Real ale drinkers asked to embrace change

Men at beer festival

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For nearly 50 years, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has promoted real ale over other drinks – such as lager.

But if new proposals are approved, Camra could start engaging with all beer drinkers, “irrespective of what they choose to drink”.

The result of the vote will be announced on Saturday at their AGM. To pass, 75% need to be in favour.

Camra’s leadership recommended changes to the organisation’s aims following a “root-and-branch review”.

The objectives of the changes include:

  • To play a leading role in the provision of information, education, and training to all those with an interest in beer, cider, and perry of any type
  • To act as the voice and represent the interests of all pub goers and beer, cider and perry drinkers
  • To promote and protect pubs and clubs as social centres as part of the UK’s cultural heritage

Announcing the plans earlier this year, Camra said: “While continuing to advocate that real ale is the pinnacle of the brewer’s craft, the campaign’s wider focus [if approved] will mean all drinkers who enjoy a range of beers, ciders and perries will feel welcome in the organisation.”

Real ale usually comes from a hand pump, and is conditioned in a cask. Proponents say it has a fuller flavour than other beers.

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The vote is being held at the organisation’s AGM in Coventry.

Camra chairman Colin Valentine said: “We recognise that the beer and pub landscape has changed and continues to evolve, and our place in that landscape has changed as well.

“We’re determined to make sure that we continue to change and evolve so that we are relevant to drinkers of all types and continue to offer a compelling reason for people to join our organisation.”

National pub campaigner, and former Liberal Democrat MP, Greg Mulholland opposes the changes.

He wrote on his Facebook page: “If the revitalisation plans go through Camra will not be a campaign for anything but a vague ‘we like any ‘nice’ beer and cider club’.”

But what do other members of Camra think? Here are two people from opposing sides.

‘It’s not the 70s anymore’

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Ash Corbett-Collins

Ash Corbett-Collins, 26, joined Camra when he was 20 – after a friend’s dad introduced him to the taste of real ale.

The perception of Camra is that we believe real ale is great and everything else is rubbish. That’s a perception the new proposals are trying to change.

Real ale will always be our primary focus. We’re not going to suddenly start campaigning for Fosters.

But we need to let people know that we won’t be on our high horse and look down on them if they order a lager.

99.9% of Camra members enjoy other beer, know other people do, and have no problem with that.

We should be a welcoming organisation for people who enjoy a drink and want to make sure that pubs stay open.

It’s not the 70s anymore. When you walk into the pub the choice isn’t between mass-produced foreign lager or the dying embers of real ale.

These days good and interesting beers exists outside of real ale. If someone is selling blueberry and salted caramel beer that’s something I want to try.

If tomorrow’s proposals pass that will bring Camra into the 21st Century and help on the next generation of volunteers.

Anytime I tell someone I’m a member of Camra straightaway it’s “beards, bellies and flip flops”. I’ve got the beard but not the belly or the flip fops. That may be to come.

‘Campaign for any old beer’

Nick Hair, 24, runs the Kentish Belle Ale House and has also been a Camra member since he was 20.

We want to campaign for real ale. We don’t want to campaign for craft beer.

Craft beer could be anything. Even Fosters could describe themselves as craft beer.

If the members vote in favour, Camra will become the voice of all pub-goers – including the people who get comatose-drunk on Jagermeister.

It will no longer be the Campaign for Real Ale but the Campaign for Any Old Beer Down The Boozer.

The national executive of Camra are trying to stay relevant by changing everything they believe in.

If we want to stay relevant we need to look at ways of attracting more young people, looking to the digital age, and giving free entrance to under 25s at festivals.

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