There are ten full branches and one sub-branch within Scotland and Northern Ireland. Each branch has a committee which organises the day to day management of the branch. All of us are volunteers and the more we have the lighter the load on everyone. If you have knowledge or skill that you think may benefit us, please contact your local branch.
Aberdeen, Grampian & Northern Isles branch of CAMRA started off in 1976 with only a handful of members and about the same number of pubs doing real ale. The branch then was simply called the Aberdeen branch. We covered all areas north of Montrose and also were responsible for all the highland area including Inverness and all the way up to Wick and Thurso until the Inverness branch (now Highlands & Western Isles) was formally formed in January 1993. There were so few ale outlets back then with the longest standing outlet being the Red Lion, known locally as ‘The Beastie’, in Forres and also featured in a Broons strip a few years ago in the Sunday Post.
There was no CAMRA run beer festival in the area until we ran our first one in the Cowdray Hall, Aberdeen, in September 1987. Prior to that, we had assisted at privately run ones at the Lodge Hotel, Old Rayne in the late 70s and at the Udny Arms, Newburgh in 1980. We also ran bars in conjunction with the Council at various Real Ale and Jazz, Folk and Country events at the Beach Ballroom. In fact, at one of these events we sold a whole barrel (288 pints) of Timothy Taylor Landlord, probably the first time this beer had been sold in the North East. Also, we sold a kil (144 pints) of the first and, sadly, the last brew of Leith 85/-. Also a couple were also ran in conjunction with the Douglas Hotel in Market Street.
Eventually we secured the use of the Cowdray Hall in 1987 and 1988 to run our first two of many beer festivals. In 1989, we moved to the McClymont hall in Holburn Street and ran 18 festivals in November there, establishing the festival as a regular event. We moved to the Dick Donald Stand at Pittodrie stadium in November 2008. This proved to be a very chilly event (for beer and drinkers!) and we moved the festival in 2009 to its now regular late May/early June slot. This meant that the climate was better suited to drinking in a large barn of an area and also meant that our dates were not determined by the football fixture dates.
In April 1989, we hosted the first National CAMRA AGM to be held in Scotland and that was held at the Arts Lecture Theatre on the University campus. This did wonders for real ale in Aberdeen due to the hundreds of drinkers from all over Britain attending the weekend. The AGM and Conference has since been held in Scotland 3 times, twice in Edinburgh and once in Glasgow. In the same year, the Boars Head at Kinmuck won the inaugural national Pub Of the Year (called POTY) under the ownership of Stuart Singer who is now mine host at the constant Good Beer Guide entry Redgarth in Oldmeldrum. Sadly, the Boars Head does not sell real ale anymore and I was advised recently that it is now an Indian Restaurant!
Every year, we have a branch trip to present the Beer of the Festival certificate to the winning brewery. The last two years have seen us have a trip to Cromarty, as it is the first brewery to have won two consecutive years. Previous trips have seen us visit Dark Star, Durham Massey and Fyne Ales. Who know where we will travel to after the 2014 festival, it is in the hands (and taste buds) of the festival drinkers. We also have a member who has a 1979 Leyland Atlantean double decker bus which once travelled the streets of Aberdeen in the Green and Cream livery of Grampian Transport. We hope to be able to utilise that for a future social trip into the depths of the countryside. We last used it to go to the launch of the Old Foreigner brewery at the Glenkindie Arms, sadly no longer in operation as a brewery or a pub. Perhaps it is a bad omen!
Originally, known as Ayrshire & Galloway with Kirkcudbrightshire also part of our branch. A few years ago, Dumfries & Stewartry branch was formed and they took over the eastern part of Galloway and our branch was renamed Ayrshire & Wigtownshire.
Our branch newsletter, Full Pints, first posted in 2002 to all 120 branch members, was just that, a letter to members. By 2004 an 8 page Full Pints was first made available to the public by being distributed to all local real ale outlets. Since then it has developed into a full colour quarterly magazine which is well supported by our advertisers. Each issue, approximately 2000 copies, is distributed via our real ale outlets. In addition, an interactive digital version is available to all, on our website, our Facebook page and also through Twitter.
In recent years, Full Pints has been recognised nationally as first rate publication. In 2012, it was named CAMRA’s “Most Improved Magazine” and in 2016 and 2018 it was accorded the title, CAMRA National Magazine of the Year.
Ayrshire Real Ale Festival
Our beer festival, held annually during the first weekend in October is now in its 19th year. In recent years, it has expanded in area covering not only the Concert Hall in Troon but also the Walker Hall along a short corridor. We offer in excess of 150 real ales sourced from all parts of the UK as well as a healthy selection of ciders and perries.
There are four breweries each producing cask conditioned ale within our branch area. Ayr Brewing Company in Ayr, Arran Brewery in Brodick, Portpatrick Brewery near Portpatrick and Five Kingdoms in the Isle of Whithorn.
