Real Ale, also known as cask conditioned beer (although is also available from bottles or key-kegs as well as casks!), is traditionally the British way of doing the best, freshest craft beer.
Real Ale is beer that goes through secondary fermentation in the container (cask, bottle etc.) and dispensed without gas being added to the beer. Real Ale in good condition should have a natural sparkle from the secondary fermentation process.
Back in the 1970s real ale was under threat of being discontinued by the few big breweries and replaced by rather poor quality keg beer that was designed to be consistently inoffensive, have a longer shelf-life, be cheaper to make and rely less on the cellarmanship skills of the publicans to deliver the beer how the brewer intended. CAMRA was formed to maintain the drinkers’ choice of quality beer.
CAMRA also formed a group called ‘Apple’ that promotes real traditional cider and perry that is made from nothing more than fermented juice from freshly pressed fruit. This is quite hard to find in pubs compared to real ale although there are a small number of brands such as Westons that can be found nationally in pub chains. Many of the popular and mass produced cider brands are made in an industrial style from concentrate and served fizzy.
Over the years CAMRA has expanded into a successful consumer campaign group for beer drinkers and pub-goers with a membership now around the 170,000 mark. The campaigning priorities now are less to do with availability of good beer (we’ve never had it so good!) and more to do with pubs and the issues that are causing many to close.
Issues now affecting pubs include planning legislation, taxation, the way pub companies with tenanted estates are run, competition from cheap supermarkets and off licences that encourage ‘pre loading’ and more. Check out the national CAMRA website www.camra.org.uk for the latest news on national campaigns.
Although of course, that said, we do celebrate our love of real ale and the heritage behind it still and our volunteers organise beer festivals around the UK showcasing the choice of great real ales available.
If you care about pubs and beer (or cider) do join us, there is a form in the back of Beer Matters or you can join online, and don’t forget we are a very social organisation as well as a campaigning one!