Looking for a pub in Guelph? You’ve come to the right spot! The intent of this blog is to be a guide for anyone looking for a pub in Guelph. We will revise and update as we need to! This blog post is also part of a larger Guelph real estate blog that highlights many small businesses in Guelph.
According to Wikipedia, a pub (short for public house) is an establishment with license to serve alcoholic drinks for consumption on the premises. The term public house first appears in the late 17th century, tracing back to Roman England. Today, pubs have no strict definition, but in general a pub has four characteristics.
What makes a pub a pub?
- is open to the public without membership or residency
- serves draught beer or cider without requiring food consumption
- has at least one indoor area not laid out for meals
- allows drinks to be bought at a bar (i.e., not only table service)
It makes sense that this 519 area code has a large number of pubs, as much of early Guelph heritage is made up of English, Scottish and Irish immigrants. Just take a look at some of the downtown Guelph street names: Glasgow, Yorkshire, Woolwich, Liverpool, Dublin, Suffolk and many more.
Like Britain, the is considered to be an important aspect of Guelph’s culture. It’s more than just place to get a beer, it’s a place to meet old friends, new friends and get some food and drink. In fact, some would say going to the pub is akin to Sunday mass.
Here are a few of the Guelph pubs that are most popular in Guelph today:
The Wooly Pub:
Although actually called The Woolwich Arms, “The Wooly” is what you call it if you’re a local. Located in downtown Guelph, The Wooly has been in the same building since the late 80’s.
According to the Wooly’s website, The Wooly gains its original inspiration from the Ontario micro-brewery “explosion” that occurred in the late 1980’s. The brewery industry was mainly run by 3 large companies for over 40 years until the start of the craft brewery phenomenon. Teaching a course on beers at the University of Guelph Bob Desautels was keenly aware of this development. When an opportunity to open a pub in downtown Guelph emerged he decided to feature only small micro-brews on tap.
Inside the century old building that houses the Wooly, you feel like you’re inside someones living room. There’s nothing fancy about it and that’s part of the charm. There are 4 main rooms to the Wooly with one of them being a traditional bar. It’s not big, but it makes you feel as if you’re in a scene from Coronation St.
The Wooly has a back patio too, that’s covered and heated. During COVID this was a nice escape for those who wanted to get out, even in the heart of winter. There’s also the front porch where you can overlook Woolwich St on warm summer afternoons.
The only downside we see to the Wooly is that it’s not really a sports pub- they only have one TV mounted in one room.
The Wooly prides itself on being local, with local sourced ingredients and local beer on tap. Although there are a few exceptions, this local inspired menu resonates well with many.
You can make reservations at the Wooly right from their website mentioned above.
The Shakespeare Arms
Across town from the Wooly, just outside the Old University neighbourhood is another English style pub that is also quite popular, The Shakespeare Arms. Locals know it as “Shakeys”.
Shakeys looks and feels like you’re in a small town in England with it’s décor and setup. It’s been in this location in the Harvard Plaza for many years.
The demographic of the Shakespeare Arms is diverse. There are many die-hard locals who frequent the pub. With it’s proximity to the University of Guelph, you’ll also find a healthy crowd of students at times as well.
The food at Shakey’s is definitely traditional pub fare- burgers, fries, fish, wings, steak and mushroom pie. They also have a nice patio for summertime and has ample TV’s inside for sports.
The beer tips into the English style with Guinness, Caffreys and other English options.
R U Serious Bar and Grill
Yes we’re serious, that’s the name. This favourite pub in West Guelph has been around for thirty years now. Initially it was part of Willow West Mall, but eventually moved to a smaller, but stand alone building across the street.
R U Serious is a family run location that is less of an English pub and more of a sports bar. No matter what time of day you’re here, some sporting event is going to be on one of the many TV’s. It’s easy to see why they have so many regulars; the staff is so inviting and people are very friendly.
