Try the new CAMRA Experience. We’re excited to introduce our newly revamped website designed to enhance your journey through the world of beer, cider, and perry.

Try the new site

192,559 CAMRA members

CAMRA presents its 50th Anniversary Book

A swift half century of the Campaign for Real Ale
  1. Home
  2. 50 Years
  3. 50th Anniversary Book

A swift half century of the Campaign for Real Ale

An evening with Laura Hadland


Recorded on Tuesday 16th March – 7-9pm

Click on the Playlist in the top right corner  of the video for the full playlist with all of the guests from the evening

1. Introduction

2. Adrian Tierney-Jones

3. Sue Nowak

4. Colin Valentine

5. Tim Webb

6. Roger Protz

7. Terry Lock

8. John & Christine Cryne

9. Graham Lees & Bill Mellor

10. Emma Inch

11. Chris Holmes

12. Pete Brown

The Campaign for Real Ale is pleased to announce the publication of 50 Years of CAMRA,  celebrating the first 50 years of the campaign. Written by beer writer Laura Hadland, the book is full of first hand accounts from members and volunteers and details some of the highs and lows of a campaigning organisation that has been championing consumers, pubs and breweries for half a century.

50 Years of CAMRA

How people power has helped to preserve traditional British beer, cider and perry. This is the tale of a swift half century of one of the world’s most successful consumer organisations.


Laura Hadland tells the living history of one of the UK’s most colourful campaigns in this absorbing new book. She describes mock funerals held for breweries under threat of closure and mass rallies outside the Houses of Parliament. A bomb scare before the first national CAMRA beer festival at Covent Garden. One volunteer flyposting the whole of Leeds with 800 CAMRA festival posters in a daring midnight raid on a 650 Suzuki. One member’s accidental late night ‘swim’ in the River Ouse. Well, a few pints had been consumed.

A white plastic barrel with a light inside sat on the bar top. Every pint of its product came out the same and see through, we were in heaven! Of course it took years before original gravity was required to be displayed and so we didn’t know it was weak as, and not far removed from, water. We did always refer to it as “boys bitter” or, after passing our tests, “driving beer”.

Richard J. Abrahams

Order my copy of 50 Years of CAMRA today!

I give my heartfelt thanks to the scores of people who shared their stories and memories so generously with me, and especially to those that took the time to reply to my follow up questions and even check over the veracity of my text. I hope that this book has done you proud. In particular I would like to mention Jessica Boak, Michael Hardman, Gillian Hough and Roger Protz for your endless patience with me. – Laura Hadland

The CAMRA story

CAMRA has created life changing experiences for its members and advocated for beer drinkers for half a century.
Its achievements are all the more remarkable when you consider that it is truly a grassroots organisation.

Listen to CAMRA biographer Laura Hadland talk about how she went about compiling the 50th anniversary book.

The Campaign for Real Ale’s new podcast Pubs. Pints. People. brings you interesting stories each week about the world of beer, cider and pubs. Tune in every Tuesday with hosts Katie Wiles, Ant Fiorillo and Matt Bundy 

A CAMRA podcast

by Pubs. Pints. People. | Diving into the history of CAMRA

How did the Campaign For Real Ale start?

Four passionate, professional and slightly tipsy young men from the North-West see that their favourite beer is disappearing under the relentless onslaught of bland, fizzy and expensive keg beers.


They resolve to start a campaign to protect cask conditioned ale. Fifty years later, their organisation has had a global influence and changed the face of a multi million pound industry. The little guys, the customers, fought the giants of industry and their marketing machines and they won. But more importantly, these four men created a huge network of lifelong friendships that have been shared over a cheeky half.

What makes this story special?

This is the definitive story, not just of how the Campaign was founded, but also how it has grown and developed. Told through the stories and memories of the people that made change happen, this is a warm and deeply personal journey of cameraderie and community as CAMRA celebrates its 50th birthday. Colourful memories and witty anecdotes unfold alongside Laura’s objective analysis of the impact that CAMRA has had on the fortunes of live beer, perry and cider and how the hundreds upon thousands of volunteer hours put in by members helped to bring about a revolution in UK brewing.

CAMRA 50th Anniversary

Why now?

Since CAMRA was founded in 1971, their tireless work has seemed to assure the future of live beer. However, the 2020 pandemic and waves of lockdown have brought a new threat to cask conditioned ale, the  breweries that make it and the pubs that serve it. While CAMRA has done amazing work over the last half century to support quality and choice for the consumer, real ale finds itself in more danger than ever before in 2021.

CAMRA’s official biographer

Laura Hadland

Writer and photographer Laura specialises in food and drink, with a particular focus on beer & wine, food history and local food producers. Her former life as a senior museum curator has given her the unique skill set needed to gather over 100 oral histories and weave them around the surviving documentary evidence to craft this exciting biography of the Campaign for Real Ale.

Buy the 50th Anniversary book to get an insight into why we are still going strong and still inspiring support!

Why cask ale needed saving?

I don’t remember much about local brands in the pubs where I was brought up – just national keg brands. I remember my parents drinking Party Sevens and Party Fives at home – big cans of keg beer [containing seven or five pints respectively].

Mark Tetlow, a qualified brewer of over 30 years experience

Real Ale

Real ale is a vital part of the British pub culture. It is our contribution to the world of beer really, the thing that we do better than anyone else.’

Pete Brown, Chair of the Guild of British Beer Writers

Why did the Campaign for Real Ale take off?

Everyone who frequents a pub and averages a pint or so a day considers himself the country’s leading authority on the decline of British beer, pubs and the moral fibre of the nation.

Richard Boston in his first beer column for The Guardian

The Old Soaks

The founders and first wave of members are septuagenarians or older now. Being the instigators of a movement that is now celebrating half a century means that their long friendships are regularly celebrated and deeply treasured.

CAMRA and Cricket

CAMRA and cricket seem to have a long and happy association Perhaps it is because they are both concerned with quintessentially British pastimes.

The Great British pub is recognised around the world. It is something that cannot be replicated in any other country. Of course, many places serve beer, wine, spirits and food in different countries, but there is nothing like our pub. 

Tom Kerridge


The following corrections to 50 Years of CAMRA have been brought to our attention and we apologise to any individuals affected by the error.

  • On page 160 Mike Benyon is mispelled as Bennion
  • On page 217 Leif Mills has been incorrectly named Reece Mills. He was a member of the MMC rather than the chair.
  • On page 232 John Grogan MP has been incorrectly named John Groby MP.