Over the years, we have developed a range of activities beyond running the beer festival, producing the magazine and surveying pubs for the Good Beer Guide. These include festive pub crawls; day trips to breweries; combined survey and social trips to Arran and Galloway
We have also established four area social groups in North, South and East Ayrshire as well as Wigtownshire which has greatly increased social activities within the branch, introduced a good number of new members and increased activation amongst members.
To visit the branch website click here.
To visit the branch Facebook page click here.
To visit the festival website click here.
To visit the festival Facebook page click here.
To visit the branch Twitter page click here.
Dumfries and Stewartry is a sub branch of the neighbouring Solway branch and currently has over 120 members. We cover a large geographical area of South West Scotland, with many scattered villages and towns extending from Langholm, Canonbie, Gretna and Annan in the east, west to the towns of Kirkcudbright, New Galloway and St John’s Town of Dalry, north to Sanquhar, Wanlockhead and Moffat and South to Castle Douglas and the Solway coastal towns of Kippford and Carsethorn. Neighbouring branches are Ayrshire & Wigtownshire, Glasgow & West of Scotland, Edinburgh & South-East Scotland and Solway.
The Edinburgh & South East Scotland branch of CAMRA was the second branch to be formed in Scotland, in the latter part of 1975, and shortly after the Glasgow & West of Scotland branch. At the time of the branch formation there were only a small number of real ale outlets known to the branch membership. At the last count there are about 330. Right from the beginning CAMRA meetings of various kinds were held throughout the branch area. Like many other branches in Scotland our branch has always faced the challenge of dealing with a geographically large area, though also with the advantage of having the Scottish Capital within the branch area.
The City of Edinburgh is the area of highest population density within the branch and has proved to be particularly receptive to the expansion of real ale. Added to this are a number of high quality outlets in the Lothians and Borders, including one former winner of UK CAMRA Pub of the Year. The branch area’s nature as an attraction for many visitors, together with the opportunities for employment in a number of professional areas of work, has resulted in a number of outlets willing to innovate. One of the consequences of this is the large number of pubs, bars and hotels in the branch area that that have become a welcoming home for a large range of real ales from Scottish micro-breweries, as well as from further afield.
In the nineteenth century Edinburgh was one of the main centres of brewing in the United Kingdom. These days only one of the long serving breweries remains and that is the Caledonian Brewery. The other traditional brewery of significant size is at Dunbar, Belhaven Brewery, and there is also the revived historic brewery at Traquair House. There are now a number of micro breweries within the branch area including Broughton Ales at Broughton, Stewart Brewing at Loanhead, Tempest at Kelso, Scottish Borders Brewery at Lanton Mill, Jedburgh, Alechemy at Livingston, Barney’s at Summerhall, Edinburgh and DemonBrew at Prestonpans.
As mentioned previously the branch covers a wide geographical area, from the Firth of Forth to the Scottish border. From the beginning the branch has sought to keep in touch with its widely spread membership, not only by meetings of various kinds but also by using regularly produced members newsletters such as CAMRA Calling or magazines aimed at a larger readership such as the twice yearly free magazine Pints of View. These days communications are further enhanced by an active branch web site, which includes a well used pub finder, and more recently, both a Facebook page and a Twitter account (@CAMRA_Edinburgh). Last year the branch marked the signing up of its one thousandth member,so it is probably as well that the entire branch membership does not attend the same meeting at the same pub at the same time.
The meetings themselves range from regular formal branch meetings and monthly committee meetings to two-pubs socials, and various one-off activities such as a skittles evening, new members evening and trips outside the branch area. The active membership is also kept busy throughout the year carrying out regular pub / beer inspections for the Good Beer Guide and other CAMRA publications, together with the need to keep the branch pubs information up to date. The membership also distributes Pints of View to a large number of outlets.
Forth Valley Branch was formed in September 1976 and founder members were Jim Watson from Polmont and Geoff Ainslie from Stirling amongst others. At the time the only breweries in the branch area were Maclays and Ind Coope Alloa brewery, both in Alloa and unfortunately now closed. Today the branch has eight breweries within its boundaries, with another in planning.
Stirling Real Ale Festival, the first run by the branch, started in 1980 and ran for ten years. Encouraged by the local council, Alloa Real Ale Festival started in May 1988 but run out of steam after 21 years in 2008. However, an Alloa Winter Ale Festival started in October 1992 and is still going strong today. Occasional beer festivals were run in conjunction with the Four Mary’s, Linlithgow until the Forrest’s took over the organising, running two festivals a year, until their leaving the pub in summer 2014. Looking for something to replace the Alloa ‘Mayfest’ the branch looked to an area devoid of real ale pubs but with its own brewery, Larbert. In 2009 Larbert Real Ale Festival was born in the Dobbie Hall and continues today. There is now a thriving real ale pub in Larbert so success.