Many consider the chicken wings here to be the best wings in Guelph!
It’s worth noting that this location is not big and has a very loyal following of regulars. Depending on the day and time you’re planning to visit, you should call ahead or have a back up plan.
The food is standard pub fare and the beer choices are mostly standard beer options.
On another note, this pub is benefiting from what we believe is neighbourhood gentrification happening in West Guelph. Who knows, maybe a Starbucks will be on the way! (read our related blog here: Tim Hortons near me)
Baker St Station Pub
Located on Baker St, this aptly named pub has a great upper and lower patio that is a favourite of many in warmer months.
Baker Street Station, established in 2011 is a mix of English pub meets modern style. Downstairs feels more pub-like, with its bar and bar seats and little room at the back. Upstairs, it feels a little more like a fancy restaurant. The food here is also a little higher end than pub grub.
Personally, this is one of Ryan’s favourite pubs for World Cup Soccer on the upstairs TV.
The beer selection are rotating local taps with a wide variety of options, some more rare than others. If you’re looking for unique beers, Baker St Station may be your spot.
The downside here is that parking can be an issue, especially right now as the Baker St lot is being re-developed.
The Fat Duck Gastro Pub
This popular South Guelph pub is located in a strip plaza at Kortright and Edinburgh in the popular Kortright West neighbourhood. Like the others, the Fat Duck has a very loyal following from many within the area, as well as others coming from all over town.
The Fat Duck offers global dishes from poutine to curries, plus draft beer and cider from international brands to local offerings. The atmosphere here is cozy and welcoming. There’s also a big patio for the outdoor months.
The Fat Duck is also a hang out spot for those interested in Premier League Soccer, European sporting events and The World Cup. If you plan on attending the Fat Duck for one of these, be sure to get there early!
McCabes Irish Pub
Located in the heart of downtown Guelph, McCabes Irish Pub is a great people watching spot in the warmer months. They have giant windows that roll up and let in a nice summer breeze. They have TV’s that are always playing a baseball, football or hockey game.
In recent years, this pub has had the benefit of the summer downtown Guelph patios season that extends into the roadway. Even without this, the bar has great seats along the windows. There’s also a long bar that you can sit if you’d like.
Most would consider food here to be pub grub: chicken wings, burgers, fries (even irish fries) and many traditional fried foods. Beers and ciders are a mix of national brands and some locals.
Bobby O’Briens Irish Pub
Just up the street from McCabes is Bobby O’Briens. The fact that two pubs that are somewhat similar goes to show the support that this pub format has.
“Bobby’s” is a popular spot for recreational sports teams after a game and for those who want to watch sports on TV. Crowds really get large for Super Bowl and St Patricks Day. It’s also a popular spot for University of Guelph students. A word of caution that they have a wing deal before Guelph Storm games, so it can get busy!
Like most other pubs, most would consider food here to be pub grub: chicken wings, burgers, fries and many traditional fried foods. Beers and ciders are a mix of national brands and some locals.
Standing Room Only, 60 Ontario St
The newest addition to Guelph and this list is Standing Room Only (SRO). This bar joined the others in January 2023 after the conversion of the former Bradburn’s Pre-Sixty’s Auto .
At just over 140sf and a 9 person max capacity, this bar is a novelty for anyone either in Guelph or visiting. The aim is to put more of a focus on Guelph, including bringing in craft brews and local liquor.
Support Local Initiative
Customers can walk in from 4 p.m. to midnight Wednesdays to Saturdays, a schedule that may change depending on demand as time moves on. You can check them out on their Instagram page
This list is part of our ongoing Support Local initiative to help small businesses get more support. Visit them if you can!
Note: if you’re looking specifically for Guelph restaurants, you can read that popular blog here.
These are the top pub recommendations we have for Guelph- but you’ve also got the LCBO and Beer Store!
f you think we’ve missed something, get in touch with us! We’re Guelph real estate agents who recommend you support our local economy!