With over 187,000 members around the world, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), can be considered one of the most successful consumer campaigns ever.
CAMRA was founded by a few real ale enthusiasts in 1971, when the traditional rich-flavoured ales, still fermenting in the casks from which they were served, were being replaced by brewers producing beers with less demanding production and storing techniques.
Through CAMRA's tireless campaigning, real ale is now produced by over 1,500 breweries, with over 11,000 specialist products competing for attention.
CAMRA members include not simply real ale enthusiasts and regular pub-goers, but also sociable members, who want to meet like-minded individuals, often at CAMRA festivals. We also represent those who wish to learn more about beers and brewing and those value-seekers who appreciate the discounts and special offers we can provide.
There has never been a better time to appreciate our traditional British drink, but you don't have to be an expert. Such a wide range of flavours and styles are available these days that you will soon learn which beers most appeal to your taste buds, whether its a chocolate stout or a light floral golden ale.
Tasting beer is just like tasting wine, but forget about spitting it out! The first step is to make sure the beer you are tasting is served at the right temperature. Too cold and real ale loses many of its complex flavours. Served too warm, it can develop some you don't want and quickly loses condition in the glass.
Below, please find some tasting notes for enjoying your beer. Want more? Why not visit the CAMRA shop for some fantastic titles to help you becoming a beer expert!
The term ‘real ale' has been expanded to include bottle-conditioned beer, while the term ‘cask ale' is now an accepted term to indicate a beer conditioned in the cask and not served under pressure. The recent growth in breweries in the UK and the craft beer boom have added a plethora of specialist brews favoured by drinkers keen to sample something other than run-of-the-mill mass-produced beverages.
CAMRA's core aims, to promote real ale and pubs, as well as acting as the consumer's champion in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry, remain to this day. CAMRA also supports the growing interest in real cider and perry.
1. Use your eyes
Beer should look good. It should be colourful and bright and if it is meant to have a significant head of froth, this should be thick and creamy. Some beers, such as wheat beers may be cloudy, but these too should look attractive. Generally, your beer should be bright and clear and your glass should not contain any sediment.
2. Use your nose
The best way to sniff your beer is with a glass which is half-empty. This enables you to give it a quick swirl, place your hand over the glass to hold in the lovely aromas fighting to escape and then dive in and take a nice deep breath. You will soon learn to recognise key features such as hoppiness from a classic pale ale, the burnt chocolate flavours of a stout or the banana nose of a wheat beer.
3. Now the taste!
As you take your first taste of the beer you'll notice the sweetness from the malts at the front of your mouth and dry bitter flavours from the hops at the back of your mouth. As you swallow the beer and learn to appreciate the ‘finish', the lingering aftertaste.
Just like wine, beers have their own unique characteristics and complexities from the style, the ingredients and the recipe. Beer can be enjoyed on its own, but it is also exceptionally good with food! Experiment and you'll soon become skilled in matching different beers to different food dishes.
CAMRA offers membership types to suit your needs and help you get the most from your membership