Gently lampooned by Douglas Adams (Slartibartfast and the Campaign for Real Time) and Terry Pratchett (Campaign for Real Cats), the CAMpaign for Real Ale, or CAMRA, is nevertheless a serious and worthy organisation, as neither author would dispute.
Familiar to denizens of the UK, CAMRA has been around for over 25 years. Its objectives are simple: to encourage small local breweries, promote good-quality ale, and champion consumer rights.
When CAMRA was first set up, industrial brewery chains were buying up small pub-breweries and turning them into characterless outlets for pasteurised, fizzy fluids with all the character of alcoholic cardboard. It’s still happening, but independent breweries are better placed to fight back these days.
The problem with beer is that it doesn’t travel well, hence the industrial solution (Private Eye readers may appreciate the pun) of pasteurisation. This kills yeast and bacteria; unfortunately the yeast remaining in the cask or bottle is what gives the beer its flavour and fizz. In short, pasteurisation is the act of taking away from the beer what makes it beer. So they inject CO2, which restores fizz – frequently rather more than was necessary, giving us a sort of alcoholic dry soda – but not the life. Zombie beer.
CAMRA is active mainly in the UK and Europe. Sadly, although that other great country for good ale, Belgium, is a founder member of the European Beer Consumers Union, Germany has apparently yet to come to its collective senses. When visiting the UK, don’t hesitate to check out CAMRA-recommended pubs – where as a rule the barman will gladly advise you on the ale most likely to suit your taste – and if elsewhere, maybe it’s time you looked around to see if a similar movement isn’t happening in your country.
Beer contains alcohol. As well as tasting better, real ale often contains more alcohol than commercial crap. It is also a food.
Remember, therefore, that it is better to enjoy a half-pint slowly with a good meal than to down several pints quickly under the mistaken impression that it’s the manly thing to do. A little-known secret: the Real Man drinks wisely, not too well, and has no qualms about calling a taxi if by miscalculation he’s overshot the mark.
- Real ale buffs — Britain’s role models for economic recovery (eurekalert.org)
- The Great British Beer Festival has more than 700 ways to quench your thirst (gadling.com)
- Beer! (thelocalfoodie.wordpress.com)
- Camra Vs Brew Dog (aleheads.com)