrons and which beers each of them have sampled. Awesome bar.
popkow (5) Hoboken, New Jersey | November 11, 2007
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.
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.