There are some hidden drinking treasures in the Capital Region where non-traditional bars are stowed away for those who want a different feel rather than seeing the usual party-goers carrying around a Bud Light.
The best kept secret in Albany lies at the corner of Madison and Washington Ave which is a small bar known as Mahar’s. This is not your typical pub. Rather, when you first enter into Mahars, if you have been there before, you immediately venture into the back of the bar to the computer. At the computer, you then enter into your personal number which is found in a black binder located right at the computer for your convenience. Upon locating your personal number, you then enter it into the computer and print out your beer list. Staple the pages together and then decide which brew to add to your list. The beers offered at Mahars are from all over the world and are listed by which countries they derive from. The challenge at Mahar’s is to try as many different kinds of beer as possible. Upon reaching 50 different beers, you are awarded a t-shirt. Eventually I believe it is at least over 75, possibly 100, you are awarded your own mug that is available for use each time you go.
Beers at Mahar’s can range from a Strongbow at $4-$5 to a new brew from a different country ranging from $50-$60. When you order a new beer that you have not yet tried before, the bartenders will highlight the beer ordered on your list. You carry around your list with you at the bar and at the end of the night, put it in the basket near the door. Your beers are then added to your existing list and your journey of trying to try as many different beers as possible from all over the world continues.
When ordering beers you also need to be very specific about whether you are ordering a draft or bottle as I myself have been yelled at before for not clarifying this information. I was given a Strongbow bottle and was yelled at for already previously ordering this and next time I would need to be more specific about a draft or bottle. I am not joking by the way.
Do not plan on staying at Mahar’s for the night. This is a very social and coffeehouse atmosphere. You are not allowed to order more than 4 beers while at Mahar’s at one time and prepare for an early closing at midnight.
Just over the river in Troy, NY is the well known local bar, The Ruck. This is a very traditional bar however, the on tap selection is as non-traditional as it comes. Don’t plan on ordering a Coors Light unless you want to be laughed at. The on tap selections change every week ranging from Eurotrash to Dogfish Head to different type of breweries. It is always unexpected as to what will be on tap at The Ruck. Usually beers are only on tap from a week at a time and then there is a new selection the week after. Beer lovers alike will enjoy it here as there is always something new to try.
Up the Northway in Saratoga Springs on the famously known party street, Caroline is Tin and Lint. This is probably one of the least known bars on the street but it is one of the most fun. In the middle of the bar is the unusual sight of a beer pong table. It is difficult to get on the table as there is usually a long wait. However, flip cup is also a usual sight in the middle of the bar at the same table. Typically it is pretty easy to join in on a game as there are generally large teams taking up the entire table. PBR can be ordered at Tin and Lint for $2 and pitchers are the way to go here. Overall a very fun and non traditional bar to go to when you want a break of the long lines at the more typical places like The Tavern and Gaffneys.