If you are anything like most Capital Region residents, now that the world is opening back up having seemingly stifled Covid-19, you’ll likely be heading up to Saratoga Springs at least once over the next month or so. After all, it is “The August Place to Be,” with fun spots to visit like the Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Lake, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), and of course, the burgeoning downtown shopping and bar scene. And this year, with the track open at full capacity and SPAC unveiling a powerful live music line-up, the summer is shaping up to give us all several reasons to shoot up to Saratoga and enjoy some beers!
Over the past few years, Saratoga has done a nice job promoting itself to be more than just a summertime destination. Especially if you are into craft beer! Saratoga plays host to multiple craft beer brewfests, harvestfests, and Oktoberfests during the cool autumn months. Saratoga Beer Week brings thousands of craft beer lovers to the city each winter for a week-long celebration, including tap takeovers, beer dinners, and other craft beer centric promotions at bars and taverns across downtown. And there are even more brewfests in the spring! It’s safe to say that Saratoga County has a little something going on year-round for craft beer lovers. Relative newcomer breweries to the area, such as Whitman Brewing Co. and Artisanal Brew Works, have enhanced the scene with their own fresh suds and cool events while “better-beer bars” such as Henry Street Taproom, The Local, and Saratoga City Tavern have all sharpened their swords with unique draft beer programs. Saratoga, NY now has a pretty hip craft beer scene, year-round.
So, as we head into the heart of the summer, let’s take a look at the best places for you to grab a great craft beer when you head up to ‘Toga to enjoy the amenities. After much research (drinking beers at various locations), and in no certain order, here are our recommendations:
We reached out to these bars, breweries, restaurants, and beverage centers and asked them about their beer philosophy (how they decide what to carry), their food, and what is that one thing that they want the Capital Region beer enthusiast to know about their establishment.
HENRY STREET TAPROOM
Address: 86 Henry Street
Hours: Mon-Tues: Closed, Wed-Fri: 4PM-Close, Sat-Sun: 2PM-Close
Founder: Ryan and Sonja McFadden
Vibe: Cozy, sort-of like the inside of an Adirondack cabin. Deep, old-wood decor. Bar is made from wood that is more than 600 years old. Relaxed. Feels at home with no beer snobbery.
Food: Says Ryan, “We have strong focus on classics done right. Scratch kitchen - we make 5 different kinds of bread in house. We love pairing beer and cheese, so we put a lot of thought into our cheese list. Our food is legit.”
Beer Philosophy: “We offer a wide variety on our 16 draft lines and we try to touch every style. We curate the beer list for our customers and make decisions based on what we think will be great. We keep a sharp eye on the market and watch for beers that are new, hip, and highly rated. We also carry a variety of specialty and one-off can offerings. You can count on 25-30 different beers in cans, many of them local.”
That One Thing: “We pride ourselves in outstanding and knowledgeable service. All of our staff are Certified Beer Servers through the Cicerone program. All servers and bartenders are beer-educated, friendly, and fun.”
THE LOCAL PUB AND TEAHOUSE
Address: 142 Grand Ave
Hours: Monday-Friday 11:30am-11pm, Saturday & Sunday 9:30am-11pm
Owners: Jonathan Haynes & Michael Phinney
Vibe: Located in the historic Dublin neighborhood of Saratoga Springs' west side. Comfortable taproom with a long bar with cozy dining rooms that wraps each end of the bar. Front patio outdoor dining. Affectionately known as “The Local,” keeping with Irish tradition of referring to the closest neighborhood pub as “their local,” you will find friendly and attentive servers who quickly remember your name after a few visits. Hidden gem: Check out the little-known patio out back! Both patios are dog-friendly.
Food: A mix of traditional pub fare featuring Irish, English, German and sometimes Scottish and Czech dishes.
Beer Philosophy: Says Haynes, “Each draft line is dedicated to a style and we rotate within that style. From IPA’s to gose, from lambics to pilsners to stouts, and cask ales…you will find a beer for you. We have many regulars from the area, but we also welcome tourists and business travelers to come and enjoy our comforts and great beer. Due to our eclectic draft beer line-up, our sold-out mug club, with 220 members, has about a five-year waiting list!”
