How The Branch Works
We hold a monthly Branch Meeting in a city centre pub. This deals with formal business and occasionally we have relevant guest speakers e.g. local MPs, trade representatives. They are generally held at 8pm in the 3rd week of the month at a rotating venue and are open to all CAMRA members.
At the Annual Meeting in February we elect Officers and a Committee to manage detailed Branch activities and deal with correspondence, much of which comes from national CAMRA. The Committee also meets monthly at a rotating city pub, generally in the first week of the month, also starting at 8pm. All Branch members may attend (but not vote at) Committee meetings.
Minutes are kept of both meetings and made available to members by email.
All Members are also welcome to attend Regional meetings, held all over Yorkshire. They consist of a business meeting and optional local pub crawl. Invitations and paperwork are emailed out.
All Members can also register for the National Members’ Weekend and Annual General Meeting, held at prestigious venues across the country. Business and workshops are conducted in the daytimes and there are optional organised brewery trips in the evenings. Recent locations have included Norwich, Scarborough, Nottingham and Liverpool (2016)
We have a large number of members and the primary route of internal communication is via our Email network. National CAMRA sends us a monthly Membership Report (with new joiners, lapses & transfers in and out), and this is used to update the email list regularly. The list is controlled by the Secretary and used to distribute official info (Minutes/Meeting Agendas/annual ballot etc.) and news/items of interest shared by other relevant people such as pubs and breweries.
There is a small “paper” list that members can opt into to receive by post key official CAMRA info only e.g. annual members’ ballot.
Our Website is publicly available and holds lots of useful information e.g. social diary, pub maps, brewery list. We also use Facebook and Twitter social media for less formal communication e.g. beer festival conversations.
Ouse Boozer is our quarterly magazine. It has a print-run of 7600 and distributed free of charge to many pubs across the city and wider Branch area. Production of this and the associated advertising is contracted out to Matelot Marketing (See FAQ for Licensees).
WhatPub is CAMRA’s national database of pubs. It is publicly available (link here) and still under construction, but seeks to provide information on ALL pubs to the same standard as found in the Good Beer Guide. Both members and public are encouraged to use it and submit updates/improvements for any pub for our local Pubs Data Co-Ordinator to action.
Perhaps the biggest battle yet to be won is maintaining the diminished pub population. Many pubs have been lost to redevelopment or change of use.
That is why we campaign against the closure of any pub. Even poor ones have the capability to change (and there are many examples of this), once it’s gone it’s gone!
We maintain contact with planning developments in all 5 of the local authorities that our Branch contains. Permitted development rights have now been removed by Government for all pubs so they cannot be demolished or used for alternative use without Planning permission. But we continue to help get vulnerable pubs listed as Assets of Community Value, as this gives added weight when resisting inappropriate Planning Applications and enables a community bid to buy the freehold.
Our biggest single event to promote the CAMRA cause and showcase the astounding variety of beer and cider now available to consumers. Hundreds of members volunteer to turn a green field into a self-contained village on the Knavesmire (York), run a four day festival and take it all down again. We offer over 450 beers and 100 ciders and perries, as well as wines, mead, draught foreign beer and key keg beer.
We encourage pubs to join this accreditation scheme and promote those that do in various ways (see LocAle Pubs page)
Individual Members can put forward Motions for debate at annual conference through their Branch and influence national policy. We have done this a number of times, most recently with a successful motion on clear CAMRA labelling for “key keg” real ales. Attendees can also seek to speak on any conference business.
We organise a variety of activities to which the general public is welcome, including monthly Friday 5s in the city, monthly cycle rides to rural areas, Pub award presentations and pub survey trips into the country areas. These help us get our campaigning messages across in a social atmosphere, recruit new members and see what’s happening outside the city. Details are publicly available on the website and we email a diary to members.
We organise an annual ale trail in the summer with prizes including free festival entry and free beer. We try and use different pubs every year so many can get involved in what is a good promotional opportunity, and have a mix of city and rural pubs (accessible by public transport).
Some years we organise a beer census across the whole city to gain useful info on the number of real ales and ciders available and prices. This is done by a team of volunteers on a single day.
Annual competitions take place for Branch Pub of the Year, Cider Pub of the Year and Club of the Year, and start with the members’ ballot. Members are also invited to nominate pubs for entry into the next national Good Beer Guide.
Any shortlisted pubs/clubs are validated against beer tasting results from WhatPub (see Tasting below).
We also award Pubs of the Season to a City and Town & Country pub.
Good Beer Guide (GBG)
The number of pubs (allocation) is fixed for Branches. We divide up that allocation into areas so that rural pubs do not get squeezed out. Note that due to limitations on the book size, the allocation is quite small so inevitably many good pubs will not get in.
The sole criteria for selection is good and consistent real ale. The top pubs chosen by members by each area will go into the national guide, subject to survey (poor beer quality or a change of Licensee will exclude a pub). We also survey some substitutes in case they are needed. The chosen list is not made public until the official National launch in September.
The Good Beer Guide is available annually in hardcopy, and iPhone and Android apps from the national CAMRA website.
Pub/Cider Pub/Club of the Year
Nominations are invited from Members, and appropriate shortlists constructed from pubs/clubs receiving the most. Members then survey and rank those on the shortlist. The results are compiled and the top scoring Pub or Club wins. Celebration events are organised for each where we present a framed certificate.
The winners also go through to the Regional level of the competition and if chosen to the National level.
All pubs and clubs are eligible for nomination except last year’s winners provided they serve real ale or cider as appropriate.
The ranking is based on the 6 national criteria. Beer/cider quality is the most important factor, and the others are:
Style, Décor, Furnishing & Cleanliness;
Service, Welcome & Offering;
Community Focus & Atmosphere;
Alignment with CAMRA Principles;
Pubs of the Season
Members can nominate both a City and Town & Country pub for this local award every quarter. We agree a shortlist at a Branch meeting. At the next one the nominators present a short case for their pub and we select by secret ballot. Celebration events are organised for each where we present a framed certificate.
All pubs, except those that have won the award in the last 12months, are eligible, provided they serve real ale.
Champion Beer of Britain (CBOB)
CAMRA appoints a Brewery Liaison Officer (BLO) for each brewery, who keeps in contact with the brewery and maintains information on the national Brewery Information System (BIS). This data is used to populate the brewery section of the Good Beer Guide, but is also used to produce a list of eligible beers for each Region. Local Members are then invited to choose their preferences in an online ballot. Those with the best scores for each beer style then progress to the judging stages. Regional winners are chosen and these progress to the National competition held at the national Great British Beer Festival in London, where the awards are made.
CAMRA operates a National Beer Scoring System for its members, integrated into WhatPub. A simple 0-5 score can be entered for beers drunk at any pub on the national WhatPub database. The results of this activity are used to validate pub and beer competitions e.g. Champion Beer of Britain nominations, Good Beer Guide entries.
The Branch also has a Tasting Panel which is trained to use a more sophisticated and structured assessment. We are currently developing this. The results of tasting panels can also be used to assess beer quality in pubs and hence validate competition entries.
LocAle of the Festival
Locally, we also have a competition at our Knavesmire festival for Branch breweries. Panels of CAMRA workers taste and score all the available beers, by style. The top scorers go forward to another panel which selects and scores to produce the style winners and overall winner. All the tasting is done blind.
The winners are invited to supply their beers to the festival workers’ party, early in the year, where we present the awards.