Soccer, and a lot of the old sod, on tap at The Celtic

The Celtic Tavern: Christine Nicholson gamely poses in front of the Rapids banner at The Celtic Tavern in downtown Denver. On a night when only the U.S.-Canada friendly was on air, Nicholson and Burgundy Wave correspondent Chris Casey constituted the soccer entourage in the LoDo establishment.

EDITOR'S NOTE: With Euro 2012, the Olympics and and World Cup qualifying just around the corner, now's the time to pull up a barstool, order a cold one and enjoy soccer on the tube. To get you primed, Burgundy Wave will be reviewing Denver's best soccer bars in the coming weeks.

BLAKE & 18TH — Here in LoDo, mere blocks from Coors Field, sits one of Denver's finest soccer bars: The Celtic Tavern.

You won't find a ton of TVs or soccer paraphernalia — a la The Three Lions — but The Celtic offers plenty of amenities and a friendly football vibe.

I was accompanied by my girlfriend, good sport that she is on these bar adventures, for a night out to watch the U.S.-Canada friendly. The bar wasn't terribly busy on Sunday evening and it was safe to say we were the only patrons interested in watching the Yanks.

I liked The Celtic well before I discovered the place was dialed into the world's game. It's got an authentic Irish pub feel with its mahogany walls, old-timey bar-in-the-round, superb fish-and-chips and friendly bartenders.

We sat at the bar where one such bartender, Alex Dent, who arrived on U.S. shores via London via Australia, wasted no time finding the game on a bar TV.
"It's sort of grown into a nice community here with people coming in for the games," he said of the robust soccer patronage.

The Celtic, Alex said, is an "official Rapids bar" this year, hosting loyalists from the Pid Army and Class VI supporter clubs. The Celtic offers pre-game specials, festive cheering and chanting and a van that ferries fans to and from Dick's.
"There's guys who come in and call themselves firms, but not in the hooligan sort of way," Alex said. "Nobody's leaving with glass in their eyes or anything like that."

Nothing in the snoozefest that was U.S.-Canada would spark hooliganistic passions — much less a pulse rate — so we instead spent the game talking to Alex and scanning the extensive Celtic menu.

At the barkeep's hearty recommendation, I ordered the reuben while Christine got the French dip. Both were delicious and very filling.

While The Celtic offers 50 tap beers, including a Rapids Burgundy Pride Beer, we stuck to the Bridgeport IPA, which is outstanding.

The menu is likewise top-notch, featuring everything from sandwiches to steaks, seafood to pizza and wings to salads. Oh, and burgers too. I saw someone trying to negotiate their way around a mammoth concoction of egg, cheese and meat called the Top O' the Morning Burger.

Rapids Man of the Match and front-office types are regulars at the bar after games, settling into the cozy Robert Burns Room at the back. The bar recently hosted a poker party that raised money for the Red Cross in Kosuke Kimura's earthquake-ravaged homeland.

The Celtic, which has a sister bar in Littleton, The Celtic Tavern Riverside Downs, has re-emphasized its Rapids partnership, Alex said. "It's really going well this year so far."

The bar will be a great place to watch Euro 2012. Alex said the kitchen will pair up culinary specialties from the various old-sod countries during the month-long tournament. So when Ireland tees off against Croatia this Sunday you can feast on corned beef and cabbage and …. well, whatever the hell Croatians eat.

Alex said the bar will be featuring promotional specials throughout the European Championship.

Props also on the extensive whiskey selection behind the bar. In my opinion, no Irish pub worth its sea salt would be caught without a bottle of Redbreast.
If you're a footy fan who must smoke — Roger, a striker on my men's over-40 team, goes straight for the cigs on the sidelines — Delaney's Bar next door is among the handful of Denver taverns that allows smoking.

Since both the U.S. in their hoops and Canada in their rugby shirts just plain sucked, we simply soaked up the mellow ambiance of The Celtic on a lazy late-spring night. Thankfully, there was no audio to the soccer game. We preferred listening to the jazz combo at the front of the bar.

We thanked Alex for his Rapids/Euro/Pseudo-hooligan info ("soccer nerd" gatherings, he affectionately calls them) as well as his spot-on menu recommendations.

I may not be a pseudo-hooligan or even a member of a firm, but I can firmly assert I'll be going back to The Celtic to watch The Shamrock Lads advance in Euro 2012.

Pub Rating Guide
0 - Awful, horrible. You call this place a soccer bar?
1-3 - Poor. You trying to model your bar after Toronto FC?
4-6 - Decent. A reasonable joint, but you could have done a lot better.
7-9 - Great place! Did nearly everything right with few mistakes
10 - Perfecto!

Food: 9
Nothing to complain about here. Reuben was one of the better I've had. Fish and chips are not to be missed.
Drinks: 9
Choice selection of domestics and imports and props for serving up a Rapids Burgundy Pride Beer.
Ambiance: 9
From the moment you walk in, you know you're in an Irish pub. A few touches, such as a Rapids banner and a well-placed scarf, give it a nice footy feel.
Service: 8
Always have enjoyed excellent service at The Celtic.
Prices: 6
You'll drop some coin on the food and beverages, but nothing is out of line. Promotional deals and happy hours specials are aplenty.
Soccer friendliness: 7
It's not a full-on soccer pub, but that's OK. They've always got a TV or two primed for soccer for you.

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