That One Thing: The Bartender noted, “We rotate our beers regularly, so nothing is ever the same. What was on tap for your last visit, will be different on your next visit. We pride ourselves on our draft diversity and quality.” A mug club member overhearing the conversation added – “While you’re here you will experience good beer, good food, and no BS. Plus, it’s chill.”
Address: 241 Union Ave
Phone: 518- 581-7090
Founders: Fitch Brothers (Jason, Patrick & Adam)
Vibe: Upbeat tavern vibe with a focus on good times. Still emerging as a better-beer bar, the fact is, King’s is the PERFECT place to grab a great craft beer while you are on the way to the track or to a show at SPAC. Somehow, it’s become our can’t miss stop on the way into Saratoga to do pretty much anything! King’s is the perfect meet-up spot for you and your friends, featuring a jukebox with all of your favorites, a pool table, and an open/social atmosphere. For regulars and late-night patrons, King’s is always on point.
Food: Diverse menu of pub fare. (All appetizers are served in retro lunch boxes!)
Beer Philosophy: Patrick says, “We offer a good mix of craft beer combined with traditional favorites. Yes, we have beers like Corona Light and Bud Light available, because those consumers certainly come in here. But, having 15 draft lines to play with, we also take pride in having a solid craft beer rotation and something for everyone. We have a good mix of local craft breweries and we keep our eye out for regional specialties.”
That One Thing: Jay says, “Just…Cheers to Saratoga!”
SARATOGA CITY TAVERN
Address: 19-21 Caroline
Hours: Every day: Noon – 4AM
Phone: 518- 581-3230
Founders: Fitch Bros (Jason, Patrick, Adam)
Vibe: Five floors of fun and beer. The first floor opens up to a seating/entertainment area on the right, a long narrow bar area on the left. Behind that bar? 69 draft lines! The most in the Capital Region. All properly cleaned according to the Brewers Association standards: Every two weeks! Also, on any given day during the afternoon, you will usually find an array of local/regional/national craft brewery reps ‘catching up on their admin work’ (aka drinking beer).
TBM: “Describe your five distinct floors in one sentence each.”
Fitch Bros: “Our first floor offers great food and the biggest draft beer variety in the region. Second Floor is a ‘Dive Bar’ with 17 draft lines including many local craft. The third floor we call ‘The Apartment”. It’s got a unique vibe and features 13 diverse draft lines, 12 of them craft beer. The third floor is definitely ‘boom-boom’. It’s a club scene. The fifth floor is ‘The Rooftop’. It’s the place to be on beautiful summer days and nights. We offer 9 beers on tap. It’s gorgeous and features a scenic view of downtown Saratoga.”
Food: “We have a new chef. The food is amazing! You have to try it. It’s so good!”
Beer Philosophy: Jay says, “With 69 draft lines, we have no problem offering every type a beer drinker at least 1-2 options. While offering everyday favorites, we are also able to present the rarest, most sought-after specialists. We have a solid relationship with all of the breweries and their reps, so we get access to all of their beers and a great heads-up to what is in the pipeline. Our draft beer program is a constant work in motion, and we take great pride in it.”
That One Thing: “Saratoga City Tavern is the city’s original craft beer bar. Between our craft draft selections and five floors of unique atmosphere, we have something for everyone. Come visit and have a great time!”
WHITMAN BREWING COMPANY
Address: 20 Lake Ave
Hours: Please visit our website or follow us on Facebook to confirm our summer hours
Phone: (518) 682-3602
Founders: Mother and Son; Kathy and Will Crager
Vibe: A hip, comfortable gathering place with the Whitman taproom on the ground floor and the Walt Café on the upper floor. The taproom’s seating area is spacious, with a fireplace as its centerpiece. There’s a sitting area with a couch, two armchairs and a carpet in front of the fireplace, and there are long high-top tables as well as traditional seating with booths and chairs. Very comfortable patio as well.
Food: Detroit-style pizza with unique, gourmet twists such as the Korean BBQ chicken pizza with Kimchee, ranch, and scallions, or the “Fun Guy” pizza with wild mushroom, feta, red onion, and truffle honey. Other menu offerings are eclectic, with American, Asian, Mexican, and Italian snacks and salads.