In conjunction with CAMRA’s Mild in May campaign, a Mild Trail by Rail was started in 2011 along the Linlithgow – Dunblane rail line. Return tickets allow for break of journey, on the return leg, with those making the trip taking full advantage with pubs close to Dunblane, Bridge of Allan, Stirling, Larbert, Falkirk and Linlithgow having milds on tap. The Mild Trail fits in well with CAMRA’s Support Your Community Pub Campaign.
The first branch newsletter ‘BeerLines’ was issued in autumn 1984 and is still going strong as ‘Firkin Forth Valley’. In conjunction with that, a Real Ale Guide to Forth Valley was published in the late 80s, revised during the 90s. Outlet lists are now incorporated in the branch magazine.
The Glasgow & West Scotland Branch was the first to be formed in Scotland nearly 40 years ago, and like several other Scottish branches covers both an area of high population and a huge area of almost nil population with scattered settlements many of which has a real ale presence. This provides great logistical planning in organising visits, some pubs will require a bus, train, ferry and another bus and possibly an overnight stay! From where I write this piece one of our favourite pubs is a mere 8 miles away as the ptarmigan flies yet it is 50 miles by road.
Glasgow is the centre of the real ale world for the branch and there are a handful of stand out pubs plus about a hundred others that are swimming against the tide of the lager that I will not name. When you visit Lanarkshire many of the towns will just have one real ale pub, thank you Wetherspoons for creating these oases in a vast real ale desert. Further afield the branch covers Argyll from Glencoe down to Campbeltown, the Inner Hebrides and Dunbartonshire. Trips of 600 miles are not unknown over a long weekend to take in our remote pubs.
Like much of the brewing industry the branch has seen an explosion of micro breweries in the last twenty years, and whilst the number of brewers is low, their longevity is testament to their innovative and award winning brews. They are tucked away in industrial estates, down farm tracks, up mountain glens and behind pubs, each run by dedicated small teams.
The branch has an eclectic membership which provides lively debate about any subject, just talking about beer would be boring. We have seen an increasing number of younger members getting involved and our presence on Twitter and Facebook has reflected this, however we still have a fully interactive website (www.glasgowcamra.org.uk) which provides up to date information about what’s going on.
In the beginning the whole of the north of Scotland was run from Aberdeen, until 21st November 1992 when a meeting was held in The Phoenix in Inverness chaired by the Scottish Regional Director, George Howie. It was thought that there was enough interest to form a separate Branch. On 8th January 1993, at another meeting at The Phoenix, The Inverness and Highlands Branch was formed, initially as a Sub Branch of Aberdeen. The Committee voted in was Chair; Bill Tring, Secretary; Gareth Nicholas, Treasurer; Ann Johnson and Membership Secretary; Simon Thomson. The area of the Branch was Highlands and Islands, less Orkney (only brewery in area) and Shetland which Aberdeen wanted to keep; and Fort William, Onich and Glencoe which Glasgow were loath to let go.
During the first year we hosted a Scottish Branches meeting in Gellions and ran a Real Ale Festival at Boat of Garten in one of the carriages of the Strathspey Steam Railway. We also organised the first of the now regular, Marymas Fayre beer tents, in the Northern Meeting Park up until the final event in 2011.
At a CAMRA meeting in Derby in October 93 we were given full Branch status. At the time of our formation there were very few real ale outlets and no breweries. As time went on the Fort William and Onich area was released to us but Glasgow kept Glencoe. In November 2005, due to more pubs and breweries reaching most of our Branch area, our Branch name was changed to Highlands and Western Isles.
In 2010 the Branch is still run by a small committee, although the faces have changed. We have reached 230 members, spread over the whole area. Nearly 200 outlets sell real ale and because we have sufficient top quality outlets, we put our full allocated 34 into the Good Beer Guide. The Breweries still working are Isle of Skye, Black Isle, Cairngorm, Hebridean, An Teallach, Cuillin, Plockton, Glenfinnan, Old Inn, Cromarty and Loch Ness and most have grown in size to cope with demand.
We have an excellent quarterly Newsletter and web site which give locals and visitors an insight into our Branch, a list of real ale outlets, breweries and diary information.
To visit the branch website click here
In days of old when knights were bold etc, The Kingdom of Fife did not really register much of a blip on the CAMRA radar. This was probably due to the fact that there were so few outlets or members in the area. The south of the county, roughly from the bridges to the Kirkcaldy/Glenrothes area, was administered by the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland branch with the north and parts of the west being run by Tayside branch.
Eventually a few of us started going to the odd Edinburgh branch meeting where it was decided that we would start to survey pubs and deliver Pints of View, the Edinburgh magazine, to outlets in South Fife. Obviously, covering such a huge area, Edinburgh were quite happy about this. The main names involved in these years were Matt Bald, who would go on to become first sub-branch chairman, Steve Darby the first secretary and Jim and Ewan Brande who would both hold various positions and are still active members.
