State University of New York, Albany

The Big House Brewery
August 2005
by Marc B. Zawel

Parents and alumni obsess over a college’s scholarly pursuits and athletic achievement, but for most students, there’s only one institutional accolade that’s more important than bracket placement or a BCS berth. The coveted “Best Party School in America” ranking, as bestowed by the Princeton Review, really gets coeds swelling with pride. The State University of New York at Albany (SUNY Albany), which took the top spot last year, has been ranked a top 10 party school four times in the last decade. It couldn’t have established this dynasty of debauchery without a little support from the Big House Brewing Company, a massive college bar near the school’s downtown campus. The complex claims to have served more than 17 million pints to thirsty students since opening in 1996. It reinforces an old adage: Practice truly does produce champions.

The Scene: “We take our title as the nation’s biggest party school pretty seriously here,” says Pat, a junior music major. “It’s not something we ever want to give up.” As long as the Big House stays in business, Albany students have a fighting chance. An old warehouse that was converted into a bar, the sprawling drinking establishment spans three stories and 17,000 square feet. “There’s just something for everyone here,” says Amanda, a senior psych major, “whether it’s grinding with frat boys, singing along to Bon Jovi, shooting some pool or just grabbing a beer during happy hour.” With live music, an outdoor patio and cheap beer (draft beers are just two bucks until 9 p.m. everyday), the Big House offers it all.

Girls at the Bar: The diverse and attractive crowd of female students cruising the Big House might compel you to pursue a few conjugal visits. “The women here are blazing, just really beautiful,” says Mark, a senior business major. “There’s no need for beer goggles at this place.”

When to Go: Thursday and Friday nights usually feature live music and draw the largest crowds, but special themed party nights, like carnival and rodeo, also bring in droves of students ready to drink.

Dress Code: There’s no standard uniform at the Big House. Though jeans and sneakers aren’t a problem, students tend to embrace the trends. For guys, think button-down shirts and dark pants. Girls will feel comfortable in a nice pair of jeans and a halter-top.

At the Bar: If it’s your first time here, sample some of the local brews like the Ma Barker Light or the Bootlegger Berry Wheat, many of which are brewed in-house. Otherwise, it’s the same old selection for those wanting to get sloshed. Mixed drinks, made stiff, are a surefire way to start off the night. Tequila and Southern Comfort shots are also popular.

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