The Ship sails another day

By Jeff Kubik

There are some bars bound to remain legendary in any city’s nightlife. They’re large and they’re popular, the kind of place where you’re bound to run into any number of long-lost friends and regular drinking buddies on any given night. In Calgary, if straight-up nightclubs aren’t your scene, you’re eventually bound for the Ship and Anchor.

It’s a pub in the strictest sense of the word. Lining the walls are enumerate articles of tack, from foreign road signs to antiquated liquor ads. Soccer flags swear loyalty across the board and the bar has one, if not the best selection of beers on tap in the greater Calgary area. However, be warned: if it’s a quiet drink in a quaint pub you seek, look elsewhere.

Seventeenth Avenue SW rules Calgary’s summer nightlife, and the crown jewel in that liquor-soaked mile is the Ship and Anchor. It’s loud and no mistake, with live acts often gracing what’s left of its floor space, pumping deafening sound over the bar’s PA system. Two patios on the east and west side of the bar open to beautiful women and slow-moving traffic, amid hoots and the persistent din of hundreds of satisfied patrons. Cast aside dreams of the Ship being “your” bar, it’s already been claimed by a whole city.

While the Ship’s inside may never stop moving, with eager eyes perusing and friendly waves exchanging, you may as well pull up a seat and relax, at least until you see someone you know.

The Ship’s pint selection is nothing short of staggering with a bevy of tap handles stretching down the length of its enormous bar. While booze is never a cost-effective pastime, the Ship’s pints aren’t any more expensive than most at about five dollars a throw. And if the amber haze of sweet, sweet beer hasn’t stopped up your stomach, a reasonably-priced menu awaits.

From the tried-and-true pubtime burger to calamari and fish and chips, the Ship is a welcome change from dance club pizza, mystery meat hot dogs and other greasy regrettables. And therein lies the charm of the place, of course. Because while the Ship may be loud and popular, it remains, at its core, a pub.

It’s certainly packed full of single, eager gents and ladies, but sheer black tube tops and shiny Mexx spiffiness stand out there. It’s not a place to flaunt and preen, there’s much too much drinking and talking to be done first. It’s proof that a bar can become popular without degrading into the worst kind of nightlife pretension.

Everyone knows the Ship and Anchor, and if you’re not among those who do, you soon will. It is not for those seeking poorly-lit booths and articulate conversation, but rather for late night drinkers who’d rather drink in the company of friends. It’s a pub on a grand scale, or at least a nightclub without bad music and styling products.

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