It’s crazy to think that only a few years back, I didn’t touch beer at all. It simply didn’t appeal to me. Through pure ignorance I dismissed all beer as boring, flat or warm. Trying to get my head around why organisations such as CAMRA were trying to promote such a thing, was incomprehensible. Where was the appeal? Why did people flock to their local like it was some holy shrine? It turns out, they were onto something…
The more I tumble down this beery rabbit hole, the more I realise just how important beer is to our society, history and, most of all, our mental health (when consumed in moderation, of course). After spending the best part of two years apart, social interaction is more important than it ever has been. And so are our pubs. Without them, where would we go? Staying in may have been the new going out pre-lockdown, but not anymore. Our pubs need us now more than ever.
CAMRA have beared the burden of championing real and pubs for many years now, since 1971 in fact. But their job isn’t done just yet. Nor will it ever be. Whilst the perception is positive with new breweries and bars opening on a regular basis, pub closures are still far too regular. Thanks to the Covid pandemic, it’s believed that more than 400 pubs closed their doors for good during 2021, leaving many without a quality local nearby.
Whilst this isn’t a propaganda piece or a recruitment drive, CAMRA has evolved over the years. Whilst its majority members may be white, male and middle-aged (I’m not quite there yet!) it is open to everyone. Sandals, white socks pulled up too high, khaki shorts and beards aren’t required. I know, shocking right?! In fact, CAMRA are currently asking for feedback on how they can make the membership appeal to a broader audience. It’s simple really; the more people who enjoy beer and drinking in pubs, the better. With or without a membership, every extra pint we drink fuels our industry and keeps businesses alive.
So why did I join? Was it because I’m in the industry? Ironically not, no. I visit my local pub, the Old Grocers in Pontefract, far too infrequently and recently they’ve been recognised as pub of the season for winter 19/20 and autumn 21. With good reason too, Dave & Amanda treat their beer like it deserves to be and it shows. Now, as a member, I get to vote on awards in my local area and make my voice heard. Whilst awards aren’t everything, it’s nice that people like Dave and Amanda get recognised for their efforts which helps build a reputation that is rapidly preceding them.
But I want to do more than that. I want to spread the wealth and show my support to as many places like the Old Grocers as I can. Obviously, I could do that without being a member of CAMRA, but by joining it has opened my eyes locally to how many pubs do serve a good pint in and around Wakefield. Imagine my delight discovering it isn’t just mass-produced fizzy yellow water they serve! What’s more, by attending branch meetings and events regularly I am not only supporting both local businesses and people, but I’m also meeting you new people too. I’m getting back into the thick of it and dragging myself out of the man cave where I’ve been hiding of late.
I almost want to make amends for dismissing the important role pubs play in British society and pay penance for being so ignorant when it came to my attitude towards beer. Ultimately it’s only us, enthusiasts, that can save our beloved breweries and pubs and if joining CAMRA can help save one more pub from closing, I can safely say that I did my bit. With a little boy on the way, I want to make sure there’s a good pint available that we can drink together when he turns 18, and not a day before. Honest…