The Campaign for Real Ale
CAMRA campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights. We are an independent, voluntary organisation with over 145,000 members, and have been described as the most successful consumer group in Europe. CAMRA promotes good-quality real ale and pubs, as well as acting as the consumer’s champion in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry. We aim to:
- Protect and improve consumer rights
- Promote quality, choice and value for money
- Support the public house as a focus of community life
- Campaign for greater appreciation of traditional beers, ciders and perries as part of our national heritage and culture
- Seek improvements in all licensed premises and throughout the brewing industry
Why not join us today if you care about great quality real ale and pubs?
What is CAMRA? CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is an independent, voluntary, consumer organisation which campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights.
CAMRA is governed by a voluntary unpaid national executive, elected by the membership. We have a branch structure which means that all members can join a local CAMRA branch and campaign and socialise locally. There are around 200 branches covering the UK and many of the branches run local beer festivals, publish local newsletters and run social events to pubs and breweries.
Although we are a volunteer-led organisation there is also a small professional staff of twenty five responsible for central campaigning, research, membership services, publishing, marketing and administration.
CAMRA is financed through membership subscriptions, sales of products such as books and sweatshirts, and from the proceeds of beer festivals. We are a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee and our accounts are lodged annually with Companies House.
How CAMRA started
CAMRA was founded in the most Westerly pub in Europe – Kruger’s Bar in Dunquin, Co Kerry, when four young men from the north west of England, Michael Hardman, Graham Lees, Bill Mellor and Jim Makin were on holiday. Fed up the increasing bad quality of beer in Britain that was too fizzy, no character and no taste they decided to form a Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale.
A year after the founding the first AGM was held at The Rose Inn, Nuneaton; and membership started to grow. Articles by the late Richard Boston in the Guardian (Boston on Beer) boosted membership when Richard happened to mention the fledgling organisation CAMRA.
In 1973 to make the Campaign’s name easier to say it was changed to the Campaign for Real Ale.
CAMRA is the most successful single issue consumer campaign group in Britain. If CAMRA had not been formed to save real ale then this classic, great-tasting British drink would have become extinct. Since its formation in 1971 CAMRA has achieved the following:
- In the 1970’s CAMRA successfully fought the efforts of the big brewers to replace traditional ales with tasteless keg beers.
- In the 1980’s CAMRA lobbied against the lack of choice in Britain’s pubs. In 1989 the Government responded with wide reaching reforms called the Beer Orders. The Beer Orders forced the big six brewers to sell or free from the tie over 11,000 as well as introducing the Guest Beer provision.
- In the 1990’s CAMRA actively encouraged and supported real ale resurgence. During the decade CAMRA thwarted efforts by the EU Commission to abolish Britain’s Guest Beer provision.
- Since 2000 CAMRA has succeeded in campaigning for the:
- Extension of mandatory rate relief to public houses
- Reform of the outdated licensing laws in England and Wales leading to a more flexible licensing system
- Introduction of reduced excise duty for small brewers which means that small brewers are able to compete on a more level playing field with the large brewers
- CAMRA has run literally thousands of initiatives to promote and safeguard real ale and pubs including staging beer festivals, publishing books and guides, running National Pubs Week and the Saving Your Local Pub which was launched by Prince Charles, producing a generic beer campaign, holding regular promotions for endangered beer styles and cider, producing national and regional inventories for pubs with interiors of historical signicance and much more.
How does CAMRA campaign?
CAMRA campaigns nationally, regionally and locally to achieve our aims.
Through numerous books, guides, awards and presentations, we reward good practice and encourage high standards, whether in brewing, pub cellarmanship, pub design or simply running a good pub. The Great British Beer Festival, the Good Beer Guide, the Champion Beer of Britain Awards and the Pub of the Year are all national in our scope, but our 180 local branches run local festivals and awards, and produce their own local guides.
CAMRA campaigns against all brewery take-overs because they lead to brewery closures, loss of established beers, higher prices and reduced choice. We also campaign when good pubs are threatened with closure because of the impact this will have on the local community. According to our most recent research around 56 pubs close around the UK every month. Lively campaigns are mounted at local level, with backup from our national headquarters and MPs, councillors, trade unions, licensees and workers often also become involved. Tactics we have used include petitions (including online petitions), threatened boycotts and lobbying at both national and local levels.
Nationally we will make submissions to the shareholders when a brewery is threatened with closure, and to regulatory authorities such as the Office of Fair Trading and the Monopoly and Mergers Commission, and, for very large mergers, the European Commission.
We produce a hard-hitting newspaper, “What’s Brewing”, which goes free to our members, the brewery trade and the media. It plays a major role in informing beer drinkers and putting across our views. CAMRA branches also use meetings, local newsletters and local websites to inform members about developments in their area.
Regular local beer festivals play a major role not just as fund raisers but also to keep people informed about CAMRA’s work, and the vast range of beers that are still available. This continuous background work has doubtless helped change attitudes towards real ale.