this is my love letter to camra, the campaign for real ale in vancouver

caveat:  i was asked by monica, the communications director of camra vancouver and bc, to write a blog post that she could feature in the next newsletter.  but... she did not ask me to write about camra.  this is not a commissioned piece.  rather it is what i really think and feel, albeit prompted by being asked to write something worthy of being pointed to in a newsletter read by a whole schwack of people!

i can't actually remember when i first heard about camra
i do remember when i decided to become a member though
it was during the inaugural vancouver craft beer week, during the four beers and a funeral pub crawl
i had been falling in love with beer for a couple of years, but somehow had not become a part of the craft beer community
i saw ads for craft beer week in the media and instantly knew i had to be a part of the events
i roped a couple of friends into accompanying me and bought tickets to events not already sold out
the pub crawl in particular tickled my fancy - a pub crawl, accompanied by a band through the streets of vancouver, dressed in my louisiana best?  yes please!
i had little knowledge about the role dix had played in the beer community and just how deeply people were mourning its imminent demise, but i did know that i loved beer and wanted to be a part of that community now that i had discovered that they existed
and i was floored by how many of them there were
these were my people, and i'd had no idea where they had been
everyone was so friendly
everyone was talking about the beer, not just drinking it
i was in heaven
(and drunk on very good beer!)
people had their camra pins on
they talked about the advocacy camra was doing
and said i should join
i had heard of camra before that, but somehow i didn't equate it with being a group i should/could join
but if these were the people who were members
and they wanted me to be one too, well sure, i'd do it
i can't say that i went right home and joined, but i definitely did join very soon afterwards
and encouraged several of my friends to join too

did i join for the benefits like discounts around town?
honestly, there weren't as many of those then as there are now
but it was an incentive to join before the next camra event so that i got $5 off my ticket price
i mean, i was going to join anyway, might as well do it in time to get that benefit, right?
these days, i think its a shame if someone is only joining camra for the discounts membership offers
but i will admit to listing off all those discounts when suggesting someone buy a membership
you want to get them in the door, right?
then when they see how awesome a group of people camra is, they stay, they contribute and they in turn recruit more members
and that plan seems to be working, camra has trebled its membership in the few years since i first became a member

but back to my love letter
camra vancouver has given me so much
friends, education, people to beer geek out with - in a word, a community
introductions to beers, breweries, styles, events
indirectly it gave me this blog and my cbc radio gig
it has given me a forum for my love of beer
and a place to grow that love into a more fulfilling part of my life

camra is full of passionate people
passionate about their beer, their brewers, their pubs
passionate about advocating for everyone's beer rights
passionate about sharing their passion
its a very inspiring group of people
and the newsletter!
in some incarnations a weekly affair, currently a bi-weekly offering
this is where all sorts of beer news can be found
including links to bloggers and a list of all the beer events around town

camra has given me people to drink beer with
(this is not usually a hard thing to find, but what camra has given me is a group of people i don't need to make plans with to drink beer - i just go to a beer event and there they are, ready to hoist a pint with me)
people to talk beer with
(this cannot be over-rated!  i have bored so many of my friends with my constant desire to talk about, dissect and covet beer.  finding a group of people who want to talk beer above all else has been a godsend - all my friends thank camra as well)
the vocabulary to intelligently talk beer
(finding that one perfect word to use in lieu of twenty vague ones is a wonderful thing.  thank you for gently teaching me the right words.  and encouraging me to use them a lot - see above!)
the desire to learn more about beer
(okay, i already had that, but camra has helped me learn more about beer by giving me people who know more than i do who keep me curious and interested, by giving me amazing living resources to learn from and explore with, and by holding events that expand my repertoire and introduce me to new styles and brewers)
the desire to search out unique beers
(this also goes back to those people to talk beer with, because who else but beer geeks gets excited when you tell them you found and drank some rare beer?  or want to talk about what you're cellaring? and who else can keep you as rapt as a child listening to a fairy tale when they tell you about that beer they tried at some far-flung place and hope to have again some day soon, if only they can find it)
the confidence in my beer knowledge
(through people to talk beer with, and the all my beer learning, i feel confident about talking beer with anyone - neophyte or expert, and embrace being "that" beer person)
and that's not a remotely complete list!

what's so important about beer?
sure, on the surface it doesn't seem like the most important group to belong to
but if you dig a little deeper, beer brings a lot to the table:
beer brings people together
beer is an important industry - practically worldwide
pubs are important gathering places for the exchange of not just of drunken camaraderie, but of valuable information as well, not to mention community building
beer requires clean water for brewing
beer requires quality ingredients
i could keep going on, but i think you get the picture
(and my hands are getting a little tired with all this darned typing)
so frankly, beer is a great cause to get behind
it is also darned fun to drink
isn't it nice when your passion is so convivial?

what have i given to camra?
it hasn't been an egalitarian relationship
i have definitely gotten more from camra that i have given to it
i did spend 2012 as the treasurer and i often volunteer at camra events
of course even these contributions to camra give to me as well, but let's pretend they go part of the way to repaying camra for all it has given to me, okay?

who else is awesome?  vancouver craft beer week and vanbrewers
more education, more community, more beer geeks
my pint glass runneth over
we are a very lucky people in vancouver


  1. You brought a tear to my eye there Becks, thanks so much for your kind words. CAMRA is lucky to have people like you!

    On a personal note, meeting you and the awesome times we spent together volunteering at CAMRA events inspired me to get more involved.

    See you on the next pub crawl my friend.

  2. Well said! This also brought a tear to my eye! Thanks for putting how I feel about CAMRA and our community into words. You freaking rock! Cheers :-)


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