CAMRA news and events – March 2021

Bromley branch Annual General Meeting

The branch AGM will be held virtually, via Zoom, on Saturday 10 April 2021, from 3pm. Details will be e-mailed to branch members in due course and will be available on the Bromley CAMRA branch website, www.bromley.camra.org.uk/.

50 Years of CAMRA

As I’m sure readers know, CAMRA was formed fifty years ago, on 16 March 1971, and celebrations are in progress accordingly. An important part of the celebrations is a history of the campaign, which has been commissioned from beer writer Laura Hadland. There is an advert for the book on page 45 and it will be reviewed in the next edition. On the great day itself, Laura hosted a live Zoom event with other beer writers and contributors to discuss her research and answer questions.

The day was also heavily celebrated on social media but how much better would it have been to have been able to celebrate in a pub, our natural home. The celebrations will continue with CAMRA, as a volunteer-led organisation, celebrating Volunteers’ Week (1 to 7 June) when we will be looking back over five decades of ‘CAMRAderie’. Members will have the opportunity to say what volunteering has meant to them or find out what being a volunteer is about and the great benefits it brings.

Another way of celebrating will be to purchase an anniversary beer box. CAMRA has asked the UK’s leading beer experts to choose their favourite beers and, from hundreds of suggestions, have settled on a box of the most popular beers, with a beer from each of CAMRA’s newly updated beer styles. The box will contain eleven beers plus a limited edition 50th anniversary tasting glass. You will be able to pre-order a Good Beer Box from 31 March through the CAMRA shop (https://shop1.camra.org.uk/). The boxes will be delivered from 10 May so you should be able to finish them before we are allowed back inside pubs.

One gesture which was very much appreciated came in the form of a House of Commons Early Day Motion from Daisy Cooper, the MP for St Albans (where else!), which said, ‘That this House congratulates the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), headquartered in St Albans, on their 50th anniversary; commends the organisation and its members for their tireless campaigning in support of the unique heritage of real ale, cider and perry found in the British Isles; further congratulates them for their successes over the last half century in protecting our brewing traditions and striving for greater quality and variety of cask ales; recognises their role in lobbying producers and government on behalf of consumers; celebrates their longstanding campaign to protect and enhance pubs and clubs; commends their ongoing work to provide information, education and training to all those with an interest in pubs, beer, cider and perry; extends thanks for CAMRA’s advocacy on behalf of the pub and brewing sectors, especially during the Covid-19 crisis that continues to endanger our unique pub and brewing heritage; and wishes them every success for the next fifty years.’ Hear Hear!

Good Beer Guide 2022

In normal times, CAMRA branches would have selected their entries for the Good Beer Guide 2022 by now. The announcement that, all being well, pubs will reopen on 17 May still allows time for the selection process to happen but the publication date has had to be put back to 28 October. It will be a challenge but the consensus is that it would be sad to break the 47 year sequence, especially when we are celebrating out 50th anniversary. It is also still important that we publish the Guide’s unique breweries section. It will also help the pubs that are selected for inclusion to re-establish their trade. The 2022 GBG will not simply be a rehash of the 2021 edition. It will be as relevant and up to date as it can be, given the current situation.

Beer Festivals Update

The following decisions were all taken before the Prime Minister’s announcement on 22 February. Given the conditional nature of the ‘roadmap’, which, of course, does not promise anything definite, the circumstances in which these decisions were taken have not really changed.

The Great British Beer Festival has had to be cancelled for the second year running. Organiser Catherine Tonry said that the difficult decision has been made due to increasing uncertainty in the likelihood of large ‘in person’ events being able to take place in August and that ‘we will have an alternative event in its place and will release more information on this once we have more details. We should also be back in 2022 and hope to make it even better than before!’  

It had been announced the previous week that the Peterborough Beer Festival had also been cancelled. A spokesman said, “This has not been an easy decision to take, but is without doubt the correct decision at this time. Let me just put some perspective on this, maybe a brief explanation. It costs CAMRA around £250,000 to build the site and get the infrastructure into place, before we even consider the cost of purchasing beers and other wet sales products, or consider staffing costs or the range of other behind the scenes activities. Many suppliers are national companies with long term commitments and overheads that require a substantial deposit from us in advance of the event taking place. We cannot take this financial risk given the current uncertainty. In addition, PCBF has to have the correct insurance cover in place but with COVID-19 conditions needing to be included into insurance policies the costs and risks are beyond our means at this time. No one can be sure where we may find ourselves in late August, but one thing for certain is that many uncertainties will still prevail, even in six months’ time. The percentage of the public with up to date vaccinations, any new variants of the disease, group isolation/lockdowns and the possibility of legislation to close down events with little or no notice are factors that we have no control over.”

Likewise, on 21 February, it was announced on the Berkshire Live website that Reading Beer Festival, scheduled to be held in May, had been cancelled. The organisers said, “As it takes many months of planning and due to COVID uncertainties, we very sadly won’t be able to run RBF as usual in May, but we will be looking at possible ways to hold a small festival later in the summer. We hope to be able to make a further update around Easter.” The very popular Isle of Wight Beer and Buses Weekend has also been cancelled. They also are thinking about a smaller event later in the year.

 You will notice the reference to insurance. Whether or not it is a consequence of the Supreme Court’s ruling on business continuity policies, I don’t know, but it is now impossible to get event cancellation cover which includes a provision covering COVID. This may well have been why other events (such as the Glastonbury Festival) have also been cancelled. Among the rumours circulating before the Budget was one to the effect that the Government were going to introduce an insurance scheme for events but nothing came of it.

Pub, Club, and Cider and Perry Pubs of the Year Competitions

In February, the co-ordinators of these awards, given that pubs were unlikely to reopen before May, took the decision to cancel the super-regional and final, national, rounds of these competitions. They may still be run at branch and regional levels, if practical and at the discretion of regional directors.