My stint as East European correspondent over, it was back to domestic Good Beer Guide business with two closest to me, a Lothian double.
First up the Ferry Tap in South Queensferry, not just home to three immense bridges but now a brewery for the first time since 1851. The eponymous ferry became redundant in 1964 when the first road bridge opened. The iconic rail bridge dates back to 1890, whilst the majestic new road crossing opened in 2017. Bridgetastic in every way.
A year earlier than the new bridge was the Ferry Brewery established by Mark Moran and his camera-shy wife Jane, who served me and created a welcoming atmosphere in the small bar.
The 3.8% Ferry Fair was a nicely dry, pale ale with plenty of body. The only other customer just after opening was John, a groundhopper and Good Beer Guide ticker who had travelled from Liverpool. Somehow our paths had never crossed but he peaked at over 4,000 Guide pubs when working as a rep and is a prolific hopper. I wish us tickers could claim expenses.
John left to get the train to see Kelty Hearts while I went to Inverkeithing Hillend Swifts, just across the Forth.
We talked about how we started drinking in pubs. John said he used to go to pubs in Cheltenham in full school uniform. I should stress that he was at school at the time, it wasn’t some kind of adult fetish.
He recalled going into one owned by Jet Harris, once of the Shadows, and asking for a pint of cider. Jet said no but, as John and his pals started to leave, then said “but you can have a half.” And a few more.
Ferry Brewery held a successful festival in June in collaboration with other local breweries and will run it again next summer. The day I visited they had a marquee up for an event with Top Out Brewery.
It all smacked of a well run, high standard operation in a very pleasant location. I don’t always enjoy brewery taps- they can be austere places- but this was a rewarding experience.
After the match I completed Lothian with a visit to the Dreadnought in Leith, with its slickly designed sign.
It had a tap takeover by Cross-Borders Brewery from Dalkeith. Beer Twitter has recently been debating whether tap takeovers are a good thing. I sometimes like them in regular haunts but less so on a first time visit when it’s better to see a pub in its natural habitat. Not that there was nothing wrong with the 4.1% heavy.
This corner pub is in a mixed housing catchment outside Leith’s hipster central. But there were still plenty of twirly moustaches and waistcoats plus Rod.
Their crafty amp bar was in situ next to the crooner.
The trip covered about 140 miles – if only they were all as close.