CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale is an independent, voluntary organisation campaigning for real ale, community pubs and consumer rights.

Copyright © 2018 by Tayside CAMRA. All rights reserved.

The views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the Campaign for Real Ale Ltd.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information on this site is accurate and up to date, no responsibility for errors and omissions can be accepted.

Home Page About Us Walk This Way Outlets Newsletter Pub of the Year Contact Us


The Tayside and Fife Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale was established at a meeting of 20-30 people in the Windmill Bar, Hilltown, Dundee, on Wednesday 11th June 1975, following several meetings to test support between December 1974 and May 1975. Founding members included Forbes Browne, Paul Dean, David Quayle, Stan Stamper and Tony Wills, all of whom played an active part in the development of the group.

This was the third CAMRA branch in Scotland, after Edinburgh and Glasgow, and covered the City of Dundee and the counties of Angus, Fife, Perth and Kinross. These became the regions of Tayside and Fife in the mid 1970's following local government reorganisation. In 1980 campaigning responsibility for Fife was split between Tayside and Edinburgh & Borders Branches. This was again changed in 1989 when increasing activity by CAMRA members in the Forth Valley/ south Fife area made it logical for the Branch to adopt the regional area covering Fife north of Leven and become "Tayside and North East Fife". Final separation from Fife came with the setting up of a full branch there in 1999.

At the time of the formation of the Branch there were about 30 licensed premises known to be selling cask-conditioned beer in the area mentioned above. This figure is purely speculative, as the situation was very fluid: Belhaven had recently closed their depot at Montrose; Scottish & Newcastle - by far the largest supplier - were promoting bright beer served by carbon dioxide and had stopped producing cask 60/- McEwan's. This meant a rapid decline in real ale outlets, so that many pubs on the list below stopped selling it at the time or shortly after the Branch was formed - there may well have been others unknown at the, time to members.

Real Ale Outlets in June 1975:-

Angus: Arbroath - Crown, West Abbey Street (McEwan 70/-) Hotel Seaforth, Dundee Road (McEwan 70/-) St Thomas, James Street (Maclay Export)

Broughty Ferry - Anchor, Gray Street (Belhaven 80/-) Fisherman's Tavern, Fort Street (McEwan 80/-, 70/-) Royal Arch, Brook Street (McEwan 70/-)

Forfar - Balmoral Inn, East High Street (Maclay Export) West End Bar, West High Street (McEwan 70/-)

Monifieth - Royal Hotel, High Street (Lorimer & Clark 70/-)

City of Dundee: Bowbridge, Main Street/Mains Road (Belhaven 80/-) Campbeltown, Hawkhill. (McEwan 80/-) Caw's, Panmure Street (Younger XXPS) Clep, Clepington Road (McEwan 80/-) Davie's, Liff Road, Lochee (McEwan 80/-) Nelson, Nelson Street (McEwan 70/-) North Eastern, Princes Street (Younger XXPS)

Robin Hood, High Street, Lochee (Younger XXPS) Scott's Corner, Dundonald Street/Clepington Street (McEwan 80/-) Speedwell (Mennie's), Perth Road (McEwan 70/-) Tay Bridge, Perth Road (McEwan 80/-) Thomson's, Bell Street (McEwan 70/-) Windmill, Hilltown(McEwan 80/-)

Fife: Dunfermline - Dander Inn, Rumbling Well (Belhaven 60/-) Old Abbey Tavern, Kirkgate (Belhaven 80/-,60/-) Elie - Nineteenth Hole (Younger IPA) Inverkeithing - Volunteer Arms, High Street (Maclay SPA) Kincardine - Bridge, Keith Street (Maclay SPA) Methil - Kirkland (Maclay PA)

Perth & Kinross: Alyth - William Barnes/Airlie Street Bar (Belhaven 70/-) Kinnesswood - Lomond Hotel (Belhaven 80/-, 60/-) Perth - Cherrybank Inn, Glasgow Road (McEwan 70/-) Palace, George Street (Maclay SPA) Waverley Hotel, York Place (Lorimer's 70/-)

Note that Broughty Ferry and Monifieth were part of the City of Dundee at this time, but were treated by the Branch in Guides, and by many locals, as part of Angus.

