Chesterfield Campaign for Real Ale
Real ale drinkers across the nation should raise a toast to four founding fathers of the campaign for real ales. Michael Hardman, Bill Mellor, Jim Makin and Graham Lees are the men who launched CAMRA in 1971. Their aim then, as it remains today, is to preserve cask ales in Britain.
Six years later on the 18th July 1977 the Chesterfield branch of CAMRA was founded. The meeting on the Furnace Inn, Goytside attracted 23 members and established the first committee with Doug Leeming installed as Chairman. In 1981 the first Chesterfield CAMRA real ale guide was published. It recorded the 137 pubs in the area that served real ale as well as microbrewery, Winkles Saxon Cross.
Real Ale Festival
In November 1983 the association’s first real ale festival took place. It was jointly run with the Cavendish Round Table and held at the Goldwell rooms. In subsequent years the event expanded to two days. The festival has since moved around various venues and is a highlight of the Chesterfield CAMRA’s calendar.
The Chesterfield branch has witnessed a lot of change since it came into being. A lot of the hard work has been vindicated as revived interest in real ales has led companies like John Smiths to open their eyes to the market. The branch has also led campaigns for the reintroduction of lined oversized glasses to local pubs and more flexible opening hours. With a rise in the popularity of microbreweries things have improved for real ale drinkers. But sadly these improvements have gone hand in hand with the closure of regional brewers like Stones Cannon brewery, Shipstones Home Brewery, Wards Brewery and Mansfield Brewery.
In 1994, after 40 years without a brewery in Chesterfield, Alan Wood opened the Townes microbrewery. With beers like Colliers, Muffins, Sunshine, Spireite, Stargazer and IPA gracing the bars of Chesterfield drinkers in the area no longer had to go far for real ale.
A team ran by Graeme Brown established the InnSpire newsletter in May 1996. It’s the association’s key marketing tool and has always been well backed by local pubs and other trade supplier. In fact one pub, the Rose & Crown, has promoted themselves in every issue.
In 2003 the association’s website came into being. This has opened the Chesterfield campaign for real ales to the world.
Today the branch is strong with more than 450 active members. Regular socials functions fill the calendar and organised beer festivals give the public an opportunity to try real ales in an effort to help prevent the closure of more local pubs. If you would like to get involved you are more than welcome to join. Why not come along to one of the social events or get in contact through the website.