Beer Philosophy:” We aim to have something for everyone - IPAs, Sours, Lagers, Hard Seltzers, something dark, Farmhouses and Saisons and more,” says Director of Brewery Operations, Meg Thompson, “And, everything is available to take home - Cans, bottles, crowlers, or growlers. We’ve got ‘em all!”
That One Thing: The brewery’s staff is excited about growing the brewery and handling the challenges that arise. Beer is also available in Walt Cafe, located on the second floor, starting at 8AM Tuesday-Sunday. So, you can get draft pours and beer to go, even when the taproom is closed.
Address: 489 Broadway
Hours: Sunday 12– 8PM, Mon & Tues 3 PM – Midnight, Thurs-Sat Noon – Midnight
Phone: Nah. Don't call tbh.
Founder: August Rosa
Established: May 2017
Vibe: Retail bottle-shop with a small bar and a few tables. Welcoming and fun. Knowledgeable staff. Consumers are a mix of certifiable beer geeks and casual brew fans.
Food: Bar snacks
Beer Philosophy: Says Rosa, “I follow the consumer trends to determine what we carry. That being said I like to make sure that we have a style of beer available for every type of beer- drinker. We tend to focus on one-offs and specialties that are rare and sought-after to differentiate us from other bars in the area. Between our 12 draft lines and more than 100 unique craft-beer can offerings, you can bet that you’ll find a beer that you’ll love.”
That One Thing: "Pint Sized has a pretension free vibe. Beer is fun!"
ARTISANAL BEER WORKS
Address: Recently moved to 615 Maple Ave
Hours: “Please visit our website or follow us on Facebook or Instagram to confirm our summer hours.”
Phone: (518) 306-4344
Founders: Kurt Borchardt & Colin Quinn
Vibe: Quinn tells TBM, “Currently we have a temporary taproom with a large outdoor biergarten, but the taproom isn't overly spacious. We're actively renovating a 10,000 sq ft building on the same property as our temporary taproom, which will be the new home to our brewery, restaurant, and huge outdoor biergarten and private event space.”
Food: You can carry in your own snacks or have food delivered from a number of local spots. We also have food trucks during the weekends, check social media for our current food truck offerings.
Beer Philosophy: “We create high quality craft style beers that appeal to consumers who are looking for local, fresh, handcrafted beers. It is important to us to produce a selection of beers that appeals to different segments within the market as well as beers for the most discerning craft beer enthusiast.”
That One Thing: “We share a deep passion for quality craft beer, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Life is too short to be pretentious.”
DRUTHER’S BREWING COMPANY
Address: 381 Broadway
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11:30AM – 11PM, Friday-Saturday: 11:30-Midnight
Owners: Chris, Rick and Karen Martell, George de Piro, Victor Sosnowski
Vibe: Upscale taproom with a great patio. It’s buzzing with all sorts of people – young and old, families and 20-somethings, enjoying great food and beer.
Food: Wood-fired pizza, hearty traditional pub favorites from burgers to mac and cheese, salads to pretzels and beer cheese dip.
Beer Philosophy: Brewmaster de Piro tells TBM, “We brew a diverse beer menu with great renditions of many different styles, from stupidly-hopped hazy IPAs to maltilicious lagers and fruity sours. We don’t expect every customer to like every one of our beers, but we expect that every customer can find at least one beer they like. A diverse beer menu is the key to a fun life!
That One Thing: “Our Chief Brewing Officer has won more awards at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup than any other brewer in the region, including two under the Druthers banner (The Dare German-style sour ale and Druthers 80 Shilling Ale).”
Address: 68 Beekman St
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday Noon-Midnight, Sunday 2PM - 8PM, Monday 2PM - 10PM, Closed Tuesday
Phone: (518) 871-1502
Founder: Charlie Usas
Vibe: The Barrelhouse drips "after hours" history. From the vintage beer lights hanging over the tables and trays adorning the walls you get the feeling that you're just hanging out in your favorite uncle's basement. The building started as Derossi's Italian Restaurant in the 1900's and as was as well known for its infamous clientele list of wise guys looking to escape the city heat in the Summer, as it was for it's beautiful patio adorned with grape arbors the family would make wine from. "It was "Lucky" Luciano's favorite restaurant. The stories we've heard from the Derossi Family are unreal", says owner Charlie Usas. The Barrelhouse house has kept the patio tradition alive with a beautiful Beer Garden, where hops now replace the grapes.
