Could CAMRA start supporting lagers?
The St Albans-based Campaign for Real Ale is divided over proposed reforms to widen the types of beers it supports.
The campaign (CAMRA), which formed its first branch at The Farriers Arms on Lower Dagnall Street in 1972, is in the midst of discussions on a revitalisation project.
The project proposes CAMRA’s remit be extended to include all types of beers, not just ales, which are classified as cask-conditioned beers served traditionally without additional gas pressure.
This means CAMRA could begin supporting lagers and craft beer as opposed to purely ales and ciders.
The project has its critics in the campaign, with some members arguing this would take too much focus away from its original remit of supporting real ales.
Vice-chair of CAMRA’s South Herts branch Steve Berry said: “The changes are really quite enormous.
“What the executive and a certain group are proposing is CAMRA changes its whole ethos and the problem is they have to define what these other beers are going to be as with a big description like that it covers everything such as lagers and keg beers.
“Some of these are reasonably good beers, but how are we going to differentiate?
“We are in danger of drifting back to where CAMRA started when mass-produced beers were foisted onto customers who are told they are quality beers, prices will go up and real ale will suffer.
“With real ale, the problem is unless you have a decent turnover it goes off so if we are going to encompass other beers how real ale is served may decline if pubs cannot get turnover as landlords will move to sell other beers.
“My other concern is people who are supporting this project are so desperate to get this through they are suppressing the opinions so those opinions are not getting a fair hearing.”
CAMRA’s head of communications Tom Stainer said: “The point of the project with any big organisation is to look at what we have been doing and this is the first time in almost 50 years we have taken a really good look at what has changed in the pub landscape and asked some questions like ‘are we still relevant?’ and ‘are we still doing the right thing?’
“The objective is to hopefully secure the organisation for another 50 years and we went about that by our biggest consultation with members.
“The changes are about repositioning us, not moving away from real ales, just recognising there is a wider range of beers available and supporting a broader variety.”
The author of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, and regular Herts Advertiser contributor Roger Protz said: “I fully support the project as it’s long overdue.
“The world has changed since 1972 and certainly the beer world has.
“I went to the Craft Beer Rising event in London recently and it’s a totally different festival to the CAMRA festivals and it’s packed out with younger people. We need to embrace younger people otherwise CAMRA is going to be run by old people.
“The campaign has made it perfectly clear real ale will remain the essential focus and I fully support that because if I go into a pub I go and look at the handpumps first, but I might look at the keg beers as well.
“We are big enough and old enough to come through this. Members vote with their feet and they know if they want people to come to festivals they have to have a wider choice available.”
The project will be voted on at CAMRA’s AGM in Coventry next month where 75 per cent of members need to approve the changes for them to pass.
To find out more about the revitalisation project visit revitalisationdecision.camra.org.uk