(Lining 'em up at the 2011 Great British Beer Festival , Earls Court , London)
40 years ago, well before the era of social media, one of Britain’s most influential consumer organisations was born. (For up to the minute news and TWITTER alerts follow @gbbf @realalelive @wbandbeer and on your MP3 player- gbbf.camra.org.uk/beercasts)
CAMRA – the campaign for real ale. www.camra.org.uk CAMRA is a not-for-profit, independent, voluntary body that exists to promote and defend access to full-flavoured and distinctive beer and the best features of the British pub. The membership is made up of individuals and currently stands at 125,000.
Real ale is a top-fermented beer that, following fermentation, is put into a cask with yeast and some residual fermentable sugars from the malted barley.
The beer undergoes a secondary fermentation in the cask to produce a gentle carbonation.
CAMRA believes that
beer which is still “live” in the cask has not been filtered or pasteurised , is naturally carbonated by secondary fermentation, has been well looked after and is and is served without the use of additional gas such as nitrogen or carbon oxide, is about as good as you get.
( The crusty pie company
CAMRA’s campaigning continues at a pace in its 41th year. CAMRA have serous lobbying clout. Following a letter to Prime Minister Cameron in October led to appointment of Bob Neill as minister for pubs. They meet with Government such as James Brokenshire on licence.
Campaigning has led to the Prime Minister to deliver a “ pub friendly government”. During February CAMRA launched charters for Welsh & Scottish elections support from election candidates by May securing support from 24 new Welsh Assembly members and 13 Scottish MSPs.
As the consumer champion CAMRA has been taking on the big pub companies. Their campaigns go beyond the simple consumer end of the market but also the supply chain and distribution chain. These big companies ban tenants buying beer on the open market and instead force them to pay inflated prices. The result is that many tenants with large companies make less than 10p profit per pint sold.
Over the last three years duty has risen by 35% and VAT has increased from 17.5% to 20%. Despite these increases government revenues have remained static because people are abandoning pubs in order to drink cheap supermarket alcohol at home on which much less VAT is payable.
( CAMRA's current campaign to lobby the Chancellor George Osborne)
(Recent converts to the real ale cause. Two recently qualified graduates from Imperial College , London - one a biochemist ,one a chemical engineer)
The result of CAMRA’s enthusiasm for support real ale has played an important part in the thousands of real ales from 800 brewers in the UK. Styles of beers include Bitter, Porter, Mild, Stout, Golden Ales and bottle-conditioned beer.
At this year’s GBBF there are 700 real ales, ciders and perries to choose from.
As a first time visitor to the festival one is immersed into a community of enthusiasts of all ages and sizes!
There plenty of CAMRA stewards to ask for advice as to what beers to try.
There were novices like me who like a just ‘nice pint and a chat’ to folk who have encyclopedic knowledge of beers and sophisticated palates of connoisseurs whose vocabulary of tasting notes descriptions is mightily impressive.
There were tables with regional flags where enthusiasts of their local brews could educate others to try the beers from their region.
Marston’s Pedigree were demonstrating the traditional art of coopering.
The various bars were named after eminent medical heroes past and present.
The festival is held at Earls Court which has taken on a wonderful buzz on conviviality.
There is a family area, a great games zone where traditional pub games were on display and to have a go on. There are associated food stalls of first rate good pub grub.
The Official Charity for the Festival is SUE Ryder www.sueryder.com. This charity provides care for those people living with conditions including cancer, stroke, dementia, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Another important charity CAMRA associates with www.drinkaware.co.uk .
The festival continues to August 6th 2011 at Earls Court.
Next year’s festival in Olympic year will be held in London’s Olympia Hall.
Next time I visit the local pub close to my office, The White Bear at Rickmansworth , I will also appreciate a little bit more what is behind producing my favoured lunchtime pint of Greene King IPA - a 'nice pint'.
Selection of video clips showing traditional pub games at the Great British Beer Festival