Food: Simple food, done well, with an emphasis on locally sourced products. The bulk of the menu of burgers, sandwiches, sausages and such is made in house. They're also smart enough not to re-invent the wheel when they don't have to. Breads from Rock Hill Bakery just up the road, sausages from the 100 year old sausage maker up the road and veggies from a Horse Driven CSA just outside of town all add to what makes a menu that looks so simple so very special.
Beer Philosophy: Yes, please! If you like beer, you're sure to find something you'll love at The Barrelhouse. While they've built a reputation for having some of the best and hardest to get beers around there's something here for everyone. Their ties to the local community are evident with their fantastic selection of local brews and when the craft gets too heavy there are plenty of lighter, domestic options in the cooler. Hang around long enough and you're bound to see the 'Gansett Draft kick.
That One Thing: The Tunes! The Barrelhouse has a soundtrack like no other bouncing from Prince to Blind Faith before spinning towards a run of Bootsy Collins with a little Herb Alpert for good measure and, of course a heavy sprinkle of the bars spirit animal, David Lee Roth. Better yet, their lineup of live music on the weekends is can't miss. The Saratoga Strings Band holds a Thursday residency and the rest of the weekend you'll find some of the best musicians in the area embracing their Patio Bandstand as a great spot to have a couple cold ones and do what they do best.
SARATOGA RACE COURSE – FOURSTARDAVE SPORTS BAR
Address: 267 Union Ave
Hours: Wednesdays– Sundays 11am – Final Race. Opening Day (July 14th) to Final Race Day (September 5th)
Vibe: While great Craft Beer is available at a variety of bars and serving stations throughout the track, Fourstardave’s features a solid local craft beer line-up. According to their website, “Escape the elements and stay within close proximity to the trackside apron! The Fourstardave Sports Bar includes more than 80 tables available for paid reservation and a sports bar which features an extensive craft beer selection, popular food vendors, and 60 flat-screen
televisions. Configurations include tables that accommodate two, four and six guests.”
Food: Various food vendors throughout the track. Something for everyone. Craft Beer on Tap: 15 draft lines featuring: Druthers No Excuses IPA, Saranac Blueberry Ale, Adirondack Brewing’s Tangerine Dream, Brown’s Brewing Co’s Krush, Lake Placid Brewing’s UBU Ale, Keegan Ales’ Mother’s Milk, Brewery Ommengang’s Witte, Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale, Captain Lawrence Brewing’s Effortless Grapefruit IPA, Ithaca Beer’s Flower Power, Artisanal Beer Works’ Daily Double, Genesee Ruby Red Kolsch, Mad Jack Brewing’s Pilsner, and Bad Seed Original Dry Cider.
That One Thing: Gone are the days where the only way to get a great craft beer was to bring your own cooler of it. Now, there is a wide assortment of National, Regional, and Local craft beers available for you to enjoy. Also, there are local craft beer samplings at the track every Friday!
SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Address: 108 Avenue of the Pines
Concert Schedule: Visit Spac.org for Summer concert line-up
Vibe: Live music concert venue.
Food: Various food vendors throughout the venue.
Craft Beer Menu: Founders All Day IPA, Fiddlehead IPA, Dogfish Head TBD, Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Things, Druthers all in IPA, Adirondack Lake George IPA, Goose Island IPA, Frog Alley Moe-Hop, Long Trail Ale, Citizen Cider.
That One Thing: Nothing pairs better with your favorite music-style, than your favorite beer-style. Regardless of your favorite flavor, you will find it in music and beer at SPAC this summer! Enjoy the show!
About the author:
Erik Budrakey is a the co-Founder of True Brew Magazine and Founder of the craft beer website www.truebrewamerica.com. A Certified Cicerone, Budrakey works to boost craft beer scene as a writer and media consultant for breweries, cideries, and meaderies across the Capital Region and beyond.