Oak rooms and watering holes

Pubs are something of an enigma. On one hand, they can be quiet places to chat over a pint. On the other, they can be rambunctious centres of drunkenness and mayhem. Calgary’s pubs run the gamut, often filling both roles at the same time. What follows is a list of some of Calgary’s better-known and more traditional pubs.

Ship and Anchor

The quintessential Calgary pub, you haven’t been drinking if you haven’t been to the Ship. The Ship represents the heart of Calgary’s coolest strip, 17th Ave. If you can go there on a Friday or Saturday night and not run into someone you know, you must not know anyone. It also boasts what is probably the city’s best beer selection, and that’s without stocking any Labbatt’s or Molson products. As far as pub food goes, this could be the best in the city.


These three pubs are owned by the same group, so I’m going to make some generalizations here, though I’ve never actually set foot in Dixon’s. While I loathe the prefab Irish pub, there’s something acceptable about these places, especially Kilkenny. Like the Ship, they have a pretty darned good beer selection, and the pub food isn’t bad either. On weekends, the atmosphere can be a little clubby, but really, who’s complaining?

Rose and Crown

The lesser cousin of the Ship, the Rose has a slightly more spacious patio, but can be more demanding in terms of dress, and can seem overly crowded and noisy on nights when there is live music. The beer selection isn’t quite as impressive as the Ship, although the menu is more extensive.

Kensington Pub

Other than being one of the few pubs in a trendy district, Kensington Pub has little going for it. The service is questionable, the ventilation is poor, and there’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre. Unless you live right in Kensington, you’re better off making the trip elsewhere.

Hop in Brew

This is Calgary’s best-kept secret as far as pubs go. Just around the corner from First Street lies this urban oasis. It’s quiet, perfect for conversing or playing Scrabble (provided). The service is without reproach. The beers on tap (other than Guinness) are strictly Western Canadian microbrews–Big Rock is as corporate as it gets here, although you can find the big names and European labels in bottles. There’s pool and foosball upstairs. You’re never going to have to pay a surprise cover, and you’re not going to have to follow the ticker on ESPN (there are no TVs in the bar, except during the World Cup).

Instead of fries or wings, the Hop in Brew serves quite possibly the best pizza you’ll find in a local pub. I implore you not to go there and ruin it.

Neighbourhood pubs

There are tens, if not hundreds, of these in Calgary–the typical neighbourhood pub with big screen TVs showing endless sports highlights or NTN; a row of regulars pumping their wages or EI checks into the VLTs; and Golden Tee or Big Buck Hunter games in the corner. You get the idea. Chances are you live close enough to a similar establishment to know what I’m talking about. They’re not worth visiting if you’re not within stumbling distance, but they’re worth it for cheap pitchers and a plate of wings when you need a break from studying.

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