Mahar's (CLOSED)

1110 Madison Ave, Albany, NY, 12208, United States
Latitude: 42.66628, Longitude: -73.79186


Wifi Available
Cask Beer
Indoor Smoking
Available Parking
Beer Pricing: $$
Public Transit
Proper Glassware
Outdoor Seating
Family Friendly
Selection: 4.50 | Atmosphere: 4.00 | Service: 4.00
out of 100
Overall Beer Mapping Score
Based on 1 reviews.
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Chad9976 (2)
Sunday 27th of February 2011 05:52:09 PM

This person needs 3 or more reviews on the site for their scores to start counting.

Mahar's is not like most bars you're used to. They serve beer and ONLY beer, and 99% of it is craft beer*. They have 6 casks, 28 taps, and over 100 bottles of various sizes. Their selection is constantly rotating and updating, so it's never the same old stuff here. It's also one of the few bars outside of a major metropolitan city to only offer high-end American craft beer on tap, plus quality brews from other countries such as Belgium, Germany, England, etc.

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 (so a $9 pint becomes $4.50, but a $4 pint becomes only $2!).

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. It's possible to have 4 beers here and spend only $20 including tip! Compare that to a singles bar or any blue collar/BMC bar where a Corona is $6.

It's no secret that Mahar's Public Bar is rather ironically-named since the atmosphere is akin to a club. In fact, their website actually says "WE ARE NOT ACTIVELY SEEKING NEW CUSTOMERS (IN FACT, WE SHOULD PROBABLY LOSE A FEW THAT WE ALREADY HAVE)". This is half a joke and half serious. Mahar's is modeled after a traditional British pub, in terms of d├ęcor, and intent - where members of the community can get together and chat over a quality beer in a quiet, non-trendy atmosphere. "Outsiders" (i.e. yuppies, college kids, drunks, and people who just aren't into craft beer) really aren't wanted here since the loyal customer base is solid. The management shun any promotion of the bar no matter how positive, and never advertise.

Whether they realize it or not, I think Mahar's actually is becoming a trendy hangout for outsiders (perhaps a victim of its own success?). 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. It's difficult to find a seat during these nights, especially if you come in a group of 4 or more. And while the crowd may seem to be people who just want to hang out in a trendy place, the vast majority are good people. 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.

The crowded nights have a great, positive vibe, but it also makes the service much slower as there are usually only 1 or 2 bartenders and a bouncer who must wait on customers, bus tables, change out kegs, wash glasses, run the register, etc. Non-regulars sometimes complain about the service and the atmosphere, but it's because they don't "get" what Mahar's is meant to be and it's unfair to compare it to the pickup joints and clubs downtown. The staff is known for being beer snobs - but sometimes it's hard to tell when they're joking. Even regular customers like me may be mocked when we order a bad beer (to which I always reply - "Why do you carry it, then?").

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.

The amenities for the tour are very cool and there is no time restrictions on when they can be earned:
50 beers = a Mahar's t-shirt
125 beers = you're part of the "mug club" whereby you get a 12oz mug with a design of your choice engraved on it. You get all your beers on tap and on cask at the 10oz price and 20oz beers at a 16oz price (no discounts on bottles, though).
200 beers = a free CASE of beer of your choice.
500 beers = your name is engraved on the wall in the back of the bar.

* = Mahar's also has at least one cider on tap and many in bottles, plus they offer bottles and cans of imported macro lagers and a few quasi-crafts (i.e. Blue Moon, Michelob) and nostalgic lagers like Schlitz and Schaeffer's (but never on tap). I think this is to remind "beer tourists" why they don't drink this stuff, and/or for guests who can't handle craft beer.
Selection: 5 | Atmosphere: 4.5 | Service: 4 | Food: N/A

decoman (58)
Monday 17th of May 2010 11:18:56 AM
This was/is an interesting place. I went here after the pump house in downtown Albany. A Friend from the area drove us over. very small place located in a "college" part of town alot of old buildings and stores. The place is long and narrow and was packed on a Sat night around 10pm, lots of younger college age types, but friendly enough atmosphere to say the least.
The beer list was printed of a printer at the back of the place, my friend had a code to type in and printed off two one for each. A lot of good stuff on tap and the bottle list was impressive. I went with a couple Aventnus weizenbock on tap as I do not get to have that to often on draft. (most of been my theme for the night). it was late and I had a long day of drinking s I was done for the day by the time I finished my second one...

The bar tenders were good with service seemed a little rough around the edges but was told you need to get to know them, they also looked like they'd been their forever... No food offered from what I had seen.

Prices were a little steep on some things, but I pay for quality beer if that's what I have a taste for... As I mentioned the bottle list was good! worth a stop, wouldn't mind heading back at a earlier time to be able to enjoy more beers that they offered.

Selection: 4.5 | Atmosphere: 4 | Service: 4 | Food: N/A

khaizlip (2)
Friday 6th of February 2009 08:30:50 AM

This person needs 3 or more reviews on the site for their scores to start counting.

Mahar's is not for those looking for a typical crazy night out - it's aimed at those looking to enjoy a pint or two of quality beer with others who share a love of excellent beer. They are located across the street from a private college, so that bears some influence on their clientele, but their presence isn't overbearing. They're directly on the route for a couple of CDTA bus lines. The bartenders are friendly once you've gotten to know them, which a number of the patrons do.
They're a small place with a capacity for around 50 people, so it gets crowded on most evenings, but it's worth it.
Prices are appropriate for the beers they carry.
Selection: 5 | Atmosphere: 4.5 | Service: 4 | Food: N/A

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