RUBY ANNIVERSARY for Exeter and East Devon Branch of CAMPAIGN FOR REAL ALE
It started on 16th March 1971 when four disillusioned drinkers bemoaned the demise of tasty proper beer whilst the National Brewers foisted fizzy, chilled, pasteurized, tasteless Keg, ‘Bright’ beer and lager, stored in tanks, promoted as Red Barrel, Double Diamond, Skol, etc upon the drinking public.
The four disillusioned drinkers resolved to do something about it, so they formed the Campaign for Real Ale. This obviously struck a chord with pub-goers and by 1972 the first CAMRA AGM took place, the Campaign spread rapidly throughout the Country and Local and Regional Branches were set up.
Here records are sparse but it is recalled that the first meeting of the Exeter Branch gathered at The Bridge in Topsham and was formed in 1973, hence our Ruby (40th) Anniversary.
As the Campaign grew and became more organized, Devon became divided into four Branches, Exeter and East Devon, South Devon, Plymouth and District and North Devon.
Nationally, from the founding four members in 1971, by 1991 membership had risen to 30,000, by 2002 to 64,000, it reached 100,000 in 2009 and now stands at over 156,000 and we now have over 800 subscribing members in E&ED Branch.
Furthermore, whilst the majority of our members are in the 40+ age group we do have an increasing number of new recruits in their 20’s and 30’s. Also, CAMRA proudly announces that over 22% of members are female and in our Branch we have 5 ladies amongst our active committee of 13 and many more who attend and help at our meetings and Festivals.
So, 40 years on from the original meeting of the Exeter Branch, the E&ED Branch met on Saturday 28th September at 12 noon at The Bridge in Topsham to celebrate our Anniversary and we were delighted that many Past Chairmen and ex-members joined us.
To illustrate the wide appeal of our Campaign, we meet monthly at Pubs across our Branch area with our average attendance in the mid-thirties, in early September we met at The Merry Harriers in Westcott and members attending were from Honiton, Exmouth, Cullompton, Clyst St. George, Exeter, Kilmington, Exwick, Topsham, Newton St. Cyres, Crediton and Dawlish. Of course we also enjoy many social gatherings, visiting pubs and breweries and working very hard to organize our annual Festival of Winter Ales (this year is our 25th and will be held again at Exeter City Football ground, St James Park on 10th and 11th January). We also publish our quarterly magazine Exe Ale.
To emphasise the appeal now of Real Ale, in 1980 there were two small independent brewers in Devon, Cotleigh Brewery in Tiverton (subsequently moved to Wiveliscombe in Somerset) and Blackawton (sadly closed this year) but now there are 30 listed in the current Good Beer Guide in Devon, some very small, some grown successfully quite big (and two more announced as starting up since the list was published).
Nowadays CAMRA is active in supporting brewers, supporting pubs and licensees, fighting pub closures, encouraging community pubs, challenging excessive tax and rates burdens on landlords and drinkers but never losing sight of celebrating the wonderful range of tastes and flavours that can be found only in our National (that is all parts of the British Isles) drink – REAL ALE
Rowland and Thelma Honeywill
The 40th Anniversary of Exeter & East Devon CAMRA Branch - Trip to Derby
This year Exeter/East Devon CAMRA is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a branch and one of three events organised was a weekend in Derby visiting a city that lays claim to be "The Real Ale Capital of the country". Sheffield also lays claim to this title but Derby was where our members decided to go for the weekend of 21/22nd June.
As we had decided to go on a Friday only nine members decided to go by train or car plus a tenth Jane who happened to be visiting relations in the area that weekend. Our organisation of the whole weekend was sustantially helped by Derby CAMRA Branch and we are very grateful to them
for this as it made everything so much easier for us including booking a hotel at a very competitive price right in the centre. Once we had all arrived we gathered at the closest pub on the ale trail, The Royal Standard which is the brewery tap for The Derby Brewery Co. In total there were ten beers available, not a bad start we thought. We then moved only 50 yards down the road to The Exeter Arms where we had our own private room for a vey good and welcome meal. This pub is owned by The Dancing Duck Company and having only(?) six beers on was one of the lowest number for the weekend..
Much refreshed we then made a visit to The Derventio Brewery which is about 2 miles outside the centre of Derby. It is a small micro brewery based in Darley Mills which is an 18th century building so the architecture was of some interest to us.We were well looked after by the owner and brewer Pete and also the barman Kane. After a quick tour whilst having a few drinks and nibbles we were told something of the history of the building and area.Unusally whilst we were here a brew was actually in the process of being produced. By the time we left here the evening was well advanced but we still had time to visit five more pubs as we slowly wended our way back to our hotel just after midnight. Yes the pubs here close very late.
On the Saturday after a very good breakfast we were on the road again.Derby CAMRA have an Ale Trail on their website which has twenty three pubs on it and during the course of the day we visited another twelve of them. So over the two days we visited seventeen in total of them. Overall they had anything from six to eighteen beers on so there was a very large range of breweries and styles to choose from.
On Saturday evening Derby CAMRA had arranged for us to join them on a mini bus surveying trip out into the country part of their area. This was most enjoyable because we saw some of the beautiful countryside that constitutes The Peaks National pub. We visited another seven pubs including a couple of gems, THE BARLEY MOW at KIRK IRETON a 1683 Jacobean house that but for a sign hanging on a nearby tree could be passed without knowing a pub was there. We also visited YE OLD GATE INN at BRASSINGTON which is on The National Inventory of CAMRA pubs of special interest.
We were back in Derby just after 11-00p.m. and dropped outside a pub that we hadn't already visited. Then of course we couldn't resist going back to several for a second visit and after a few night caps we finally arrived back at our hotel.
Sunday was a comparatively quiet day; our train was due to leave at 1-30p.m. so naturally we visited a pub near to the station for a few more to finish off our weekend and what a wonderful two days it was. I'm sure most of us will now want to visit Sheffield, perhaps next year.