Growing up on the south shore and attending school in Halifax, it's not surprising that this beer and pub lover developed a preference for certain pubs and towns within reasonable driving distance.
I got involved with a crowd in university that did an annual "South Shore Drinking Tour," in which we drove to a bar in Bridgewater, then worked our way back on the old Number 3 highway to Halifax, stopping in selected pubs for beer, pepperoni and pickled eggs, playing pool and avoiding fights along the way. (The worst job, of course, was designated driver.) We even tried an Eastern Shore version one year, with less success. We now refer to that fuzzy, distant memory as "Get Tanked at The Tank."
In those days there was no microbrewed beer, just Keith's, Moosehead and their co-products, so that's just one way that our annual tour has changed.
We now do a tamer, more family-friendly version, taking time for a nice meal, drinking moderately and enjoying both the striking scenery and friendly people that one so often encounters in our province, especially during the holiday season. The quaint pubs along the south shore are always attractive, but are even more appealing when dolled up for Christmas, and a pint of good beer (or a hot chocolate if you are the DD) always tastes better on a cold winter's day.
Start in Liverpool with a visit to Lane's Privateers Inn for some comfort food, or perhaps a pint and snack in Captain Barss pub, which features live music. Stay overnight in the inn, or perhaps do a getaway at the White Point Beach Resort, not far away, where seasonal specials and activities are featured.
Refreshed, head to Lunenburg and a great local called The Knot, on the road into town. This small, popular pub feels like the inside of an old ship. The pub food is better than most---the local sausage with Tancook Island sauerkraut is a must. Propeller is recommended for your beer choice, particularly the special blend made just for The Knot.
A short, gorgeous drive along the water to Mahone Bay on the #3 leads you to the Mug and Anchor, with its amazing harbour view and---a real pub plus---real wood fire. They take Christmas seriously, making the place look like a Norman Rockwell painting, and the food is very good, especially the seafood.
Next stop is Chester and the ancient Fo'c'sle, in the heart of town. This large pub, which some claim is the oldest in the province, is overflowing with the sailing crowd in the summer but a little quieter in the winter. Fish and chips, a brew and a game of pool are just the ticket here. The pub features occasional live music as well and a wood stove.
Just down on the waterfront is The Rope Loft, housed in a 200-year-old building incorporating wood from Teaser, a privateer ship that sank in Mahone Bay. The pub features Garrison beer and a relatively fancy food menu, anchored on seafood.
If you still have stamina, one of the most impressive winter drives is around the loop to Halifax on the old #3 from Tantallon via Dover and Peggys Cove. Stop at Peggys for a brisk walk around the lighthouse and a warm, restorative drink at The Sou'Wester. Continue on to Halifax and find a warm bed.
Times have certainly changed in terms of our more responsible drinking behaviour, but, ironically, there's also been a huge increase in temptation: prettier pubs with better beer and food just an hour or two away by car. Cheers!
The other shore
Drive to Wolfville and pick up some local wine at one of the area’s wineries, then go to The Port Pub in Port Willams for a delicious meal with a view of the Cornwallis River and a pint of Sea Level beer from the adjacent brewery. On your way back to the city, pop into the Spifire Pub in Windsor for a UK-style tipple.