After a couple of years it was decided to set up a South Fife Sub-Branch as we had awoken interest among more publicans and drinkers in the area. This proved to be a success, and, after further meetings with Tayside branch an autonomous Kingdom of Fife Branch was born as the north and south of the county were finally merged.
In 2001 at a meeting in the Whey Pat Tavern in St. Andrews full branch status was ratified by George Howie then S.N.I.B director.
The first branch chair was Ken Davie, now on the National Executive with Martin Butler as secretary.
Since then the branch has gone from strength to strength and our inaugural beer festival was held in the Rothes Halls in Glenrothes in 1999. As I write this we are but two weeks away from our 16th. We also provide equipment, expertise and staff for various other Festivals in the branch area and have before now lent handpumps etc to landlords willing to try ales for the first time.
We now also have six pubs in Fife selling real cider all achieved in the last three years.
We now have six breweries in the Kingdom compared to none when we began and we now hold a Champion Beer of Fife at our Festival. We currently have some seventy pubs selling real ale in the fife area, and the branch has grown to over three hundred members. Fife pubs have been well represented in the SPOTY competition and have claimed the title on three occasions, The Albert Tavern in Freuchie (twice) and The Harbour Bar in Kirkcaldy with each of them going through to the final stages of the National competition.
The inaugural AGM was held in Hilden Brewery on 17th October 1981 as the 1st ever brew of Hilden ale was fermenting in the adjoining brew house. Early years were taken up by consolidating the branch and running real ale beer tents during garden shows and similar events.
For some years the branch held their monthly meetings in a single pub, the Linenhall, in Belfast as the choice of real ale pubs throughout the city as well as the entire country was extremely limited.
During the early to mid1980s both Down Royal Brewery, situated near the town of Lisburn, accompanied Hilden for a very brief period and the north coast situated Herald Brewery, which added to the choice of real ale drinkers for a few years. Whitewater Brewery was formed in 1995 and there are around a dozen micro and/or nano breweries operating in NI.
A duopoly of Bass and Guinness carved up the licensing trade and hindered the workings of the branch but, before its demise leading to a Guinness monopoly, Bass accommodated the branch by “importing” portfolio ales like Draught Bass and Heriot’s 80/- to the Crown Bar in Belfast.
For a number of years the NI branch was part of the general “offshore islands” area, which included the IOM and Channel Islands, but this changed when branches were reorganised and NI was grouped with the Scottish regions. Over the ensuing years NI members have been active participants in SNIB meetings all over Scotland, attended beer festivals in Troon and Paisley and worked at SRAF, NWAF, and, of course, GBBF.
In 1995, the branch hosted its 1st Belfast Beer Festival and a number of festivals followed before a slight hiatus circa 1998/99; but the branch was soon back on its feet again and now enjoys a membership which hovers around 300. A members-only branch newsletter, “Beer & Banter”, was initially produced in-house but this has now been superseded by “The Ulster Ale”, a quarterly, professionally printed, magazine delivered to real ale pubs in NI and with a readership of over 3000.
Regular visits to breweries, remote pubs and local pubs’ beer festivals are held and “rail ale” trips by train are arranged, as are the myriad of different branch socials and an annual branch visit to cities on the mainland.
The Renfrewshire branch stretches from Inverkip to Busby, and from Erskine to Eaglesham and has a wide range of real ale pubs from traditional rural pubs right through to modern bars. The first ever meeting of CAMRA in Scotland was held in the Renfrewshire branch area in the sadly long deceased Golf Inn in Bishopton.
At the heart of the branch is Paisley, which may be most known for its weaving heritage and the world famous Paisley Pattern, but it has also got a very deserved reputation of hosting the biggest (and best!!) beer festival in Scotland which is now in its 28th year and just seems to grow and get more popular each year.
One of the most notable events in the beer festival history was back in its second year. Saturday 16th May 1987 was the day ‘The Saints’ brought the Scottish Cup back to the town hall – what a night that was!!..To honour their achievement St Mirren F.C was enrolled as a life member of CAMRA – possibly still the only football team to have this status.
There are two breweries in the branch area: Kelburn Brewing Co based in Barrhead and Jaw Brewing who are located in Hillington.
Tayside branch covers Dundee, Angus, and all of Perthshire & Kinross-shire – an area of approx 3,000 sq. miles. We have over 250 members, about 15 to 20 being active… enough to enable interesting bus-trips to be arranged from time to time, visiting some of the 110+ real ale establishments in the region. We hold monthly meetings, and produce the magazine Hooked on Ale twice a year. There are currently 15 breweries in the area, from small Craft Breweries like Abernyte Brewery right up to Innis & Gunn / Inveralmond.