|Graphic by William M. Dowd
ALBANY -– There are, to be sure, some fine wine collections at restaurants in the city — Yono’s/dp, The Ginger Man and 677 Prime, for example. But make no mistake, this is a beer-centric city and getting more-so all the time.
The latest beer joint announcement concerns The Merry Monk, a bar/restaurant featuring Belgian beer. It is projected to open within the next few weeks at North Pearl and Sheridan downtown. It will offer 16 drafts and a lineup of bottled brews. It succeeds the very short-lived Corner Bar.
This no doubt will lead to even more beer-pairing dinners on the schedule, already in a dizzying number of establishments from watering holes to lah-di-dah establishments.
True, beer has always been popular in Albany — not unusual for a college town — but the establishment of such grownup watering holes as Wolff’s Biergarten certainly helped create the current frenzied level of activity. Wolff’s success with consumers undoubtedly helped sparked the creation of such other spots as Stout at 904 Broadway, The Barrel Saloon at 942 Broadway, The Olde English Pub & Pantry in the Quackenbush House at Clinton and Broadway, and the City Beer Hall in the former Lodge’s (and, later, Ballinger’s) restaurant at Howard and Lodge streets.
Also this year, there was a brief panic among drinkers when Mahar’s, the local beer mecca, closed briefly after a missed deadline cost it a delay in its license renewal. Many toasts when it re-opened got everyone calmed down.
Beer has gotten so popular that DeCrescente Distributing, the Mechanicville firm that is the leading Upstate beer supplier, has turned one of its websites into what the company says is “the ultimate mobile phone and internet search engine, designed to meet the newest needs of today’s beer consumer.”
A few other developments in the city this year:
• While it pursues a full liquor license, the new Capital City Gastropub at 261 New Scotland Avenue is relying on its beer list to make its mark. It has added a formal bar since its September opening, offering 12 draft brews and 20 bottled beers.
• The recent Albany Craft Beer Festival at The Armory sold out for the second straight year.
This news roundup doesn’t even count such new beer-centric establishments or programs in nearby parts of the Capital Region. Some examples:
• In Schenectady, the Van Dyke Restaurant & Lounge returned to brewing under new ownership that apparently has stabilized the establishment after years of being on a financial roller-coaster. The beer brand name: Mad Jack.
• The annual Conkling Hall fundraiser in Rensselaerville out in the Helderbergs this year added a homebrewers’ competition to its traditional chili competition.
• Power’s Irish Pub just opened at 130 Meyer Road in Clifton Park (former home of the Old Dater Tavern), offering 18 drafts.
• The Broadway Brew Pub & Grill in Troy opened with a beer-centric menu.
• Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy hired chef Luca Brunelle to rework its menu and create more beer-based foods.
• In August, The Proctors entertainment complex in Schenectady lifted the curtain on the new Proctors Brews & Blues festival.
• A new Mugs & Martinis Club has been instituted at the upscale Prime at Saratoga National Golf Club in Saratoga Springs.
• The initial Capital Region Craft Brewers Festival was so successful the first year, it was held again this year at Bruno Stadium in Troy.
• The in-development Martell Brothers Brew Pub project is going through the permitting process in Saratoga Springs.
• The Saratoga Race Course held its “Battle of the Brews” tasting and competition for the 14th consecutive year.
• In Columbia County, we saw the inaugural “Blues, Brews & BBQ” event as a companion activity to the first Hudson Music Festival in August.
• In Saratoga County, the Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center initiated its first homebrewers’ competition.
• In Glens Falls, the Davidson Brothers Brewery renovated its restaurant to meet public demand that has made the spot such a success.
• In the same city, the Glens Falls Brewfest was held for the second year to great public acclaim.
So, while sales statistics in most countries say beer is falling slightly out of favor with consumers, the Capital Region continues to drink to a different drummer.
Check out my New York Drinks Events Calendar, the most comprehensive you’ll find anywhere.