While CAMRA is a single industry group, it has a very wide area of campaigning interests. At present campaigns we are actively pursuing include the following:
• Improved competition and choice in the brewing industry
• Preserving the British pub and defending licensees from eviction by pub owners
• Seeking a fairer tax system for smaller brewers
• Seeking fuller information about the beer we drink, such as ingredients labelling
• A fundamental reform of licensing law (for example, all day Sunday opening if the licensee wishes)
• Fighting take-overs and mergers
• Encouraging higher standards of pub design
• Encouraging brewers to produce a wide range of beer styles such as porter, mild and stout, in addition to their bitters
CAMRA saved real ale, it is no exaggeration to say, and as a result saved many independent breweries. No new ale breweries were set up in the UK for the fifty years before we were founded. There are now around 300 new brewers producing real ale, part of a massive real ale revival.
Our membership has increased by 30,000 since 1989 to 50,000 in 1997. The two growth areas in the beer market are for premium lagers and real ales, as we see a more discerning drinker.
We have defeated several brewery take-overs. We were successful in seeing more liberal licensing laws introduced in England, Scotland and Wales. We got the brewers to declare the strengths of their beers, and are close to success in seeing listing of beer ingredients. We campaign against the closure of local pubs or their destruction through refurbishment. For many years we have sought fundamental change in the industry to protect consumer choice. The introduction of a guest real ale in pubs of the national brewers is a victory for fifteen years of campaigning.
How does CAMRA campaign?
They produce a hard-hitting newspaper, “What’s Brewing”, which goes free to our members, the brewery trade and the media. It plays a major role in informing beer drinkers and putting across our views.
The aim is not just to be critical. Through numerous books, guides, awards and presentations, we praise good practice and encourage high standards, whether in brewing, pub cellarmanship, pub design or simply running a good pub. The Great British Beer Festival, The Good Beer Guide, the Champion Beer of Britain Awards and the Pub of the Year are all national in our scope, but our 180 local branches run local festivals and awards, and produce their own local guides.
It is important to realise that CAMRA is a decentralised organisation, and most of its work is done by volunteers at local level, reinforcing national drives.
We campaign against brewery take-overs because they lead to brewery closures, loss of established beers, higher prices and reduced choice. Such campaigns are a good example of the way we go about things. Lively and sometimes controversial campaigns are mounted at local level, with backup from headquarters. MPs, councillors, trade unions, licensees and workers might be involved. Tactics we have used include petitions, threatened boycotts, publicity stunts, marches, laying wreaths outside closed breweries and so forth.
Nationally we will make submissions to the shareholders, and to regulatory authorities such as the Office of Fair Trading and the Monopoly and Mergers Commission, and, for very large mergers, the European Commission.
Regular local beer festivals play a major role not just as fund raisers but also to keep people informed about CAMRA’s work, and the vast range of beers that are still available. This continuous background work has doubtless helped change attitudes towards real ale.
Nationally, the 1989 MMC investigation represents the culmination of years of CAMRA lobbying, on the higher prices charged by the big brewers, on local monopolies and the abuses of power they produce, on pub closures and on a host of restrictive practices. CAMRA has been putting the consumer case forward before, during and after the enquiry, at the highest levels of government.