The consumer group is embarking on a huge consultation of its almost 180,000 members to ask them what it should represent in the future. Options put forward include it becoming a consumer organisation for all beer drinkers, all pubgoers regardless of what they drink, or even all drinkers regardless of where they drink it.
One of its founders, Michael Hardman, has returned to lead the so-called ‘Revitalisation Project’ — a wholesale review into the purpose and strategy of CAMRA. Members will be invited to share their views about the future by completing surveys and attending meetings across the UK this summer.
Questions asked include whether CAMRA should move away from promoting and protecting traditional real ale and become more inclusive, or shed secondary issues that have become attached to the organisation over the years — such as cider — in order to narrow its focus exclusively on cask beer.
Rise of craft beer
CAMRA said the project was its response to a beer and pub sector which has changed hugely since the organisation was founded in 1971. The rise of craft and resurgence of interest in beer in recent years, plus renewed threats to pubs, has challenged CAMRA to review its purpose.
Hardman said: “This could mark a fundamental turning point for the Campaign for Real Ale. So fundamental it may no longer continue as CAMRA and instead become a campaign for pubs, or a campaign for all drinkers. It’s not up to us though. It’s up to our members to tell us what they want the campaign to do in the future.
“CAMRA has sometimes been criticised for failing to react to the times, being old-fashioned and reactionary, and failing to embrace developments in the pub and beer industry such as craft beer. This is the chance for our members to tell us who we should represent in the future and for what we should be campaigning.
“If we want to play a key part in driving the beer market back into growth and helping to create a thriving pub sector, do we continue with our narrow focus, or do we become more inclusive?”
Proposals will be put to members in April 2017 with the implementation of whatever is decided by the end of 2018.