CAMRA celebrates 50 years of campaigning for pubs and the pint

Lancashire’s beer enthusiasts would love to be able to celebrate a golden milestone in the pub this week.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 12:30 pm
The branch launch in Preston in 1973

For the Campaign for Real Ale reaches its 50th birthday today, March 16 - and of course, the ‘local’ is a no-go area right now.

The Campaign for Revitalisation of Ale was formed by four men from who were disillusioned by the domination of the UK beer market by a handful of companies pushing products of low flavour and overall quality

Many brewers during the late 1960s and early 1970s had made the decision to move away from producing traditional, flavoursome beers which continued to ferment in the cask from which they were served.

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Gary Quinn with his partner Jane Briscoe at the Guild Ale House

The trend left drinkers increasingly unhappy so Michael Hardman, Graham Lees, Jim Makin and Bill Mellor thought it was time British beer lovers were given better variety and choice.

The West Lancashire branch was formed in 1973 at the Moorbrook pub in Preston and changed its name to Central Lancashire in 2011. Its area includes Preston, Chorley, Leyland, Longridge, with at the last count, 387 pubs and clubs of which 303 serve real ale.

Chairman Adrian Smith said: “Our local pub promotion activities have included popular Ale Trails covering both Chorley and Preston. It is important to acknowledge the best pubs and over the years we have expanded our range of branch awards, with a quarterly Pub of the Season, Cider Pub of the Year, Club of the Year and Community Pub of the Year.

“The main award is for the overall Pub of the Year - the current holder of this title being the Guild Ale House in Preston.”

He added: “The last year has been a difficult one for the branch. Unable to hold physical meetings, we have kept in touch via Zoom, but while this can be an effective way of communicating it lacks the social contact that is the very essence of what pubs are about.

“However difficult it has been for us, it has been unbelievably hard for licensees. Some of the pub owners have been quite understanding and accommodating about rents, but many have still expected payment in full even with no income.

“To date there have been very few closures confirmed, but the uncertainty of what the future holds and the accumulated debt casts a shadow over plans for reopening. The government has announced that pubs can open outside areas on 12th April, and while this sounds great in theory, many of our pubs have limited outdoor facilities and to date only about twenty of them have indicated that they will be reopening on this date.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the government’s roadmap is still on course come 17th May when pubs in England are scheduled to be able to reopen indoors.”

Gary Quinn, runs the Guild Ale House, Lancaster Road, Preston, the current Central Lancs pub of the year - an award it has won twice. He said: “CAMRA has been great. We have a lot of members that come in and use it as a meeting place and we’ve held metings here. It’s saved a lot of pubs - it’s saved real ale. A lot of brewers were going down hte keg route and CAMRA saved cask ales.”