Oh dear, less than a week away from St. Patrick’s Day and you’re already sweating. The custom press shop’s deadline for your totally sweet “Kiss me I’m (insert percentage) Irish” tees was yesterday and you’ve yet to receive your 23andMe results back (to reveal the exact fractal of your sequestered-yet-significant Irish genealogy).
If you can’t proudly display your distant Celtic diasporic DNA across your chest, how else are you going to toast the patron saint of Ireland? Well, you could start by toning it down a smidge and settling for a watering hole with some ace suds on tap.
Canada’s craft beer scene has been booming for some time now, resulting in a swath of bars across the country serving up a fine mix of small batch, local, and international brews. Whether you’re walking (or stumbling) on the low-key festive or high-key indulgent side of the line, so long as it leads to one of these welcoming destinations, you’ll be on-point for a thoroughly enjoyable (and, if you wish, green) pint this St. Paddy’s.
Bellwoods Brewery, Toronto
Producing some of the most exciting beer in the Canadian suds market today, Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto will literally have brews stocked up to the barrel at their Ossington location. As this is also an active brewery, brewpub, and bottle shop for Bellwoods, this spot will win you points with your beer snob buddies, although a glass of Cherry Farmageddon or Grandma’s Boy will do all the talking for you.
Dieu du Ciel, Montreal
Dieu du Ciel is another proudly (French) Canadian producer picking up steam in the current market, and for good reason. Not only does it look fascinating, it perks the curiosity of your taste buds even more! Don’t let the critics sway your judgement too much though, take the chance this St. Pat’s to experience what one of Canada’s top beers is all about first-hand at their sleek Laurier West spot.
Stillwell Beer Bar, Halifax
The Maritimes are commonly known as “The Ireland of Canada” for good reason – super sociable locals, rambunctious Gaelic folk music, and a well-developed drinking culture. You won’t be short of places to go or parties to join on your average March 17th in Halifax, but make sure you at least stop by Stillwell for a pint (or three) from their vast collection of superb craft beers on tap.
The Cascade, Vancouver
When searching for a bar in Vancouver, heading into the neighbourhood once known as Brewery Creek is probably a good idea. An even better one would be to stop in at The Cascade Room this March 17 to celebrate St. Pat’s with some good old-fashioned (literally) live music by Ardeshir’s Standards Trio. Play things like a true Irishman and order the very apt Sunday Roast for dins – a classic compliment to those pints of Guinness you’ve been enjoying all day.
Mallard Cottage, St. John’s
This 18th century Irish-Newfoundland cottage-themed pub is said to be one of the oldest wooden buildings on the continent. But this place isn’t about to fall down anytime soon – old means sturdy, and Irish-Newfie means a hell of a St. Paddy’s party. With a menu as visually striking as the restored cottage interior, going plate-for-pint here is a pretty good idea.
As most might dread St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, choosing the right bar might actually turn your Irish luck around. At Cannibale on 1st Avenue, beer and brown liquor are the Sunday specials. Get there early enough and you can live up to this suave speakeasy’s stylish interior with a sharp servicing courtesy of the in-house barbershop – just make sure your barber hasn’t been enjoying the festivities too much before your wet shave.
Le Projet, Quebec City
In a city famous for its authentically French, authentically fun atmosphere, finding even the dingiest of dives that isn’t a good time – especially on St. Pat’s – won’t be challenging. Having said that, we’ve decided to point you in the direction of Le Projet. The intricate old-worldly interior and thorough selection of great beers might get you through the door, but a few glassy-eyed orders of some true Quebecois poutine will keep you from going anywhere too quick.
El Cortez, Edmonton
St. Paddy’s Day belongs to the Irish, but the whole green and orange theme can get a bit stale, especially when you’re left to pick up those annoying boa scarf feathers that inevitably end up all places under the sun (and sometimes where it don’t shine, too). Why not shake things up in the cocktail department and swap your Irish whiskey for a Mexican tequila at El Cortez? You might just be starting a new St. Pat’s tradition.
O’Grady’s Outpost, Ottawa
I tried, but I just didn’t have the heart to put together a St. Paddy’s Day pub guide without including a proper Irish alehouse. This might not be the poshest pub on the list, but sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and get down with the Irish once every few St. Pat’s, and with two different live music performances and a name like O’Grady’s, you’re sure to have at least an interesting time at this Ottawa tavern.
King’s Head, Winnipeg
With live music and a capacity of over 400 (plus outdoor patio if you’re feeling brave enough), the King’s Head will give you that real “pub” experience this St. Pat’s. Brush up on your riverdance and catch The Dust Rhinos’ set at 10 p.m. if you’ve got your dancing boots on.