by Dan Leahul
On a day where everybody’s Irish, what better way to celebrate your newfound Irish identity than with a pint of Guinness or a glass of Jameson’s among friends—where on St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll never be too far. Here are the biggest and best St. Paddy’s Day blowouts, featuring live music, dancing and maybe even a limerick or two.
James Joyce Pub (114 – 8 Ave SW)
Called so for the man who once wrote “Ireland sober is Ireland stiff,” the poetic spirit of Ireland is alive and well at the James Joyce Pub on Stephen Ave. From top to bottom, the setting exudes Irish charm—authentic tin and elaborate Victorian light fixtures adorn the ceiling and an original hand laid tile mosaic graces the floor. Rich mahogany and ornate stained glass separate the different snug areas, making it a perfect spot for a contemplative pint. However, come St. Patrick’s Day, don’t expect to get much thinking done at the Joyce—the pub is the epicentre for St. Patrick’s celebrations, featuring raucous traditional Celtic music all day and all night—things get busy, and fast. Grab yourself a VIP ticket to avoid the line-up at the door.
Ceili’s Irish Pub & Restaurant (513 – 8 Ave SW)
“There are no strangers here, only friends that have not yet met,” is the motto here. The quote, best attributed to Ireland’s greatest scribe, William Butler Yeats, rings true through and through on St. Patrick’s Day at Ceili’s—featuring bag pipers, Irish dancers, live bands throughout the day, and in earnest “early doors” style, the festivities kick-off at the chipper hour of 10am—Ceili’s is the place to make fast friends who’ll raise their glass and give you a robust “Sláinte!” pronounced “slaan-sha,” which literally means “to your health.”
St. James Corner (1219 – 1 St SW)
Named after St. James Gate in Dublin, the home of Guinness beer, St. James Corner is a proper homage to the cozy mahogany and brass-style pubs of the Emerald Isle. On St. Patrick’s Day, the pub is host to Calgary’s largest St. Paddy’s Day block party, featuring a 300 person tent in the back parking lot, with live fiddlers, Irish dancers, limerick contests, and not to mention, $3 pints of Guinness (between 10 – 11am) and a $5.99 Irish Breakfast, served with two corned beef rashers and eggs, available before noon.
Ship & Anchor (534 – 17 Ave SW)
Despite the fact that it’s Calgary’s most popular English-style pub, the Ship & Anchor goes green every St. Patrick’s Day, and with typical Irish flair (even featuring, perhaps, a dirty limerick contest). If you’re not there before 1pm, good luck trying to find a place to sit down, but no matter, you won’t be alone. A staggering line-up of live music plays all day and a wealth of Irish stouts and ales pour steadily from the bar. If the weather behaves, don’t be shocked to the Ship’s patio filled with rowdy, yet friendly, locals—it’s been a long winter for most Calgarians. This is the place for some old-fashioned St. Paddy’s Day “craic agus ceol,” pronounced “crack agus cole,” which means, simply, fun and music. Best of all, there’s no cover charge here.
Despite Calgary’s western heritage, the city is swimming in Irish pubs. Here are some others worth checking out for St. Patrick Day celebrations, most featuring live music and drink specials.
Fionn MacCool’s (255 Barclay Parade SW)
Jameson’s (3575 – 20 Ave NE)
Joyce on 4th (506 – 24 Ave SW)
Kilkenny (3630 Brentwood Rd NW)
Limerick’s (7304 Macleod Tr S)
Molly Malone’s (1153 Kensington Cres NW)
Muldoon’s (4916 – 130 Ave SE)
Seanachie (5909 Signal Hill Centre SW)
Shillelagh’s (1851 Sirocco Dr SW)
Tipperary’s (2002 – 16 Ave NW)
For a more toned down toast to the Irish, head to Crave and pick up one (or six) of their St. Patrick’s Day green velvet cupcakes, topped with Bailey’s buttercream icing and shamrock sprinkles—rich and delicious, these cupcakes are sold for one day only, and certainly won’t last long.