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Let’s get behind the beer industry: CAMRA members vote for a more inclusive campaign

Members of CAMRA, Europe's largest beer consumer group, have reinforced the organisation's positive approach to campaigning for beer and pubs by passing a series of progressive motions at its annual conference.

More than 1,200 CAMRA members attended the conference in Nottingham between 18-19 April and debated and voted on 20 motions about issues affecting the beer and pub industry, as well as CAMRA's future campaigning. Decisions were taken to support the practice of serving real ale from ‘key-kegs' and to recognise cider with whole fruit and spices as ‘real' were passed, whereas motions that advocated CAMRA distancing itself from wider beer industry initiatives were rejected.

Members clearly voted in support of an inclusive approach to the beer industry, reaffirming that the Campaign is about the promotion and championing of real ale, and providing a choice for drinkers, rather than outright opposition to other types of beer. The Conference expressed the strong opinion that denigrating other types of beer should not form part of the Campaign's active advocacy of real ale.

CAMRA chief executive Tim Page said: "It was clear from the debate in the hall that the majority of members think that criticising drinkers for not choosing real ale is counterproductive. Encouraging people to come back to beer from other drinks is the first important step, and once they've discovered the wide range of beers available our job is to educate and help them discover the delights of real ale, ciders and perries.

"This will reinforce the message that we're a campaign for, not a campaign against, and also remind people that when they denigrate those choosing to drink ‘non-real ales', they are not speaking for CAMRA."

CAMRA's inclusive and supportive attitude to the beer and pub industry was also shown when members clearly voted to continue support for wider beer industry campaigns such as Cyclops and There's a beer for that. In a similar motion Member's also recognised the need for CAMRA, as a campaigning organisation, to continue to have commercial associations with organisations which, on occasion, might not support all of CAMRA's individual campaigns.

Speakers for the motion outlined that these associations are essential to CAMRA's campaigning effectiveness, as well as helping promote the British beer industry as a whole.

Tim added: "This doesn't mean CAMRA has abandoned its fundamental aims and won't be actively campaigning for, or promoting non-real ales or ciders, but it's demonstrative of our wider objective of helping to bring the beer industry back into growth and recognition of the benefits of promoting real ale within wider industry campaigns."

CAMRA's technical group previously confirmed that beer served from Key Kegs can qualify as real ale (providing there is yeast in the keg which allows secondary fermentation and it is served without gas coming into contact with the beer) –  however this motion called for the introduction of a pro-active labeling system to help promote and highlight real ales being served via key-kegs.

The conference also heard that the key keg/cask system gave venues more flexibility to serve real ale in circumstances where cask conditioned beer would be impossible - such as sports grounds, bars and restaurants.

Tim said: "CAMRA's technical experts agreed several years ago that beers served from key keg/cask under certain circumstances qualified as real ale - and in fact have been served at several CAMRA beer festivals for some time. This decision is a reminder that CAMRA is open to new developments and keen to take opportunities to promote real ale in all its forms, especially in ways which make it more accessible to pubs that might not be able to look after traditional cask conditioned ale."

CAMRA will also help promote beer in non-traditional venues and pubs and bars unable to serve cask, with members agreeing two measures to refocus CAMRA's Real Ale in a Bottle scheme: the continued promotion of "high quality bottle-conditioned beers" and the mounting of a campaign to encourage pubs to "identify and market bottle-conditioned ales and bottled real cider and perry clearly."

On cider and perry, CAMRA members decided that the Campaign needed to recognise changes in the cider market and the growth in popularity of authentic flavoured ciders and perries. The Conference voted to adopt a motion changing CAMRA's definition of real cider and perry to remove the criteria that "no added flavourings to be used" and to allow "pure fruits, vegetables, honey, hops, herbs and spices, yet no concentrates cordials or essences" to be added.

Tim added: "CAMRA members have debated the real cider and perry definition for several years and this year evidence was presented which showed that the addition of whole fruits and spices to cider is part of the traditional production process. History aside, this decision will help our campaign become more relevant to many modern cider and perry drinkers who may not yet have discovered real cider and perry - which have always, and will continue to be, made with entirely natural, traditional ingredients."

CAMRA members voted to campaign against the unfairness of the Late Night Levy, which sees well-run community pubs unfairly charged to pay for the extra policing required in town centres to cope with anti-social behavior caused by late-night venues and night clubs.

Tim said: "CAMRA members are passionate about campaigning for fairness and justice. It cannot be fair that well-run pubs which promote responsible drinking are expected to pay the same as huge town centre venues which we know are the primary cause of the anti-social issues and require the additional policing. CAMRA members have called on us to provide more information and support to our branches to help them campaign at a local level against this injustice."

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For further information contact the CAMRA Press Office on 01727 798443 or email neil.walker@camra.org.uk