Real ale, or good beer, cider and perry?

With a few exceptions the difference between good beer and bad was simple and clear in the 1970s.

The good stuff was what we now call real ale; the bad was fizzy keg beer, often produced with inferior ingredients and then processed and carbonated. Since then an explosion of new, small brewers has changed the brewing landscape. A wider range of beer styles and methods of dispense than ever before is now on offer in the British Isles.

Some of these innovations are challenging issues for CAMRA, with its traditional focus on what is real ale and what isn’t. Many drinkers now think good beer is more about its quality and flavour, rather than what type of container it comes from.

CAMRA broadened its focus in 1988 to cover two other traditional drinks: cider and perry. At the time the number of outlets for real cider was falling. The situation with perry was even worse, with farm gates the only retail outlets. The best known ciders in the British Isles (then and now) are generally fizzy, filtered products produced from apple juice concentrate.

Some of our members believe that it is now time for cider and perry campaigners to develop a separate and distinct organisation.

The link between CAMRA and such an entity could, of course, remain strong and founded on issues of common interest, such as joint involvement in festivals. Should we now move beyond our historic focus to tackle wider issues in the brewing industry? Or should we continue to concentrate simply on good beer, cider and perry?

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