The pub that’s all about quality

SLTN Award winner is all about serving the very best pints

The Stag
Top quality: Susan and Kim collect the Beer Quality Award at last year’s SLTN Awards.

QUALITY beer is a cornerstone of the offer at SLTN Award-winning pub The Stag in Forfar.

The team at the family-owned pub, which was acquired by husband and wife Graeme and Susan Campbell five years ago, pride themselves on the quality of pint they serve to their customers, with a thorough regime of line cleaning and cellar management that ensures their draught beer is the very best it can be.

Last year their efforts were recognised when the pub won the SLTN Beer Quality Award, in association with Tennent’s.

“I know we’re doing a really good job – the cellar is kept [very] clean – so it was definitely nice to get,” Susan told SLTN.

“It makes you feel like you’ve achieved something.

“It was so deflating over COVID, having to close, putting all that effort in but folk still weren’t coming out in between (the lockdowns) a lot of the time.

“So to win the award was a lovely boost. It was great.”

To say the pub’s cellar management is comprehensive would be an understatement.

The beer lines are cleaned every week, the process taking several hours, with the cellar itself cleaned top to bottom on a weekly basis and glassware renovated at regular intervals.

Everything is exhaustively documented to ensure consistency.

“There’s notes on everything with boxes to tick,” said Susan.

“We date everything, so whenever the glasses are done, when the pipe cleaning is done – the whole lot’s kept in a folder so we have exact dates when it’s all taken place.

“We always joke that Graeme’s got checklists for checklists.

“Everything gets ticked off as you go down so that it’s the same routine that’s getting used each time.”

The current draught range at The Stag includes biggest seller Tennent’s Lager, Guinness, Heverlee, and Belhaven/Greene King beers Belhaven Best, East Coast IPA and Twisted Thistle.

On the cider front, customers have the choice of Magners Dark Fruits and Orchard Pig.

The commitment to draught isn’t new to The Stag, but it is paying off as customers return to pubs in 2022.

“The bottles aren’t selling anything like what they used to,” said Susan.

“I think people were drinking bottles through COVID and they’re all coming in for pints now.

“I see a huge difference in that. The bottles are sitting quite a while now.”

Aside from its award-winning draught beer, the offer at The Stag includes a restaurant area serving an array of pub staples – and which recently resumed operating seven days a week – an upstairs coffee shop space and a conference/events room with capacity for 40 people.

Live music performances take place in the bar area every fortnight, and the team is in the process of revamping menus and re-establishing an afternoon tea offer that was discontinued during the pandemic.

A small beer garden at the rear of the pub operated under a temporary licence during 2020 and 2021, with a permanent licence having been granted last month.

Acquiring The Stag was a change of direction for both Graeme, who works off-shore, and Susan, a driving instructor. But owning a pub was a long-time ambition of Graeme’s – and The Stag held a special place in both their hearts.

Susan explained: “Graeme’s always wanted something like this, and The Stag was actually where we first met. It was our local place and it was where I first met him.

“When it came up on the market he decided to go and have a look at it and bought it.

“The intention was that he would be finished off-shore by now and back running the pub. But obviously COVID kind of changed the situation, because we were shut but we invested in the pub while we were closed.

“The bathrooms all got done. The bar was all decorated. We bought new furniture.
“It doesn’t come cheap, but it passed the time in COVID.

“It’s looking much better, but other bills all still need paid as well.”

Alongside the Campbells, The Stag team includes manager Kim Henderson, a hospitality veteran who has been with the pub for over three years.

“I’ve got a couple of great members of staff that you’re able to leave the place with,” said Susan.

“I’m in every day at some point doing shifts, but they’re really good at getting on with things.”

And with the summer season underway, Susan was optimistic about trade as locals return to venues and the nearby caravan park fills with visitors.

“It’s just getting everything restarted again,” she said. “I think some things have been slower getting going.”