The Branch area covers between 3,000 and 4,000 square miles, from Kinross in the south to Clova in the north; Kinloch Rannoch in the west to Montrose in the east. The number of pubs and hotels was around 600 - with another 400 in Fife - in the 1970's and remains at about this figure in the 2000's, with between 70 and 80 currently selling real ale. Membership of CAMRA has fluctuated between 80-120, and has always been widely dispersed, despite some concentration in the pop­ulation centres of Dundee and Perth.

The early years of the Branch were busy - especially given the irony of an initial decrease in real ale outlets, mainly in Dundee - with reasonable attendance at meetings and a variety of social activities: discos, home brew tastings, beer exhibitions (as mini-festivals were called), branch outings and meetings with other organisations to spread the word. Visits included a small beer festival at Old Rayne, Aberdeenshire; far-flung pubs in Fife; Maclay's Brewery in Alloa. Speakers were provided for sound Table groups, university clubs, home-brewing circles and similar organisations - invariably with some samples from friendly publicans or brewers.

Research was done for the Good Beer Guide, which included Scotland for the first time in 1975, and also for the Scottish Real Beer Guide which listed all known real ale outlets. While the number of these for our area decreased between the first Scottish Guide's appearance in 1975/76 and the second one in 1976/77, members made a substantial contribution to the editing and production - notably Episcopalian minister Len Black! The cover of the second guide featured the legen­dary Dick Brodie behind the bar in the Fisherman's Tavern, Broughty Ferry - one of only a handful of Scottish pubs to use hand-pump dispense at this time, the majority having tall founts (taps above the bar) with the beer being served by compressed air. This was generated by electric compressor or the increasingly rare water engine.

Despite the fall in numbers of pubs selling cask beer in the middle 1970's, which was part of a national trend to which the growth of CAMRA was a response, there were several welcome developments. The persuasion of Jonathan Stewart of the Ladywell Tavern of the superior­ity of cask to keg or bright beer by members who lunched in his pub was a major breakthrough for the Campaign locally. Jonathan later turned the Shakespeare bar in the Hilltown into a centre of real ale excellence, and today presides over the Fisherman's Tavern, Royal Arch and Mennie's - all regular GBG entries.

In the country, the Brownhills House Hotel near St Andrews brought relief to Town and Gown by introducing the first cask ales in the area for some years, while in Angus, the building of a new pub in a previously dry area - the Fiddlers, Monikie - was followed by a period of expert management by Finlay Duff, later an active CAMRA member, who introduced Maclay's Export and an array of malt whiskies to the pub. Finlay later went on to manage the refurbished Hal o' The Wynd (formerly the Palace Bar) in George Street, Perth, for Maclays, eventually serving the full range of beers, including the rare Old Alloa strong Ale.

The Branch was visited by National Chairman Joe Goodwin in April 1979, the only time it has had such an honour, who addressed a meeting in the Anchor, Broughty Ferry. Joe made a point of visiting every branch in the country and was a popular leader, making his untimely death a few years later all the more tragic.

The first major Branch activity was the running of a beer tent for a cricket tournament at Scone Palace, organised by the Perth Tourist Board as an event to boost local tourism. In May 1979, Branch organis­ation was immaculate, but disastrous weather kept the crowds away - fortunately Tony Wills, then Treasurer, had insisted on wet weather insurance so while no money was made, a crippling loss was avoided. Nonetheless, the evening session was a sight to behold, with the City of Dundee Police Pipe Band and one huge American tourist, plus the cricketers and CAMRA members, doing their best to make up for the lack of visitors!

Liaison with breweries took place regularly, with informal discussions with the S&N rep for Fife producing a surprisingly sympathetic response and a small but steady input of cask McEwan's 80/- Ale into pubs in the region - a big advance in those days, believe it or not. A more up-front relationship was enjoyed with Belhaven, who delivered T-shirts and publicity material with beer on the drays, and hosted a tasting evening in St Andrews University.

In April 1981 a meeting was held in the Hal o' the Wynd to test support for a Perth CAMRA Branch. Shortly afterwards a sub-branch was setup, largely due to the efforts of John Lloyd, later a Perth councillor, with some assistance from members of the licensed trade. Despite considerable efforts by a minority of members, however, lack of interest led the sub-branch to come to an end in late 1983.

