CAMRA was born in 1971 as the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale.
It had only four members for much of its first year. The 175 breweries in the United Kingdom were owned by 95 companies. Six of them produced around 80 per cent of the country’s beer and owned most of the pubs that sold it. These firms, known as the Big Six, were conspiring to ditch traditional draught beer in favour of processed and carbonated keg beer. Many of the smaller brewers were following them blindly.
CAMRA’s activities over the decades that followed changed all that, including the name of our organisation, which became the Campaign for Real Ale in 1973. Today, we have more than 175,000 members. There are 1,500 breweries producing 11,000 beers. The vast majority of British pubs sell at least one real ale and in some cases a dozen or more.
At the same time, the volume of real ale sold is considerably less than it was 40 years ago. Too much is served in poor condition as a result of low turnover or poor cellarmanship, problems that led to the rise of keg beer in the first place. Britain is losing 30 pubs a week as people turn to cheap supermarket alcohol at home.
Pubs have lost customers as a result of government policies on taxation, on drinking and driving, and on smoking, and because of spurious advice on the effects of alcohol on health. If we lose our pubs, we shall have lost the very places that our national drink needs if it is to thrive.
All of this has persuaded us to take stock of our activities to ensure that our campaigns are pitched at the right targets and based on the best tactics in the face of the unprecedented changes that have been taking place in the brewing industry and licensed trade.
This is CAMRA’s Revitalisation Project, which has been set up to find new ways to breathe life into the Campaign. We are consulting all of you, the CAMRA members. The decision is in your hands.
Michael Hardman MBE
CAMRA founder member and chairman of the Revitalisation Project