CAMRA have achieved lots over the years, and no matter if you love or hate them, I honestly believe we would not be where we are today with beer, in the UK, without them.
CAMRA remain about the only beer related consumer organisation in the UK with a voice loud enough to be heard on all things beer related and the fact they are actually asking where they should focus in future seems a very positive step to me.
Every organisation has to stand for something and their entire reason for existence started out based around supporting what they called “Real Ale”, which, just like the phrase craft beer, can be considered to just be another marketing term, and they have supported, marketed and promoted this real ale very well over the years. Apart from the odd desert in less populous areas, you are not normally too far away from at least one major beer festival a year, very many of them organised by CAMRA branches.
The beer world of 2016 is unrecognisable compared to the one when CAMRA was founded. We have gone from a time where there was a small, shrinking range of choices in what beer to buy in pubs, most of it being mass produced, to a time when there is a huge range of great, and admittedly, still some not so great, beers available, not just in pubs, but also in corner shops, specialist bottle shops and even supermarkets. However, everything in the garden is not always rosy. I feel that for an organisation, in these days of comparative beer paradise, to seek to divide the beer world into good and bad, with very little consideration of the actual beer itself, has a negative impact on the whole beer and brewing scene. Do not get me wrong, I am not accusing anyone of saying that all cask beer is good and that even the worst cask beer beats a keg beer, I am not accusing the vast majority of CAMRA members or even branches of a bias either, but at an institutional level, due to the central cause for the organisation, there is still the repeatedly offered belief that if a beer has been within 100 foot of a keg then it has to be bad. Normally the terms used seem to be along the lines of overly gassy / fizzy, filtered, pasteurised or even bland. In most cases these terms just do not apply to modern beer, even if it is being served from a keg using external CO2.
The thing I would love to see come out of this revitalisation project is an understanding at the core of CAMRA that the quality of the product itself, rather than any other consideration, is what makes the difference between a good and bad beer, and support for all good beer, no matter how it is produced, stored, transported or dispensed.
If we reach an age where the only thing that matters is a customer getting a great beer, in the best possible condition, no matter what method the brewer uses to achieve that, then I think we will have reached the peak of what CAMRA can stand for. Now I am off for a beer, I don’t currently know if it will be real ale, craft beer, homebrew, or whatever, to be honest, I really don’t care about that, and it rarely, if ever features in making my choice. I do know it will be a good beer, and that is what really matters.