There was a reaction to the '70's real ale slump, undoubtedly due at least in part to CAMRA activities, with a surge in the number of outlets in the early-mid '80's, particularly in Dundee. The 1976 Scottish Real Ale Guide had 19 entries for the whole of Tayside and Fife, while that issued in 1984 had 85 for Tayside and North Fife. Given that real ale had suddenly become "fashionable", it was inevit­able that many of these should vanish when the boom was over, but a fair number of publicans realised there was at least a niche market for the product in the area.

The possibility of organising a branch beer festival was investigated during the early '80's, though attempts foundered on problems which were to recur: want of sufficient volunteers and an affordable venue. Meanwhile, beer exhibitions were organised at sites in Broughty Ferry, and members assisted in the running of several Round Table beer fest­ivals in Dundee which Jonathan Stewart helped to set up. Later, the arrival of two CAMRA activists, Nick and Karen Brannan, in the Brechin area led to an attempt to organise a small festival there, in collab­oration with Aberdeen Branch, but to no avail - though they did succ­eed in persuading Robert Stack to put real ale into the Dalhousie Hotel, for a long time the only outlet.

Two pubs were presented with certificates for being in the Good Beer Guide for ten editions in 1984: the Fisherman's Tavern, Broughty Ferry, and the St Thomas Bar, Arbroath. Despite a memorable celebrat­ory party in the latter, it was sold off shortly afterwards and ceased to be an oasis of Maclay's ale.

The big event of the 1980's for the Dundee area was the opening of the Hawkhill Brewery in 1983. With council assistance, this new bus­iness was set up in an industrial unit near the university, with a lease on the former Scout Bar in Temple Lane as a brewery tap. The brewer was Bob Exley, who had earlier established the Buddon Brewery in his garage in Monifieth. Buddon beers were a welcome addition to what was a limited selection of Scottish ales available. They were sold at various times in the British Legion Club, Monifieth; the Lorne Bar, Arbroath; the Fort Bar, Broughty Ferry and the Cyprus Inn, Bridge of Earn, but never achieved real success with the public. Now a range of excellent beers using names associated with the former Dundee brewer Ballingall's was produced at Hawkhill - Old Bally, Bally Light, Bally Witches' Brew - and sold well in the brewery tap, now "Bally's", as well as a number of pubs in Dundee, Perthshire and Angus. Members enjoyed visits to the brewery and did much to promote its products - as well as drinking them in such pubs as the Ladywell Tavern, Tayside Bar, Ship Inn, Broughty Ferry; and the Nortel Leisure Club, Coupar Angus - but major disagreements within the company led to its collapse in 1985.

Other brewery visits were enjoyed by the Branch, notably to Lorimer and Clark's (now Caledonian) where former CAMRA activist Dan Kane was manager, and later to the increasingly successful Harviestoun Brewery run by Ken Brooker at Dollar. A select group was guided by the then chairman on a tour of pubs in the industrially run-down but beer-rich towns of Cleethorpes and Grimsby en route for the 1987 CAMRA AGM in Hull.

The 1990's brought in a period of activism within the Branch with a rush of new blood which increased enthusiasm and energy. An inter­nal newsletter which had been sporadically issued in the past now became a more professional-looking journal: "Tay Ale", financed by adverts from the licensed trade solicited by some of the new activ­ists and with an array of contributions from members and sympathisers. two visits were organised to Harviestoun Brewery, a forty-seater bus being filled on each occasion, and on a more serious note, a group travelled down to a Northern CAMRA Branches meeting in Carlisle. Minibus trips were made to Glen Clova Beer Festivals (assistance was given with organising the first of these) as well as to social even­ings in more remote pubs - Jim Aikman's Kettlebridge Inn was a favour­ite - to familiarise members, who might not otherwise have the chance to visit, with some of the Good Beer Guide candidates.

CAMRA launched the national "Pub Of The Year" (POTY) competition in 1989, and in the year 1990/91 the Branch nominated the Fisherman's Tavern as its first "POTY". This popular pub went on to win the Scottish area of the competition and achieved the distinction of jointly winning the British POTY title - an outstanding accolade for owner and staff. The Fisherman's was chosen for the launch of the Good Beer Guide in Scotland in October 1992, and again in 2003. It was awarded a certificate for 20 and then 30 years in the GBG.

In 1995 a move was made to re-form the Perth sub-branch, the first step towards creating a separate branch. Tom McGregor, a keen new member who felt there was now support for this, arranged a meeting at the Kings Arms, formerly the Hal o' The Wynd, on October 24th.

