The Capital Craft Beverage Trail: Druthers Brewing Company (Albany)

Druthers Brewing originally opened its first brewpub right in the heart of downtown Saratoga, a few minutes away from the town where I grew up. I have many memories from their original location, including a stunning beer-pairing dinner and ditching the insane crowds of Chowderfest to duck in for a flight. Now that I’m living in Albany, their second location right off Broadway is my new favorite spot. This location is much larger than their original and has both a spacious bar area and a large dining room. Druthers also opened a third location in Schenectady this year, although I have not yet had the opportunity to go there.

My fiancé and I headed out one night with the intention of going to review another local brewery on the Capital Craft Beverage Trail, but when we found out there was an hour and a half wait, we decided to head to our tried and true spot, Druthers. Now, when we got to Druthers, they also had quite a bit of a wait, but we were more accepting of this as it’s one of our favorite spots and well worth waiting for. We headed to the bar to grab a drink while we waited, and ended up waiting, and waiting some more. This was my only real critique of the night, on a packed Saturday night, the only two bartenders were completely slammed. Our bartender kept apologizing and promised she would be right with us. Through no fault of her own it took about 15 minutes just to get two draft beers. We headed back over to the spacious waiting area to sip our beers while we waited for our table. We both started out with pints of their Oktoberfest beer. This beer poured a light amber-mahogany with excellent clarity. It had all those great Oktoberfest flavors: malty, sweet, and featured notes of caramel and toasted bread. The finish was smooth and light, with the perfect amount of carbonation.

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Beer Cheese Dip with “Golden Rule” Pilsner

We were soon seated and ordered an appetizer while we finished our Oktoberfests. Now, on the Druthers website it says, “You can’t go to Druthers without trying the Beer Cheese Dip” and I’m here to tell you that is 100% true. Seriously, I have dreams about this beer cheese. It is made using their “Golden Rule” Pilsner and three different cheeses. It’s served with deliciously chewy and piping hot soft pretzel bites. The appetizer portion is generous and could definitely be shared between three or four people. The two of us made a pretty impressive dent into it but had to restrain ourselves as we knew more food was on the way.

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Brie Burger with Oatmeal Stout

One thing you need to know about Druthers is that their Mac & Cheese might change your life. From the classic Druthers Mac, to their never-ending variations (once I had a Thanksgiving Mac, complete with stuffing and cranberry sauce), these entrees won’t disappoint and are a staple at many beer-tasting events in the area. However, I have had the life-changing Mac & Cheese countless times before and decided to try something new to their rotating seasonal menu, the Brie Burger. My perfectly cooked burger was slathered with brie cheese, fig jam, and garlic aioli and was literally finger-licking good. While messy, I would go back for this burger time and time again. I got my burger served with a side salad, as if that would somehow make up for all the beer cheese, but you can also get their shoestring fries as a side as well. My fiancé did just that, and enjoyed his fries alongside another seasonal specialty, the Beef on Weck sliders. These little sandwiches came piled with roast beef, horseradish aioli, and caramelized onions and were served with a side of au jus dip.  This dish received rave reviews from my fiancé as well. One thing is for sure, if you are need of comfort food, Druthers will certainly not disappoint.

While enjoying our burgers, we both decided to get a couple of flights and try out some other beers.

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The flights at Druthers are on the larger side, with six different five-ounce pours for $15.   I selected a variety of beers from their year-round selection as well as their rotating seasonal styles. I started off with their “Golden Rule” Pilsner, the beer used to make their delectable beer cheese dip and a year-round staple. This beer features rye in the malt bill, which adds a nice spicy peppery note to the classic crisp, clean pilsner taste. The beer pours a crystal-clear pale-yellow straw with visible effervescent carbonation. The equinox and cascade hops in this beer balance it out and lend an apricot aroma to the beer as well. I think this is a really impressive beer, especially for a style that is often shrugged off and forgotten about. Next up I had the “Brevity Wit”, a Belgian wheat beer, that I often suggest to my Blue Moon loving friends. This beer pours a hazy pale yellow with a thin, white, and foamy head. I’ve had this beer many times before but found this batch to taste a little different. In addition to those citrus and coriander flavors you would expect, I found this batch to be very ginger-forward, in an almost overpowering way. The beer was also a bit more watered down than before. Not sure what has changed with this beer, but its not as good as I remember it. Next, I had the “Weizen”. Another wheat-forward beer, this beer also poured a hazy straw yellow. This is a great take on a traditional Hefe, with all those banana, clove and spice flavors one looks for in a German style wheat beer. According to their website, Druthers also makes a smoked version featuring beech-smoked malts, which I look forward to trying on my next visit there.

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“All-In” IPA

Next up in my flight was a seriously boozy seasonal offering, “Truth Serum”, a Belgian Tripel ringing in at 10.5% ABV. This was my favorite pour of the flight and while strong, I didn’t find it to be overwhelmingly boozy. The thick creamy mouthfeel probably helped to mask some of that alcohol burn and the delicious flavors of dark fruits, spice, and honey made this beer a real treat. This clear straw yellow ale left behind thick white lacing and left me wanting another glass. The “Oatmeal Stout” however, did not impress me as much. But I should preface, I like a big, boozy, full bodied stouts. This stout has a much lighter body and a thin but creamy mouthfeel. The aroma is straight chocolate and the first sip delivers exactly that, with hints of coffee and dark roasted malts as well. If Druthers were to make an Imperial version of this beer, I would be first in line to try it. I closed out the flight with what else, but an IPA. The “All In IPA” is another year-round essential at Druthers, and I have recently seen six-packs of it available at local beverage stores and even supermarkets. This IPA pours with golden yellow with a slight haze and has aromas of citrus and pine. This beer features Cascade, Amarillo, and Polaris hops and the flavor has a classic West Coast IPA vibe of pine and grapefruit. The bitterness is balanced by a bready Vienna Malt backbone and overall, it’s a solid IPA.

All in all, I really can’t say enough good things about Druthers. This is my go-to spot in Albany when I want local beer and seriously amazing food. They have a wide variety of styles on tap with something for everyone. The Saratoga location is just as high quality, with just a smaller indoor seating area (the outdoor seating in the summer is clutch though). Next up on my list, I will have to check out the Schenectady location, though I’m sure it will be just as great as their first two locations.

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Poached Pear Salad with the Winter Lager

UPDATE: I recently had to be in Schenectady for some wedding planning things, and I decided to meet a friend for lunch at the Druthers there while I was in the area. This location is right near the new casino, but my friend and I found the parking a little confusing. I parked in a tiny lot across from the main entrance that only had a few parking spots, while my friend parked in a garage across the street. I actually had to go outside to find her because she couldn’t find the entrance to Druthers from the garage.  Once we settled into our booth though, the beer and lunch did not disappoint. I’ve been trying to eat healthier (see aforementioned wedding planning), and instead of beer cheese, I opted to try one of their salad options. I got a delicious salad with grilled chicken, wine poached pears, goat cheese, candied pecans and raspberry vinaigrette. My friend’s salad looked even more impressive with curried chickpeas, caramelized onions, bacon, blue cheese, and a maple cider vinaigrette. I also tried a new seasonal beer while I was there, their winter lager. Yum! This beer poured a beautiful crystal clear amber and was deliciously malty and caramel sweet. I found this beer very similar to their Oktoberfest, so if you like that style this will probably be a winner for you too.

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