The CAMRA 2018 national AGM & Conference and Members’ Weekend took place at the University of Warwick over the weekend of 20-22 April – at the time of writing this was still a couple of weeks away. A theme that dominates the conference this year is the Revitalisation Project which is designed to update CAMRA’s article of association, policies and objectives of an organisation that is over 40 years old to better reflect the modern world and re-enthuse the membership to get involved.
The changes proposed aren’t too dramatic – CAMRA will still be a member-led consumer campaign organisation representing pub goers and promoting the availability of real ale, real cider and real perry. However, with a lot of campaigning these days being more about protecting pubs than saving real ale CAMRA wishes to be seen to represent all pub-goers. It also recognises that pubs are not the only on-trade premises for drinking good beer – for example, as well as clubs there has been a growth in specialist beer shops with tasting counters and brewery tap rooms.
Another change over the years is we no longer have a situation of “real ale is good, all other beer is bad”, with the craft revolution there is so much more in-between with some of the better keg beers basically being real ale but with a higher level of carbonation (of course, not forgetting some craft beer in key keg actually is by definition real ale!). Whilst CAMRA will still be about keeping the real ale tradition alive, it will recognise that what else is out there these days isn’t all terrible!
There are also indications that many CAMRA members want the organisation to offer something of an educational angle, an opportunity to learn more about beer – what is good and bad beer, the different styles available, what flavours to expect, how it is brewed, etc. – basically to enjoy and experience beer with like-minded individuals and understand more about the beers on a bar.
You can read more about what was being proposed nationally at revitalisation.camra.org.uk and the results of the debates and voting at the Members’ Weekend are likely to become available very soon.
Here in Sheffield & District branch we expect to be using inspiration from the Revitalisation project to make some subtle changes that we hope will see more people coming to meetings, attending socials, helping on the committee and generally getting involved. We will be planning a varied social programme for the year ahead and hopefully branch meetings will see some of the less interesting business side of things trimmed off and left for the committee to deal with at their separate meeting and the time used instead to do things like beer tastings and hearing from guest speakers. If you are a local member please get in touch to let us know what you’d like to see us doing as a branch.
What actually is real ale?
In the early 1970s CAMRA coined the term “real ale” for traditional draught cask beers to distinguish them from processed and highly carbonated beers being promoted by big brewers.
CAMRA defines real ale as beer that is produced and stored in the traditional way and ferments in the dispense container to produce a reduction in gravity. It is also dispensed by a system that does not apply any gas or gas mixture to the beer other than by the traditional Scottish air pressure system.
You can read more about this at camra.org.uk/about-real-ale.