Over 20 members, old and new, attended and the Sub-branch was again set up. Things looked promising, and proposals were drawn up for a beer festival in the Station Hotel, Perth, the following April. Sadly, Tom McGregor's cancer, which had been in remission, flared up again and he died within days of the festival's opening. Thanks to the organisation of Frank Mills, the Perth Beer Festival went ahead, with solid support from other branches and many "hidden members" who appeared to help.

Attempts had been made previously to organise a beer festival in Dundee, but had proved impossible for a variety of reasons, so while it made no surplus, the 1996 Perth Festival was a boost to the Branch. A further cause for hope was the opening of the Inveralmond Brewery, its first brew -Independence - coming just in time for the second Perth Beer Festival in May 1997, where it was voted Beer of The Festival. This, incidentally, was the first and probably the only beer festival to be held in Church of Scotland premises in St Matthew's Church Hall!

Following the demise of the Hawkhill Brewery, there were various rumours of new micro-breweries starting up in the Branch area, notably by John Alexander, author of "Dundee Pubs Past and Present" and an experienced home-brewer. None of these developed beyond the rumour stage, however, until Chris Tomlinson of the GBG-listed Moulin Inn, by Pit­lochry, announced that a small brewing plant had been installed in outbuildings to the rear of the hotel. The Moulin was already well-known to hillwalkers for the quality of its ales, and now produced a number of house beers, starting with "Rebellion Ale", then moving on to what became the regular range: Moulin Light, Braveheart, Ale of Atholl and Old Remedial. A commemorative beer for Tom Mcgregor, "Tom's Ale", was brewed for the first Perth Beer Festival. The brewery went through a problematical period in the mid-2000's, ironically just after the pub received the Branch Pub Of The Year award in 2003, but the beer is thankfully back on form. The beers are available at the Moulin Inn, the Atholl Arms, Blair Atholl (also owned by Chris), the Tummel Inn, by Loch Tummel, and from time to time in the free trade.

In Dundee, brewing returned late in 1996 with the opening of a brew-pub in an old primary school in Brown Street, near the West Port, by the Firkin chain. The "Freelance and Firkin" took its name from the city's journalistic associations, and brewer Rory Watt produced a range of ales: Front Page, Freelance, Frisket and the regular Firkin strong ale, Dogbolter. Soon Rory moved on, and Ken Duncan became the brewer. A true beer enthusiast, Ken joined CAMRA and served on the committee for a while, in between devising tasty brews and try­ing to educate the Dundee public about beer. A year or so later he was "promoted" by being sent to run a new Firkin pub in Glasgow, but with the takeover of Firkin pubs by Punch Taverns pub-brewing ceased and this job fell through - with benefits for Tayside, as will be seen.

The Inveralmond Brewery, mentioned above, was established by husband and wife team Fergus and Ailish Clark in 1997, the premises in a unit on the Inveralmond Industrial Estate being formally opened by the Lord Provost of Perth on the 14th of May. Unlike some of the earlier would-be brewers whose plans did not come to fruition, Fergus came with brewing and commercial experience, so it was not surprising that the brewery flourished. To the satisfaction of CAMRA members, the couple's persuasive sales technique introduced the beers into many outlets around Perthshire which had not tried cask ales before or for some years, as well as the "usual suspects", and found a growing market. Publicans were fulsome in their praise of the brewery's delivery and back-up service. The brewery team changed and gradually expanded, including the welcome addition of Ken Duncan, late of the Dundee Freelance and Firkin. As well as Independence, Lia Fail, Thrappledouser and Ossian's are regularly produced, with seasonal and occasional beers such as Inkie Pinkie, Sunburst Pilsner, IPA and Brown Ale. "Thrappledouser", incidentally, was launched in July 1998 at the Bridge of Dun Railway Beer Festival, one of several Steam and Beer events in the late '90's supported by Tayside and Aberdeen CAMRA members and Inveralmond staff.

Several Inveralmond ales have won "Beer of the Festival" awards at CAMRA events from Portsmouth to Aberdeen, and Ossian's was voted Champion Beer of Scotland for 2001, the Dan Kane Memorial Quaich being presented to Fergus by CAMRA Scottish Director Ken Davie at the Cherrybank Inn in October of that year. Recently the brewery expanded into adjacent premises, and is going from strength to strength.

