“Sometimes you wanna go…”

“They talk of my drinking but never my thirst. ”
– Scottish proverb.


Do you really like beer?  If yes, go to Mahar’s in Albany.

It feels like a British pub, and there’s no place like it in town (I hear Man of Kent in Hoosick Falls, NY, rivals Mahar’s with it’s selection and ambiance, but I’ve never been there).  Mahar’s even smells like a beer joint (in a good way).  The interior is finished in wood, it’s a touch underlit, and it’s often teeming with people; just chatting away and enjoying a pint.  There are no TVs in the place, if there is music on, it’s quiet, and there often seems to be a shortage of seats (it’s really quite small).  No one there is doing shots, topping off plastic cups from Bud Light pitchers, or playing darts/trivia (not that those are bad things).  It’s a place to enjoy a beer and a conversation.  In fact, they only serve beer.  But don’t let that fool you into thinking the selection is limited.  They have ~35 beers on tap and about 100 or so beers in bottles.  The vast beer selection includes cask beers, wheat beers, ales, lagers, bocks, double bocks, stouts, cream ales, fruit beers, and on and on and on.   They peddle beers from all over the world; and just like pubs in England, they close relatively early (midnight). 

If you’re the type that is interested in keeping track of your beer-drinking (I am not), Mahar’s offers a beer club where you can record all the different beers you’ve tried.  They encourage patrons to join the beer club by offering incentives like a free case of any beer you choose, a t-shirt, your own (engraved) mug, and ultimately a name plate bearing your name on the wall (only after drinking the requisite number of pints/bottles).  I am not sure what the requirements are to earn these rewards; go there and ask.  Also, I am not very adventurous when it comes to beer; hey, I know what I like (namely Spaten Oktoberfest, as of late). 

Check out some photos below:

The place.

Ordering a beer.

Look at all those mugs.  A lot of yeasts gave their lives to bring you this photo.  :)

Look at all those obscure beers.

This is Spaten

Worth the wait.

The interior is decorated with beer taps from wall to wall.

There is a computer and printer in the back of the place for patrons to print their list of beers; or if you’re a curious first-timer, you can print a complete list of beers to see what they offer.  They also have food for sale (pre-made sandwiches, crackers, blocks of cheese, etc) from a small refrigerator, should you get the munchies while there.  

Head to the back to print yourself a list.  It’ll be helpful before ordering.

Pub food.  I’ve never eaten there.  I hear it’s alright.

Before I went there, I was warned that the bartenders aren’t the most congenial lot, and I have seen them behave tersely to other patrons.  But hey, they’ve been good to me so far.  Plus, I like the place so much, I’d probably be willing to overlook a few minor service-indiscretions.  Some people have referred to the bartenders as “beer snobs,” and that could be.  I certainly wouldn’t recommend ordering a Coors light.  I think the sign over the bar says it all:

Mind your manners!

The last time I was there, my friend brought some great German cheese and crackers.  The cheese was really good (who knew, right?).  We also played chess; I lost.  I guess he’s some sort of chess super-genius or something [wink].  Maybe I’ll nickname him “Deep Blue.”  Anyway, Mahar’s is a great pub.  

We played chess.

Beer, cheese, and crackers; together at last.

Ok, if beer is not your thing, the Wine Bar on Lark St. is also a great place to have a glass of wine and bite to eat (although I think they might have a beer or two on tap, too).  It’s got it all, atmosphere, food, and knowledgeable servers.  The wine selection isn’t as extensive as you might think, but we always manage to find something we like.  And by the third glass, we like everything [hiccup].

Inside the wine bar.  That’s the only photo I have.

If wine and beer on their own still aren’t your thing and you need live music, let me recommend Red Square.  They have wine, beer, mixed drinks, and often, live music too.   I’ve had the good fortune of being pleasantly surprised a few times by the quality of the bands; most recently by a reggae band from New Paltz, NY (again, who knew?).  They’re called the Big Takeover and they’re chocked full o’ talent and good tunes.  Have a look and listen at their MySpace page, here (we really like the song “Red Rum,” go on, give it a listen).

Red Square.

The Big Takeover live on stage.

If I still haven’t mentioned a “bar” to suit you, try Saso’s sushi bar:

The unrivaled sushi bar at Saso’s.

Good stuff.

If you don’t like that, I give up! 

7 Responses to ““Sometimes you wanna go…””

  1. Gina says:

    I’m a fan of all of those places. Have you ever been to all four in one night? I’d be impressed if you said yes, and maybe a little concerned.

  2. renee says:

    i judge a bar by how my forearms and buns fit in. i want a comfortable seat that’s just far enough away so that my forearms rest nicely on the bar. i always try not to slouch, but it doesn’t always work. or if sitting is not an option, i need room to lean.

    did mahar’s have spaten oktoberfest on your recent journey? i would be doing up happy hour every day if that is the case. omg!

  3. alex|dimitri says:

    I’ve never been to all four in one night; two, for sure; three, maybe.

    Unfotunatley, there are no seats at the bar in Mahar’s. Will Tables do? Also, that big beautiful mug o’ beer in the photos above is none other than Spaten Oktoberfest (aka: nectar of the gods). Let’s go, drinks on me!

  4. Excellent overview of the best places to drink in Albany.

  5. jess says:

    your lovely wife tells my mother that saso’s is turning into a korean restaurant. say it ain’t so!

  6. I really enjoyed both Mahar’s & Red Square when we went to both places! When are we going back?

    And I like this Red Rum song, too – listening to it now.

  7. B ill In Salem says:

    Mahar’s has been rated one of the “10 Best Places To Have A Beer in America,” and I completely agree.

    I am taking my 21-year-old daughter there Friday night.

    Man of Kent is nice and very pub-like, but they have a short draft list (maybe eight) and three or four are Brown’s. Not a bad thing, but Mahar’s has a lot more. Man of Kent has a good bottle selection.

    There are places, such as The Blue Tusk in Syracuse and the Publick House of Brookline (Mass.) that have as many or more taps as Mahar’s. Those two places, plus the Moan & Dove in Amherst, are also terrific.

    There are, of course, some bars in America, The Sunset Tap and Grille in Boston’s Alston neighbhor that have 110 taps or more. Some are cheesy, and some aren’t. Sunset has gotten a lot better about cleaning its taps.