The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was formed in 1971 in St. Albans, the United Kingdom in an effort to reinvigorate a slowing brewing culture. Since then, membership of this independent, voluntary consumer organization has reached nearly 200,000.
In British Columbia, the society was first incorporated in 1985 under the British Columbia Society Act. There are three local branches: South Okanagan (est. in 2015), Vancouver (est. in 2001), and Victoria. Our very own CAMRA Victoria branch has been operating since 1990, thanks to a contingent of British expats.
Phil Cottrell was a fan of English beer and put a note in several home brew stores regarding forming a branch of CAMRA in 1990. A few of us met in April 1990 at Spinnakers and formed a society along the lines of the UK CAMRA. Phil was elected secretary, and I became president.
We put the word out and, in May, about a dozen of us met at Swans. In June, we had our first brewery tour at Vancouver Island Brewing and about 60 people showed up. That summer, we held a BBQ and decided to formally incorporate as a BC society. It was a largely educational group at first because we really didn’t know much about beer and brewing – we just knew that we liked craft beer a lot more than the bland stuff produced by the mega breweries. -John Rowling, CAMRA BC’s founding president
With a mission to “act as champion of the consumer in relation to the BC and Canadian beer and alcoholic beverage industry”, the non-profit society works to achieve a number of things. Beyond maintaining consumer rights and promoting quality, choice, and value for money, the organization also aims to support the public house as a focus of community life. They campaign and seek to educate consumers to have a greater appreciation for traditional styles of beer made using traditional ingredients and produced in a traditional way.
Strong supporters of the craft beer movement, CAMRA BC promotes the production and consumption of “real ale”, defined as beer that is allowed to condition in the barrel or bottle and has not been filtered, pasteurized, or pressurized. The society advocates for responsible enjoyment of simple, yet great quality beer and cider throughout the province.
CAMRA BC operates using membership subscriptions, sales of merchandise and educational products, and proceeds from beer festivals. Membership is open to all individuals and is governed by an elected unpaid executive, chosen by members. Members are also able to show their valid CAMRA membership cards at partnering breweries, brewpubs, and liquor stores for special offers and discounts.