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Logo of CAMRA
|192,289 (as of 5th December 2019)|
National Chairman / Chief Executive
|Nik Antona / Tom Stainer|
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is an independent voluntary consumer organisation headquartered in St Albans, England, which promotes real ale, real cider and the traditional British pub. With over 192,000 members, it is now the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK, and is a founding member of the European Beer Consumers Union (EBCU).
The organisation was founded on 16 March 1971 in Kruger's bar in Dunquin, Kerry, Ireland by Michael Hardman, Graham Lees, Jim Makin, and Bill Mellor, who were opposed to the growing mass production of beer and the homogenisation of the British brewing industry. The original name was the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale. Following the formation of the Campaign, the first annual general meeting took place in 1972, at the Rose Inn in Coton Road, Nuneaton. Early membership consisted of the four founders and their friends. Yet interest in CAMRA and its objectives spread rapidly, with 5,000 members signed up by 1973. Other early influential members included Christopher Hutt, author of Death of the English Pub, who succeeded Hardman as chairman, Frank Baillie, author of The Beer Drinker's Companion, and later the many times Good Beer Guide editor, Roger Protz.
On 31 March 2016, founder Michael Hardman returned to chair a Revitalisation Project Steering Group. The aim of the Revitalisation Project was to review the organisation's purpose and future direction. Consultation meetings took place in the spring and summer of 2016, and further discussion took place at the Bournemouth AGM and Conference in spring 2017 leading to possible refinement of proposals then subject to a final vote of all members at spring 2018's AGM and Conference. At that 2018 meeting, all but one of the proposed special resolutions were passed by voting, which all members could participate in. The failed special resolution related to a proposal for the Campaign to act as the voice and represent the interests of all pub-goers and beer, cider and perry drinkers.
CAMRA's stated aims are:
CAMRA's campaigns include promoting small brewing and pub businesses, reforming licensing laws, reducing tax on beer, and stopping continued consolidation among local British brewers. It also makes an effort to promote less common varieties of beer, including stout, porter, and mild, as well as traditional cider and perry.
CAMRA does not support the promotion and sale of keg based craft beer in the UK. CAMRA's Internal Policy document states that real ale can only be served without the use of additional carbonation. This policy means that "any beer brand which is produced in both cask and keg versions" is not admitted to CAMRA festivals if the brewery's marketing is deemed to imply an equivalence of quality or character between the two versions.
In 2009, CAMRA announced that it had reached the 100,000 members mark and subsequently went on to pass the 150,000 members mark in 2013. Member benefits include a monthly newspaper, What's Brewing and a quarterly BEER magazine, and free or reduced price admission to CAMRA-organised beer festivals. In recent times CAMRA has obtained benefits for its members from some commercial organisations and increasingly some licensed premises offer members price reductions on real ale (and sometimes cider and perry).
CAMRA is organised on a federal basis, with numerous independent local branches, each covering a particular geographical area of the UK, that contribute to the central body of the organisation based in St Albans. It is governed by a voluntary unpaid national executive, elected by the membership. The local branches are grouped into 16 regions across the UK, such as the West Midlands or Wessex.
CAMRA publishes the Good Beer Guide, an annually compiled directory of its recommended pubs and brewers; the Good Cider Guide, an occasionally compiled directory of pubs that sell cider; and the Good Bottled Beer Guide, an occasionally compiled review of real ale in a bottle. CAMRA members receive a monthly newspaper called What's Brewing and a quarterly colour magazine called Beer. It also runs the Great British Beer Festival, a yearly event held in London at which a large selection of cask ales and ciders are tasted. It also maintains a National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors to help bring greater recognition and protection to Britain's most historic pubs. In 2013 CAMRA launched public access to a national pub database website called Whatpub.com.
CAMRA supports and promotes beer and cider festivals around the country, which are organised by local CAMRA branches. Generally, each festival charges an entry fee which either covers entry only or also includes a commemorative glass showing the details of the festival. A festival programme is usually also provided, with a list and description of the drinks available. Members often get discounted or free entrance to CAMRA festivals.
The Campaign also organises the annual Great British Beer Festival in August. It is now held in the Great, National & West Halls at the Olympia Exhibition Centre, in Kensington, London, having been held for a few years at Earl's Court as well as regionally in the past at venues such as Brighton and Leeds.
CAMRA presents awards for beers and pubs, such as the National Pub of the Year, in which approximately 4,000 active CAMRA members from 200 local branches vote for their favourite pub of the year. The branch winners are entered into 16 regional competitions which are then visited by several individuals who select the ones they like best. There are also the Pub Design Awards, which are held in association with English Heritage and the Victorian Society. These comprise several categories, including new build, refurbished and converted pubs. The best known CAMRA award is the Champion Beer of Britain, which is selected at the Great British Beer Festival, other awards include the Champion Beer of Scotland and the Champion Beer of Wales.
CAMRA developed the National Beer Scoring Scheme (NBSS) as an easy to use scheme for judging beer quality in pubs, to assist CAMRA branches in selecting pubs for the Good Beer Guide. The person filling in the form records their name, date, the pub, the beer and the score. CAMRA members may also input their beer scores on line via the CAMRA website Whatpub.com.
The group maintains two inventories of Heritage pubs, the National Inventory (NI), which contains only those pubs that have been maintained in their original condition (or have been modified very little) for at least thirty years, but usually since at least World War II. The second, larger, inventory is the Regional Inventory (RI), which is broken down by county and contains both those pubs listed in the NI and other pubs that are not eligible for the NI, for reasons such as having been overly modified, but are still considered historically important, or have particular architectural value.
The NI contains 289 pubs as of June 2009.
The LocAle scheme was launched in 2007 to promote locally brewed beers. The scheme functions slightly differently in each area, and is managed by each branch, but each is similar: if the beer is to be promoted as a LocAle it must come from a brewery within a predetermined number of miles set by each CAMRA branch, generally around 20,  although the North London branch has set it at 30 miles from brewery to pub, even if it comes from a distribution centre further away; in addition, each participating pub must keep at least one LocAle for sale at all times.