Pub spans the beer spectrum

Award-winning Bridge Inn connects quality and knowledge

Nikki Cassidy (right) and Karen Porteous of the Bridge Inn

THERE are many motivations behind running a pub. But, more often than not, one particular goal leads the charge.

And for Nikki Cassidy, general manager of the Bridge Inn, in Peebles, a passion for beer remains the driving force behind her operation.

“We just like to serve good beer,” Nikki told SLTN.

“I think it’s really important. It’s all about quality and we’ve got to get it right every time.”

This has long been Nikki’s goal, with her efforts recognised last year when the Bridge Inn picked up the 2017 SLTN Beer Quality Award in association with Tennent’s.

With a background in the trade (The Crown Hotel in Peebles was operated by Nikki’s granddad and latterly her dad before her brother and sister took the reins), Nikki is well-versed in running a pub which caters to its customers.

“We are just a bar,” she said. “It’s all we do, so we do it well.”

“There are no fancy gimmicks; what you see is what you get. You get cracking quality beer; [customers are] paying for quality – it’s the whole experience.”

Key to delivering this is ensuring what’s on the bar’s 14 taps (ten keg and four cask) matches what locals are looking for.

The Bridge Inn scooping the 2017 SLTN Beer Quality Award in association with Tennent’s

Therefore, Nikki said, it often makes sense to involve the pub’s customers in the decision making process.

“It is very customer focused”, she said.

“They’re really good at telling us what’s a good beer and what’s not. Quite often if any of the locals have been on a tour and they’ve had a cracking pint somewhere, they’ll write it down and bring it into us.

“So we do listen to them as much as possible. The ones we sell, we sell a lot of and quickly.”

There are various brands which remain on tap year-round, including the likes of Tennent’s Lager, Tennent’s Lager Ice, Magners, Caley Best, McEwan’s 70/-, Hop House 13, Heverlee, Guinness and Gaymers Olde English.

But there’s also a few guest taps – both keg and cask – which allows the pub to offer local breweries’ creations.

For instance, the bar had new craft lager, Shaygër, from nearby Campbell’s Brewery, on its guest keg tap when SLTN caught up with Nikki.

And, naturally, as CAMRA’s 2017 Scotland & Northern Ireland Local Pub of the Year, the Bridge Inn also offers a well-considered variety of cask ales – with just one permanent tap, Fyne Ales’ Jarl, and three rotating lines.

“We sell about 15 casks a week – we do go through quite a lot,” said Nikki.

Keeping on top of so many lines calls for well-practiced hands in the cellar.

It’s here that Nikki, who has been the manager of the Kingdom Taverns-owned Bridge Inn since 2013, oversees the entire operation – with herself or the assistant manager cleaning the lines weekly, as well as ensuring all staff are fully trained on all processes in the cellar.

Staff are also encouraged to upskill further where possible, with Nikki herself having completed an SVQ4 in management and now in her second year of a part-time masters degree in tourism and hospitality.

And it’s in this sense that the SLTN Award win means the most to the pub, according to Nikki, who said it demonstrates to her staff that hard work pays off – and that there’s a future in the trade.

“It’s always nice to be recognised by people in the industry,” she said. “We’ve got quite a young team as well so it’s really good for them to see that you can actually make a career out of hospitality.”