In between dodging barflies in Sussex and posing tables in Leyland (report to follow) I attended the CAMRA revitalisation meeting in Didsbury on Wednesday.  I was always going to attend to attend the event closest to Stockport to be fair; opinions are strongly held up here and tickets for the bout were trading for £50 on the black market.

The function room in Wetherspoon’s Gateway is a good choice; a pubby building with a solid Beer Guide record.  I’ve had some real ale that’s been wilting in the heat this week, the sort has cask ale drinkers in Cambridge village switching to lager and fizzy cider in the summer months.

The Gateway provided Hawkshead and Brightside beer at it’s cool best last night (NBSS 3/3.5), although it turned to soup in the heat of the debating chamber (literally, not metaphorically). Quite a lot of pale beer, mind you.


CAMRA are to be applauded for this open process which aims to review it’s core purpose, I guess prompted as much by a new Chief Executive as the threat/opportunity of “craft keg” or the realisation that the pool of volunteers is dwindling in inverse proportion to the increasing membership.

“Lively” discussions were introduced by Michael Hardman MBE and very professionally managed by CAMRA’s Ellie Hudspith, who must have had a former career in herding pub cats (not a comment on Pub Curmudgeon).  My take-home points, perhaps reflecting my own bias, were;

  • Campaigning for better and more consistent quality is the challenge
  • We can do more to support breweries in producing a quality product
  • If a pub offered good keg and poor cask, many folk would move on to the next pub
  • Members benefits (largely the Spoons vouchers that kept beer below £2 a pint last night) are to be welcomed, and there’s strength in numbers
  • Closure of pub reflects lots of societal changes, but cosying up to the anti-alcohol lobby will do us no favours (or anti-smoking lobby-Ed)
  • The Good Beer Guide branch allocations urgently need revisiting

Even if, like myself, you don’t think there’s anything to fix, I’d recommend popping along to one of the events. Drinking beer in good pubs is always a good way to campaign.

The “new” Shambles

This is my view from the Mitre Hotel, over the Shambles with the iconic Wellington and Sinclairs at their breakfast quietest.  One of the most attractive areas in the country, but much more enticing if Sam Smiths would kindly put cask OBB back on.  That’s a campaign worth fighting.


  1. As someone from overseas who uses the CAMRA’s publications and websites extensively the negative CAMRA comments I see really puzzle me. The GBG is probably the best publication I have used for travel. It has led me to great beer and really interesting people. The handwringing over the value of the organization really seems silly to me. Everything can improve, but I think there are a lot of positives in the current CAMRA.


  2. Very good summary. It was positive that the meeting recognised that:

    (a) social change was the main driver of pub closures, and
    (b) CAMRA needed to do more to promote beer quality, which is the Achilles’ heel of cask beer

    Asking whether people would prefer good craft keg to poor cask beer really was a leading question that shouldn’t have been asked. “Would you rather shoot your granny or granddad?” was the right response. If that’s a regular part of these meetings it should be dropped.

    The average age of the attendees underlines the problem of an ageing activist base, but IMV it’s simplistic to assume that diluting the message would do much to fix this. Indeed it could simply end up alienating the existing activists without bringing in many new ones.

    Are pub cats even more difficult to herd than normal cats? Probably yes…


    1. Yes, attempts to bring in the “yoof” to replace the Jims, Johns and Peters will fail. Your response to Ben yesterday on your site showed what might be lost as volunteer numbers dwindle.

      If I’m being blunt, issue might well be how successful branch models like S&SM maintained into future in face of that problem.


      1. I have heard rumours that part of the reason behind the Revitalisation project is to move to a more top-down structure for CAMRA more in line with other third-sector organisations, which of course reflects Tim Page’s previous experience.

        That’s likely to be incredibly alienating to many current volunteers, but if the organisation is in a situation where the subs keep flooding in, but it’s withering on the vine on the ground, it may be inevitable 😦

        Recent moves to “encourage” treasurers to use a centralised accounting system may be an indication of that trend.


      2. Yes, that mirrors the sort of tensions a lot of volunteer driven bodies have when a necessary head office expands (NHS Finance prime example).

        It all goes to pot without local knowledge; even I wouldn’t claim Head Office could construct GBG using NBSS scores !


      3. I saw a report in the Sunday Times recently (paywalled, so no link) that there had been a bust-up in the Ramblers’ Association between centralisers and localists, which the latter won. Like the National Trust, there must be a big membership overlap with CAMRA.


  3. Not sure how far I want to take this one, but it’s been widely observed that the churches with healthy congregations tend to be those that take a fundamentalist line rather than those that trim to modern secular trends.


  4. Sam’s have even taken hand pulled OBB out of The Falcon, Tadcaster. You could actually throw a cricket ball from the pub car park into Smith’s brewery yard or even through Humphrey’s office window. I just don’t understand the man?????


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