According to the 2012 Good Beer Guide there are now 840 breweries in the UK, meaning there are now more than four times the number than when CAMRA was founded in 1971. These range from breweries attached to pubs producing a couple of barrels of beer at a time to massive brewing factories churning out millions of pints a day.
Since its early days, CAMRA has realised the importance of good liaison with all real ale breweries which is why the brewery liaison officer (BLO) system was put in place. For every brewery in the land, CAMRA aims to appoint a volunteer whose job it is to act as the link between CAMRA and the brewery. He or she should keep in regular touch with one or more people at the brewery so that they can learn what is happening, and of equal importance, the brewery can know CAMRA’s views on issues that may be of concern to the brewery. One important job for the BLO is to ensure that the information published in the brewery section of each Good Beer Guide is accurate.
CAMRA’s successful campaigns have included the change in the way that excise duty is determined from the original gravity of a beer, to the current end product duty system in 1993 and the introduction of small brewers’ relief in 2002. Both these measures were of tremendous help to the growing number of small brewers and in boosting the total number of breweries operational across the UK.
CAMRA campaigns to save breweries threatened with closure or hostile takeover. Whether it be a global brewer such as Carlsberg closing a long established and iconic brewery such as Tetley’s in Leeds or a much smaller brewery threatened with closure, CAMRA will be there with placards and petitions, but also lobbying brewery management and owners, local councillors, MPs and if necessary appropriate Government ministers, and raising the issue in the media.
In 2005 Inbev closed the Boddingtons Brewery in Manchester which it had acquired when it bought Whitbread’s brewing capacity in 2000. CAMRA joined with brewery workers from the UK and Belgium to protest outside the company’s offices in Leuven at the decision. (see photo above). However the brewery did close and the brewing of Boddingtons transferred to Hydes of Manchester for the cask version, and the keg and canned Boddingtons was moved far away to be brewed at InBev’s brewery at Magor in South Wales.
In 2001 an active campaign by CAMRA helped Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries fight off a hostile takeover bid by Pubmaster. The eventual vote by shareholders was 47% for the takeover with 53% against. It is likely that without the concerted efforts of CAMRA, the brewers of Marston’s and Banks’s beers would have been taken over and closed.
CAMRA’s LocAle scheme encourages pubs to stock locally brewed real ales and therefore supports brewers when building up their local trade.
CAMRA awards such as the Champion Beer of Britain (CBOB) and Champion Winter Beer of Britain (CWBOB), as well as local and regional beers of the year, help promote the excellent real ales produced by Britain’s brewers.