Bozeman Bar Beat: Pub 317

The Emerald Charm of Bozeman A Deep Dive Into the Irish Heart of Pub 317

Devon Brosnan  |   Friday Mar. 1st, 2024

One thing I’ve always loved about bars—more than the booze they ooze—is the cultural representation they exhibit, whether it’s the reflection of the culture they reside in or the emulation of another. This underrated spot, however, is the perfect balance of both.

Since another year has blown past us like a trucker flying down I-90 at 3:00am in a snowstorm, that means it’s time for another night of folks drinking ungodly amounts of green beer, wearing tastefully questionable outfits, and loosely celebrating the culture that birthed the tradition to begin with. That’s right! St. Patrick’s Day is here once again. 

In the heart of Bozeman, Montana—a town known for its rugged natural beauty and vibrant community—lies a bar that captures the essence of Irish culture and hospitality: Pub 317. This establishment is more than just a place to grab a drink; it’s a portal to the Emerald Isle, a space where the warmth of Irish tradition melds seamlessly with the unique character of the American Northwest. The moment you step through its doors, you’re transported to a world where the charm of Ireland and the spirit of Montana coalesce, creating an experience that’s both familiar and enchantingly foreign.

The façade of 317 is unassuming yet inviting, with its rich wooden exterior and quaint, frosted windows that give passersby just a hint of the convivial atmosphere that awaits inside. Upon entering, guests are greeted by an ambiance that I believe to be quintessentially Irish: dark, polished wood panels line the walls; the air is filled with a melodic blend of lively conversation, laughter, and the occasional strains of a fiddle or bodhrán drum; and, of course, there are the flags representing a land that is a hop, skip, and a jump across an ocean away. These flags look familiar, but to an ignorant American like me, they hold no relational value to the country they account for (i.e. “oooh, pretty colors!”). The bar itself, though perhaps bearing no standout features, is noticeably clean—like almost always, in my experience. Here, the bartenders, masters of their craft, mix and pour with a flair that is both artful and unpretentious, embodying the bar’s ethos of simple elegance and heartfelt service.

As you take a seat at the bar or at one of the cozy, brick-walled tables, the true spirit of 317 reveals itself. The walls are adorned with memorabilia that pays homage to Ireland’s rich history and cultural heritage: old black-and-white photographs of Dublin streets, framed Gaelic proverbs, and vintage Guinness advertisements. Each piece tells a story, a small but significant thread in the tapestry of Irish identity. The atmosphere is further enriched by the soft, yet distinctly lively Irish music that fills the air, ranging from traditional folk tunes to contemporary ballads, each song a testament to the enduring allure of Ireland’s musical legacy. It’s the perfect place for a red-blooded, booze-lovin’ American to stumble into on a snowy, wintry night after wolfing down a slice (or six) of Tarantino’s Pizza—which conveniently shares space in the same building. Yes, you read that right: an Irish pub and a late-night pizzeria within a potato’s throw of one another? Whichever God you believe in, thank them for that one.

The bar’s drink selection is equally impressive, boasting an extensive array of Irish whiskeys, local craft beers, and handcrafted cocktails. Whether you’re savoring a smooth, peaty single malt or a crisp, hoppy IPA, each sip is a journey in itself, a delightful exploration of flavors and aromas. I particularly like the way they pour my go-to, the highly sophisticated Jack and Coke: deliciously heavy. These libations, coupled with 317’s hosted Trivia Nights, are community staples, and have undoubtedly sparked (or concluded) a late night adventure or two. Remember, outside food is allowed, so while you’re clearing your third Irish Car Bomb, you can always slur your way to someone kindly delivering you food from that dastardly outside world.

But what truly sets 317 apart is its light but stern touch on the heart of Bozeman’s populace. This isn’t just a bar; it’s a gathering place where friendships are forged, and stories are shared. On any given night, you’ll find a diverse crowd: locals mingling with travelers, old friends reuniting, and new acquaintances being made. Really, all its crowd is missing is some form of old-timey pirate. The bar’s regular events, from live music nights to trivia competitions, create a lively, inclusive atmosphere where everyone is welcome. It’s this communal spirit, this feeling of belonging, that captures the essence of the Irish pub tradition, and makes 317 a beloved fixture in Bozeman’s social landscape.

The staff at 317 play a crucial role in cultivating this welcoming, Irish environment. They’re not just employees; they’re hosts, storytellers, and friends. With a keen eye for detail and a genuine desire to provide a memorable experience, they ensure that every guest feels valued and cared for, while also treating you like the dirty, drunk miscreant you are when you’ve, again, had another three Irish Car Bombs. Their knowledge of the drinks and experiences they serve is matched only by their willingness to go above and beyond to accommodate guests’ preferences and needs. It’s this personal touch that really makes 317 stand out in my memories of being there with a drink and a slice of pizza in both of my hands, while a weary-eyed bartender comes over and suggests, “maybe you’d like a plate with that…”

Throughout the year, 317 celebrates various Irish and local festivals, further deepening its connection to both cultures. St. Patrick’s Day, of course, is a highlight, with the bar decked out in green and overflowing with merriment. But other celebrations, like Bozeman’s Sweet Pea Festival or the winter solstice, are also marked with special events and themed nights, reflecting the bar’s commitment to being a vibrant, integral part of the community. These occasions are not just parties; they’re expressions of the bar’s identity, a melding of Irish tradition and Montanan spirit.

As I mentioned before, Pub 317 is also a place of storytelling, where tales from Ireland’s rich folklore and Bozeman’s own history are woven together, creating a tapestry of narratives that captivate the imagination. The bar’s regulars are often eager to share stories of their travels to Ireland, or tales of Bozeman’s early days, each anecdote adding to the establishment’s unique character. These stories, passed from person to person, are not merely entertainment; they’re a vital part of the bar’s charm, a way of keeping traditions alive and fostering a deeper connection among those who gather there.

In a world where bars and pubs often blur into indistinctness, 317 stands out as a beacon of authenticity and character. It’s not just the Irish-themed decor or the carefully curated menu that makes it special; it’s the way it captures the essence of what a pub should be—a place of warmth, camaraderie, and joyful celebration. Whether you’re a Bozeman local or a traveler passing through, a visit to 317 is an experience that lingers long after the last drink has been savored and the final note of music has faded into the night.

And that’s what visiting these bars is really all about, right? Any time I’m in a new place, a new country, or even a new part of town, I look to bars to provide a glimpse into the culture that radiates all around me. Pub 317 provides such a glimpse, and adds its own ‘lucky charm’ with its attention to Irish representation and its presumed undying wish to always be there for the lonely traveler, the drunk college kid, the hungry friend who’s lost their way from their group, and anyone in between.   

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