The Bier Abbey, Schenectady
With the closure of Mahar's, I've been looking for a place that had a similarly excellent beer selection and atmosphere. I've been told mutliple times that the Bier Abbey was great, but hadn't made it. On Sunday, we happened to be visiting the Place Beyond the Pines to visit a friend who's a big fan, so we decided to finally check it out. I can't really make this claim after only one visit, but I'm tempted to say it anyway -- this is the best beer bar in the capital region.
More importantly, the selection of beers is outstanding, comparable to Mahar's. Also nice is that they offer 4 oz. pours, which allows you to try multiple offerings and still drive home. . I had Southern Tier's sublime milk stout, poured at the perfect temperature, as well as Nøgne Ø's sweet and smoky Tiger Tripel, which I hadn't had before but was fantastic. Ms. Garlic tried the Elysian pumpkin, a good version although it's not my favorite genre. The food is very well done as well. Our friend ordered a very good cheese plate. Ms. Garlic and I both had the fish and chips, which easily surpassed the very high demands I have of choices that will require me to spend an extra 15 minutes a day on the elliptical for at least a week. The haddock was actually flavorful, not the usual empty excuse to eat deep-fried breading, and there was a real, flavorful coleslaw rather than the typical tiny cup of cabbage slathered in mayo. Our friend had the Thai mussels which both Ms. Garlic and she were veryi impressed by (my allergies prevented me from trying them.)
The first-rate beers and very good pub food are served in a commensurate space. I find the affected "authenticity" of some of Albany's quality beer bars an annoyance in practice -- the communal benches at the City Beer Hall and rickety pub furniture at the Olde English are, how you say, uncomfortable, so the real tables and chairs inside and out are a relief. I love what they've done with the space -- nice patio, nice bar with a large chalkboard listing the day's selections, and a very nice back room. Service was very friendly and efficient.
If the Bier Abbey was in Albany it would definitely be my go-to pub, and it will certainly compel us to make the trip to the Stockade more often.