History of CAMRA
CAMRA, The Campaign for Real Ale was founded on 16th March 1971 by four young men from the North West whilst on holiday in the West of Ireland. The idea of a campaign to revitalise ale - CAMRA - as the organisation was originally called struck a chord in many people's minds; so much so that soon hundreds, if not thousands of people wanted to join them.
A full time person was appointed; he happened to live in St Albans and two of the founders of CAMRA had also moved down to the area to work in the newspaper industry, so it was naturally that CAMRA should set up shop in the City. The first office was at 94 Victoria Street, in a room above a bike shop. Soon the organisations outgrew its small premises and moved to 34 Alma Road, where it stayed until 1995 when it moved again to purpose built offices in Hatfield Road. Membership has grown from the original four to over 140,000.
CAMRA has a full time staff of over 30 as well as several freelancers based in St Albans. All members get a monthly newspaper called What's Brewing which keeps them up to date with what is happening in the brewing industry and pubs. There are almost 200 branches of CAMRA run by volunteers which bring the Campaign to the local level.
CAMRA campaigns for a fair deal for beer drinkers and pub goers. CAMRA promotes Real ale (or cask-conditioned beer as the brewing industry sometimes calls it). This is beer that has not been filtered or pasteurised but which continues to slowly undergo a secondary fermentation in the cask from which it is served in the pub. The beer therefore has a natural low carbonation which enhances the rich variety of flavours that you can get in the beer as opposed to the bland, fizzy metallic taste of keg beers or the new scurge, smoothflow. Smoothflow uses nitrogen to create the creamy texture which looks so good on the TV but disguises any flavour in the glass. Over four hundred new breweries have opened since CAMRA was founded and it is these breweries which produce some of the most interesting beers available in the UK today.
CAMRA also campaign for pubs and has been instrumental in persuading the government to extend the mandatory rate relief currently enjoyed by village shops and post offices to pubs. Now provided that the pub is the only one in a village of less than 3,000 people and has a rateable value of less than £9,000 then it will be granted a 50% reduction in its business rates. The Government reckons this will benefit 8,200 pubs in England. CAMRA is pressing for similar legislation in Wales and Scotland.
CAMRA has also been pressing for the introduction of a progressive system of excise duty whereby small breweries pay a lower rate of excise duty on the first few thousand barrels of beer they produce. The Treasury announced at this Budget that it was minded to introduce such a scheme.
CAMRA also wants to see a reduction of the full rate of excise duty to nearer that enjoyed on the continent, this will reduce the incentive to smuggle alcohol into the country. Currently 1.5 million pints a day are being brought in by "personal" shoppers two thirds of which are almost certainly sold on illegally. Cutting duty would stop this bootleg trade.
CAMRA also works with the industry to improve the quality of real ale sold in pubs. CAMRA's flagship publication The Good Beer Guide each year lists the 5,000 pubs in the country that CAMRA members think serve the best real ale. Protect your pleasure, join CAMRA today.