Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale

Good Beer Guide


Have you wondered how CAMRA selects pubs for the annual Good Beer Guide? Each CAMRA branch is responsible for the entries in its area within the county and each listed pub must consistently serve real ale (and real cider if offered) of good quality.

To help us do this, we collect beer quality information through CAMRA’s National Beer Scoring System (NBSS) in which members are asked to contribute scores for pubs throughout the year. It is easy to score your beers in NBSS. Log in to CAMRA’s online pub guide, WhatPub (, using your membership number and the same password that you use to enter the CAMRA national website. Search for the pub and enter a score for each beer that you drank in the Submit Beer Scores panel on the right of the screen. There is plenty of help and information about NBSS on the Beer Scoring tab. A version of WhatPub optimised for use on a smart phone is due to be launched in August and a downloadable app will appear later, so you can score your beer in the pub while you drink it! If you don’t have online access at all, then ask your NBSS Coordinator at a branch meeting for paper forms and we will enter your scores for you.

Having collected thousands of beer scores over the year, we generate a report in January giving the average, best and worst scores for each pub and a confidence factor based on the number of scores received. The Branch Committee uses these data to draw up a list of eligible pubs with the highest average score, supplemented by other sources of information, and then visits them to update the pub details ahead of a selection meeting in February. All branch members are invited to that meeting at which we select our quota for the next Good Beer Guide.

To make this work better, we need many more members to enter their scores. We value the opinions of all members whether active or not and we need as many opinions as possible for as many pints in as many pubs as possible. This is so we can have confidence in the statistics. We ask members to score the pubs continually not just once or twice. NBSS works across the country not just in our branch. If you are not a member but would like your opinions of beer quality in pubs to count, then join CAMRA!

Defining Real Cider

CAMRA is an organisation that supports and promotes real ale, cider and perry, and I presume that by now, most beer drinkers have a good idea of what real ale is. But I suspect that most drinkers, including those that drink cider, do not know what constitutes real cider, compared to the keg version. So let me try to explain.

Cider, and I am giving you the basic version here, is the easiest drink in the world to produce. You start with apples, crush them, squeeze out the juice and let it ferment using the fruit's own sugars and natural wild yeast. And hey presto it turns into cider. But it's not quite as simple as that, which is why CAMRA has its own definition of what we accept as being real cider.

Let me start with explaining about the fizzy, keg ciders that are found in almost every pub in the UK. Most start with apple concentrate, which can be imported from almost anywhere in the world, although a lot of the UK's apples are also turned into concentrate for cider. This product is then heavily diluted with water, and then has a dose of something like sugar or corn syrup added to allow it to ferment way above the legal maximum strength of 8.5%. So it then needs to be diluted down before it can be sold, resulting in a drink with a considerable amount of water and sugar water, with consumers having no idea how much juice is actually in the final product. Then it is filtered, pasteurised and gas added. Certainly not a naturally-produced drink.

So CAMRA obviously needs it own definition to show what we accept as real cider (and perry) compared to the mass-produced industrial drinks, and this has become even more important now that we are being swamped by a new phenomenon - cider either made or flavoured with other fruit.

There is, of course, no legal definition of what cider and perry actually is. The nearest you can get to this is the duty levied by HM Revenue & Customs for various types of alcohol. For these purposes, ciders or perries made or flavoured with fruit other than apples or pears are classed as wines, and have wine duty levies on them. And anyone who thinks that these drinks are traditional ciders should certainly think again. Currently you can get ciders labelled as melon, lychee, peach and the ubiquitous tutti frutti flavour, to name just some of them. Traditional they ain't!

CAMRA's definition for real cider and perry is fairly straightforward. It should be made from nonpasteurised apple or pear juice with no concentrate to be used. Large amounts of sugar or similar products are not to be used to ferment the juice way above its natural strength. No added water to deliberately increase the volume of juice. No pasteurisation to take place, no added colourings or flavourings to be used, no artificial carbonation. No micro filtration (which takes out all the yeast).

Finally, a sweetener may be added to the fully fermented drink to make it medium or sweet.

It's not complicated at all, is it? We at CAMRA are trying to promote a traditional, natural drink that we are proud to support. Simples!

CAMRA Merchandise

Below is just a small sample of the excellent range of books available from CAMRA, including the best selling Good Beer Guide. To see a full range of books available please see the National Website and don't forget - CAMRA members receive a discount. The Good Beer Guide 2014 - The best place to find good pubs and good beer. The Good Beer Guide is more than just a pub guide. Britain's longest-running and best-selling guide contains Britain's best pubs for real ale. But for beer lovers it also gives up-to-date information on the country's beers and breweries. It's compiled by over 100,000 dedicated volunteers in the Campaign for Real Ale. There are no fees for listings, and every pub is checked many times during the year.

CAMRA's Peak District Pub Walks helps you to see the best of Britain's oldest national park, whilst never straying too far from a decent pint.