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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.

Laura Hadland

A food and drink writer, photographer, competition judge & CAMRA member. Laura’s blogs at Extreme Housewifery and is the author of ’50 years of CAMRA’. She runs a creative agency for SME’s called Thirst Media. 

“The little guys, the customers, fought the giants of industry and their marketing machines and they won”


— Laura Hadland

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 camaraderie 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 CAMRA members helped to bring about a revolution in UK brewing.

Laura 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.


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.

This book is a call to arms to every beer, cider and perry drinker in the land. By reminding ourselves of the phenomenal achievements of the Campaign in the past, we can have confidence that together we can continue to protect our favourite tipples in the future. The time has come to stand up and be counted, to show our pubs and breweries that they matter and to help cask conditioned ale to survive the existential threat it faces.


50 Years of CAMRA

Celebrating 50 years – CAMRA 1971 – 2021 by Laura Hadland

The Campaign for Real Ale is pleased to announce the forthcoming book 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..

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