The organisation was founded in 1971 by a group of four drinkers—Graham Lees, Bill Mellor, Michael Hardman, and Jim Makin—who were opposed to the growing mass production of beer and the homogenisation of the British brewing industry. Other early influential members included Christopher Hutt, author of Death of the English Pub, who succeeded Hardman as chairman, Frank Baillie, author of The Beer Drinker’s Companion, and later the current Good Beer Guide editor, Roger Protz. The original name was the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale.

CAMRA’s stated aims are to:

  • Protect and improve consumer rights.
  • Promote quality, choice and value for money.
  • Support the public house as a focus of community life.
  • Campaign for greater appreciation of traditional beers, ciders and perries as part of our national heritage and culture.
  • Seek improvements in all licensed premises and throughout the brewing industry.

CAMRA’s campaigns include promoting small brewing and pub businesses, reforming licensing laws, reducing tax on beer, and stopping continued consolidation among local British brewers. It also makes an effort to promote less common varieties of beer, including stout, porter, and mild, as well as traditional cider and perry.

In 2009, CAMRA announced that it had reached the 100,000 members mark and currently approaches the 150,000 members mark. Member benefits include a monthly newspaper, What’s Brewing and a quarterly BEER magazine, and free or reduced price admission to CAMRA-organised beer festivals.

CAMRA is organised on a federal basis, with numerous independent local branches, each covering a particular geographical area of the UK, that contribute to the central body of the organisation based in St Albans. It is governed by a voluntary unpaid national executive, elected by the membership. The local branches are grouped into 16 regional branches across the UK, such as the West Midlands or Wessex.
The current National Chairman is Colin Valentine, who took over from Paula Waters in February 2010. The Chief Executive is Mike Benner.

CAMRA has established influence at national government level, including English Heritage, and has been designated by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry as a “super-complainant” to the Office of Fair Trading