Welcome to the first Beer Matters of 2015, we hope you had an enjoyable Christmas and the new year so far is being kind to you! We seem to be living in good times for the discerning beer drinker, in our news columns you will read of various new, improved, reopened or reinvented pubs and bars and our growing number of local breweries continuing to be successful – with some of them trying interesting and unusual beers to keep us intrigued and excited – and others consistently producing house staples to a high standard. On the campaigning front things seem to be going our way too thanks to putting across a clear and intelligent argument with one voice – CAMRA itself, it’s members and other organisations with aligned interests. The government finally started to listen on the subject of beer tax and are beginning to make the right noises on Pub Company reform. From our point of view we want to continue to have nice pubs with real ale at affordable prices to visit in the future – however economically having businesses such as pubs open, trading and employing staff makes sense to the government as it generates tax revenue. Another interesting development in 2015 seems to be that the bubble is beginning to burst for Supermarket chains in the race to open convenience stores, so the rate of pubs being turned into such shops may slow down. The concept of Micro-Pubs along with off-licences featuring sampling bars is growing and really capturing the imagination and whilst we have seen some traditional pubs being turned into shops, we have also seen some shops turned into micro-pubs! Perhaps this reflects a cultural shift as to what is wanted from a community pub – more the atmosphere of a local coffee shop where the family can drop in and relax after shopping with something nice both on the beer and the soft drinks front? So, the local beer scene has seemingly never had it so good and it is exciting times to be part of it. Here in Sheffield & District CAMRA (and also in our Dronfield & District sub-branch) we are looking for new people to get involved and volunteer. We need people to help keep our pub database up to date (which powers whatpub.com), we need people to be official brewery liaison officers, we need a new membership secretary and more. The branch AGM is coming up in April and it would be wonderful to get more than the usual old faces on board, shake things up a bit and get everyone passionate about what we do. Of course it isn’t just about doing voluntary jobs – we want more people enjoying the social side too and enjoying beer together and we intend to have lots going on during 2015 including brewery tours, beer tastings and more. Finally, following the success of our new look Steel City Beer & Cider Festival at Kelham Island Industrial Museum last October, we have started planning this years and have provisional dates – 21st to 24th October with set up commencing from Monday 19th and takedown on Sunday 25th. We intend to build on the success of last year with a few tweaks to improve certain areas based on feedback from staff and customers. If you are a CAMRA member and interested in joining the committee that organises the festival, please do come down to the next planning meeting. You do not need to have any experience in organising festivals, just enthusiasm and a willingness to get things done.