THE Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) was formed in March 1971 by four men from north west England who were disillusioned by the domination of the UK beer market by a handful of companies pushing products of low flavour and overall quality on to consumers.

The voluntary organisation’s aims are to champion good quality real ale, ciders and perries and to encourage thriving pubs in every community.

Over the past five decades, membership has grown to 190,000 globally and it is considered one of the most successful consumer campaigns ever launched.

Through Camra’s tireless campaigning, real ale is now produced by more than 1,500 breweries across the UK – a tenfold increase since its foundation.

This year’s beer and cider festival will be hosted at Brighton Racecourse from Thursday, March 22, to Saturday, March 24 with more than 60 breweries from across Sussex already committed to showcasing more than 150 beers and 40 ciders and perries from across the UK.

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Peter Mitchell is a Camra committee member and helps organise all aspects of the Sussex Beer and Cider Festival. He said: “With more than 2,000 breweries in the UK – and 60 plus in Sussex alone – the beer orderer has a mammoth task with so much choice.

“It’s a case of choosing a good selection of milds, bitters, strong bitters, porters, golden beers, IPAs and some slightly more unusual beers such as those with fruit or herbs.

“The same goes for the ciders and perries as there are so many UK producers with drinks of different strengths and flavours.

“It’s not easy with so much choice.

“An organising committee oversees and makes plans for the festival but to ensure the festival runs well you need a dedicated workforce and being the 28th festival everybody knows how to set up and take down the beers and scaffolding, serve the beer and look after the customers.

“The profit made goes towards funding our quarterly magazine the Sussex Drinker which we print 12,000 copies of each quarter and is distributed to pubs around the county.

“My best tips for the festival are to enjoy the large selection of beer, cider and perries on offer, in moderation. All the glasses are marked with third, half and pint measures so you can try a fair few without going too far.

“Make sure you get a bite to eat from one of the food concessions too. And, of course, the festival is a great opportunity to chat with fellow beer and cider lovers”.

Brook Saunders recently launched Brolly Brewing, a microbrewery in Wisborough Green near Chichester. He will be showing his Spring Festival beer.

He said: “While brewing is a passion – I come from a family of publicans – I actually work as a trading director for a music channel in London.

“Brolly Brewing brews every weekend and I deliver and collect beer at very unsociable hours during the week while my wife Holly looks after all the logistics, finance and marketing, outside of her full-time job. For our locality in Sussex, I would say our beers are becoming known for their haziness and hop-forward style.

“Quite standard for many breweries in London and beyond, but NEIPAs (New England Indian Pale Ales) in cask are quite rare as they’re tricky to cask-condition and react to oxygen more noticeably than darker beers.

“I think CAMRA’s role has been invaluable in the past and hopefully, with its revitalisation project, it will be more forward focused and effective in its campaign in the future.

“I’ve been going to the Sussex Beer and Cider Festival for as long as I can remember and to have one of my beers there is a one of those special moments in life: I’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

“I’ll be able to spot people drinking it as it’s rather hazy as you might expect.”

Steve Keegan is head brewer at Holler, in Blackboys near Uckfield.

He previously worked at Fuller, Smith and Turner developing their craft beer brands, and opened the Brighton Beer Dispensary four years ago before starting up on his own.

He said: “Our mission at Holler is to bring the world of craft beer to everyone.

“Our beers are really drinkable – which might sound weird but a lot of the craft beer world miss this attribute – and we are certainly influenced by the American craft movement. We work with interesting hop varieties and different yeast to make really hop forward beers. We also have a secret love for tradition, and I suppose our biggest rebellion of late is being a craft brewery and knocking out an amazing best bitter too.

“Camra has ordered one of our most progressive beers in our Loot NEIPA. It is a hazy beer, which is challenging to a lot of Camra members and really showcases our style of beer. It is the first time we will have beer at the festival.

“If I could drink any beer – other than our own – it’d have to be Racer 5 by Bear Republic on either keg or in can. It has everything for me: great malty flavours packed in with a big bunch of hops. I could drink this beer all day”.

Dominic Worrall is publican of The Bull in Ditchling. He set up Bedlam Brewery at Albourne around five years ago and now supplies to pubs and retailers across the region.

He said: “If Camra hadn’t been formed to champion the small brewer, it’s highly unlikely that Bedlam or any of the smaller, independent brewers would exist today.

“It has been a fantastic movement and has inspired and allowed people like us to make a difference. From championing the industry and quality of beer, through to the legislation they have helped create in Parliament, they have been a force for good in an industry, that was all but finished.

“Only 20 years ago there were only a handful of Sussex brewers left, but now there are more than 60. That has come about through the combined efforts of Camra and some brilliant entrepreneurial brewers.

“We were awarded the Gold Medal at the South East Camra Region Awards in 2017, which was fantastic and offers a genuine seal of approval to the work we do.

“I think it’s vital to work with Camra, particularly at a time when the industry is evolving more than ever. The hope being that it can become an even more broadminded and forward thinking voice for the craft brewer.”