Tuesday, February 4, 2014
After an aborted attempt at a yesterday, I met some friends and then Ms. Garlic at the Madison Pourhouse, the replacement for Mahar's being opened by the owners of the bar's neighbors Cafe Madison, Junior's, and The Point. I had some degree of optimism -- Junior's has always had much better taps than you would expect from the collegey vibe -- but also some trepidation. The extensively renovated space isn't Mahar's for better (much more seating, much better restrooms) and worse (tradition, the beer tour.) But ultimately it has to be judged on its own merits, and I think there's a good chance that it will rival the Bier Abbey as the best beer bar in the Capital Region, at least on the beverage side.
The beer selection, which you can see here, is excellent and very fairly priced. I had an Old Chub and a Founders All Day, while true to her Michigan roots Ms. Garlic had the Bell's White. It's a nicely balanced list, between styles and regions, and as you would expect from a new place the beer poured beautifully. My only quibble was that I might like a couple more New York selections -- there was nothing from Chatham or Middle Ages or Crossroads, for example, and only one from Southern Tier and the (admittedly very widely available) Ommegang. But overall, its beer selection is the class of Albany.
Food-wise, I was told that because of the presence of a lot of nuts in a small kitchen I should probably stay away. The initial menu is fairly short; Ms. Garlic enjoyed the hummus with beer chips, and my friends seemed to like the nut mix. But it's definitely a place for beer and snacks as opposed to a place for dinner at this point.
I quite liked the space, although with the memory of Mahar's hanging over the space it takes some getting used to. The downstairs area is a little cramped, inevitably, although there's not a lot else that could be done with the space. The upstairs, complete with log-cabin-style fireplace with taxidermy, is a lot more comfy. One major plus over too much of the competition: the service was friendly, attentive, and efficient, even as new servers were bring trained on the go for opening week. They're not understaffed and trying to push patrons to order from an overcrowded bar, a major plus in my book.
We'll report back, but it's an impressive debut.