The Pub Of The Year (POTY) competition was introduced by CAMRA nationally in the late 1980's, and the Tayside and North Fife Branch started to participate in the early '90's. The award recog­nised long-established and popular hostelries and the contribution of their publicans/managers as well as encouraging newcomers to the real ale scene who were actively promoting cask-conditioned beer. For some years decisions tended to be made by committee members and activists who knew all the contending pubs and hotels, but more recently votes have been taken by a wider number of members and awards have been introduced for three areas of the Branch: City of Dundee, Angus, Perth and Kinross. In some years where there was no obvious candidate, apathy or a split vote, no award was made.

Record of Pubs Of The Year:

1991 Fisherman's Tavern, Broughty Ferry, Dundee.

1992 Morven Hotel, Carnoustie, Angus.

1993 Phoenix Bar, Dundee.

1994 Kettlebridge Inn, Kettlebridge, Fife.

1995 Galleon Bar, Dundee.

1996-98 No award made.

1999 Kettlebridge Inn; Kettlebridge, Fife.

2000 Meadow Arms (Ericht Ale House), Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

2001 Chance Inn, Inverkeilor, Angus.

2002 Cree's Inn, Abernethy, Perthshire.

2003 Moulin Inn, Moulin, by Pitlochry, Perthshire.

2004 Ericht Ale House, Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

2005 Ericht Ale House, Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

2006 Ericht Ale House, Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

Area Awards:

                                         2005                                             2006

Angus                   Caledonian Hotel,Brechin.                 Caledonian Hotel,Brechin.                                                                     .

City of Dundee     Mickey Coyle's                                  Mickey Coyle's.

Perth & Kinross    Ericht Ale House.                               Ericht Ale House.

The Branch history would not be complete without mention of several characters in the licensed trade who so far have been mentioned briefly or not at all.

In Dundee the redoubtable Mrs Mennie of the Speedwell, Dick Brodie of the Fisherman's and Ewart Fraser of the Campbletown were publicans with a commitment to cask beer and traditional pubs who were doing CAMRA's job at the time when-the keg and lager revolution was sweep­ing Scotland and pubs were being gutted and "improved".

Andrew Alwell of the Ship Inn for long kept the best beer in Perth and ensured the pub was in the Good Beer Guide for 17 years up to his retiral in 2002. David Ireland turned the Morven Hotel, Carnoustie, from a run-down private hotel to a centre of excellent beer , capital­ising on its impressive setting to hold a series of highly succesful beer festivals; regrettably his other business commitments led to its downgrading to a bed & breakfast establishment with no public licence. Allan Bannerman re-created the Phoenix in Dundee in an imag­inative and effective reconstruction of a traditional town pub: with manager Jim Ross (who went on to introduce real ale into several other Dundee bars) he brought in a wide and ever-changing range of unusual guest ales before settling for 3-4 favourites of the regulars. Many city centre pubs have tried cask beers but the Phoenix is one that has consistently sold and promoted them.

Jonathan Stewart's contribution has already been noted: a pioneer of cask beer in Dundee; now a newer generation of pub owners and mana­gers - Simon Stansfield of Mickey Coyle's; Eoin Meldrum, the Caledonian Hotel, Brechin; Brian Johnston, Cree's Inn, Abernethy; David Robinson, Belmont Arms, by Meigle - is making a significant contribution by serving quality cask ale. Last but not least, Ken Fraser of the Ericht Ale House deserves special mention for his dedication to the cause of good beer in rural Blairgowrie. The list of POTY awards from the Branch speaks volumes about his achievements; he is one of the regret-ably small number of publicans who care passionately about good beer.

Post Script:

Unfortunately, the loss of Branch Minutes for the first five years prevents full acknowledgement of contributions of campaigning members, but from the writer's memory, the following deserve special mention for their particular efforts (in alphabetical order) .

John Alexander, Richard Bowater, Bert Donaldson, Ray Duncan, David Eggleston, Giles Dove, Don Higson, Jim Hood, Ian Hosie, Alan Kerr, Malcolm Lawson, John Lloyd, Roddy Macleod, Ray McLernon, Frank Mills, Bruce Milne, Andy & Jean Porteous, David Quayle, Stuart Rivers.

Copyright © 2007 Forbes Browne.

Home Page Back
Branch History is currently being reviewed and updated - watch this space.................