The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, May 03, 2019
Jam, jute and journalism and, for one weekend only, the centre of the beer drinking scene.
We were off to Dundee for the national AGM of the Campaign for Real Ale, and though it seems a long way to go to debate burning issues such as whether the Good Beer Guide should include a symbol for beer delivered with a cask breather (it shouldn’t) or whether we should support minimum pricing for alcohol in England (we shouldn’t) I did have other things on my agenda.
The timing allowed a stop at Gigg Lane to witness a heavy home defeat for the Shakers and a chance to see a game at St Johnstone in Perth on a bitterly cold Wednesday evening.
It also allowed us to explore one of the few cities in the country I don’t really know. My previous experience was limited to a 20-minute stop at the shopping centre many years ago where I was awarded a free cup of coffee for being able to answer the question of the day, ‘which is the only country in Europe with a zero-birth rate?’ *
Things have moved on since then, with the newest attraction, a branch of the V&A museum which presents an impressive sight on the waterfront.
Inside it was a disappointment, being more café than culture, as between special exhibitions there is really only one large room of objects on display.
However, next door is the wonderful Discovery Point, a museum built around the Polar expedition ship Discovery, which carried both Scott and Shackleton to the Antarctic around a decade before their most famous trips.
In terms of pubs and beer, Dundee was also a disappointment, with only around half a dozen bars selling cask beer within walking distance, and predictably the thousand or so delegates pretty much drunk them dry.
Anticipating this we took a train, or rather a taxi which replaced the rail replacement bus, around five miles down the coast to Broughty Ferry, a lovely little town.
Despite the harsh Scottish accent in this part of the world, the people were great and the hotel we stayed in was one of the best.
On Friday the Aberdeen football team checked in and I am glad to say that my assurances of an easy game for them against Dundee were prescient.
We bunked off the conference on Saturday afternoon and climbed the steep hill past the former jute mills to Dens Park to see our new buddies triumphant.
In town the statues of cartoon characters such as Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx were fun, though their creators DC Thompson have just made one of my friends redundant after taking over the magazine that he edited.
He had tasked us to go and boo at their headquarters, which we accomplished with only a mild admonishment from the security guard.
There were a few pubs worth seeing, such as the Taybridge with its memories of the disaster which may well have claimed the life of our own Fred Savage if he had not missed his connection at Peterborough, but outside of the CAMRA beer festival, not much beer worth drinking.
We met old friends and potentially made new ones such as the two ladies in the Fisherman’s, though perhaps not if the Bar Wife has any say in the matter.
So, was it worth the trip? On balance, yes, although if I was a first-time visitor north of the border, Dundee would not be top of the list.
Next year, the decision should be easier, with the venue due to be York. See you there.