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Beer Bars

April 15, 2015

Last week we played a little game. I asked you to write down five classic Albany institutions, and then I sent you to The Weekly Yelp to see how close your answers were to mine.

Hopefully, by now you’ve all subscribed to get The Weekly, or you were already getting it based on the fact that you have a Yelp account and live in the the Capital Region. Although I understand those in Saratoga Springs may have been left out of the email blast. I’m working on that.

Anyhow, if you aren’t getting it, I’ll share the free subscription link in just a few moments.

This week, I’d like to try the same game, but with a different question. This time it’s not limited to Albany. In fact, the answers should really be spread out over the entire Capital Region, which makes it even harder. Mostly, because we’ve got a lot of great beer bars.

Which would be your top five? Write them down before you click through, so that we can compare. Ok. Ready? Go.

I like to break projects like this down by subregion.

Troy? It’s hard to argue against The Ruck. There are lots of bars with great beer selections, but The Ruck really goes an extra mile in all directions. We’re not talking breweries here or brewpubs, because then you might make an argument for Rare Form and I know Brown’s has its fans too. We’re specifically talking about beer bars.

Schenectady I think is equally easy. It’s The Bier Abbey. And really I wish I got out their more. It would be a fantastic place to further my beer education. I just struggle to find a way to fit it into my schedule. But there is also a pretty special place across the river from Schenectady in Scotia. The Mohawk Taproom gets totally shafted when the field is narrowed to five.

Saratoga Springs should have some representation in this list. Since we’re not doing brew pubs, the choice is really between Henry Street Tap Room and The Merry Monk. Belgian beer is incredible beer. But the beer du jour is domestic craft beer, and for that Henry Street has the edge. So it got the nod.

Now we’re down to Albany with only two slots remaining. Man, that’s hard. I love The Allen Street Pub in its tiny dingy glory with its commitment to cask conditioned ales and the old Mahar’s computer, but they’re out. And even though BMG has two great beer programs at two very different locations, only one of them will get the nod.

That’s because one spot has to go to The City Beer Hall. Have you been to any of their beer pairing dinners? I’ve only been to one, but it was amazing. And I’ve been keeping track of the menus for these ongoing affairs, and Dimitrios continues to impress.

That leaves The Beer Belly and the Madison Pour House to duke it out for the final spot.

Of course your choices may vary significantly. I’d love to hear what I may have overlooked in the regional beer landscape. Maybe there’s some spot in Clifton Park that’s off my radar. Or maybe like me, you prefer places a little dingier and smaller with a lesser selection, to those that make the snobbiest of the beer snobs drool with delight.

It takes all kinds. Regardless, these newsletters are a ton of fun to write. And I hope they help to shine a light on some truly great local businesses in our community. By sheer coincidence, this latest installment of The Weekly Yelp was brought to you by Hudson Valley Hops at the Albany Institute. Yelp has some tickets to give away,

Drink on.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack C permalink
    April 15, 2015 1:38 pm

    On both food and beer, Beer Belly takes the nod over Madison Pourhouse. MP has a great, “neighborhood bar” atmosphere, but Beer Belly’s carefully curated selection, role as bottle shop as well as bar/restaurant, and amazing reubens and pretzels make them the go-to in my estimation. The limited menu (both beer and food) at MP – while good – is another reason to put BB on the list.

  2. April 16, 2015 9:07 am

    The Ruck & Merry Monk get my votes, and I’ve had some good brews at The Local in Saratoga also. One more that’s not local, but worth a trip for any beer hound; Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine. Plan a trip around beer? Why not; there’s a lot of great beer in Maine…and other stuff, too!

  3. albanylandlord permalink
    April 17, 2015 9:26 pm

    We are in agreement – Bier Abbey, City Beer Hall, Henry St Taproom, The Ruck, Beer Belly. No seats at the bar at the Pourhouse so they are out as I like to sit at the bar and eat. Honorary mentions to both Merry Monks, Wolf’s, Gastropub, The Olde English, and Man of Kent (stretching the distance). No points for the Brewpubs, I want to love local beer, and some of it is pretty good, but why should I settle for anything less than world class beer?

  4. April 19, 2015 8:05 pm

    The Ruck
    The Bier Abbey
    Madison Pourhouse
    The Beer Belly
    Henry St Taproom

    I love CBH, I really do, but it’s just not the best anymore when it comes to the great beer bars in the area. However, if you want to talk best brunch spots or best outdoor space, that place gets the nod, no question.

  5. David Nardolillo (DEN) permalink
    April 22, 2015 3:38 pm

    Irisira, I hear what you are saying but don’t give up on CBH. They brought Rich upstairs from Speakeasy to run the beer program at CBH. I think you’ll see a better curation of the offerings there going forward.

    Daniel, good list. If I were to edit, I actually really like the Merry Monk in downtown Albany. If you are a fan of Belgian brews, you really can’t beat it. The Beer Belly is a good spot, but I’d elevate the Merry Monk over it just slightly.

    As for the Pour House/Beer Belly conundrum, I like the atmosphere a bit better at Beer Belly than at Pour House, although I am delighted that we have both to choose from. The attempt to transform the first floor of Pour House into a British pub was a solid effort, but I think some of the decorating feels a little forced when compared with, say, the Olde English, which executed a superb renovation of Nicole’s into a public house theme.

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