Camra
Our Branch

We publish any information here relating to the Burton-on-Trent & South Derbyshire Branch. Committee news, how any of the B&SD members can get involved and any situations vacant to Branch Members etc. We're always on the lookout for new volunteers, so if your a current member and you're able to give us some of your time please don't hesitate to contact us or just give May Arthur a call, See Below...

Branch Committee for 2010
 
Chairperson
Dave Mason
 
Publications & Surveys
Mike Gibson
Vice Chairperson
Mike Gibson
 
Press and Publicity
Nik Antona
Treasurer
David Walton
 
Membership Secretary
Martin Lawes
Minutes Secretary
Brian Bell
 
Young Members Sec.
Peter Fletcher
Social Secretary
Jackie Allen
 
Internet and Website
Luke Lucas
Branch Contact: May Arthur - Tel: (01283) 542656 or Email: Here
An Introduction to the Branch

The Branch was formed in 1975 as a spin-off from Derby Branch. A ‘meeting to test support' was arranged in the January of that year (precise date not known), by Max Stewart, then Chairman of Derby Branch, at the Old Punch Bowl (now the Appleby), Green Street , Burton . Clearly there was indeed sufficient support, so the Inaugural General Meeting was subsequently held at the Leopard Inn, Lichfield Street , on Wednesday 5th March 1975, when Stan Ashton was elected Chairman.

List of Branch Chairs

1975-1982 Stan Ashton, 1982-1984 Martin Flowers, 1984-1985 Keith Harrison, 1985-1992 Pete Rogers, 1992-1997 Chris Fletcher, 1997-2000 John Hoddy, 2000-present May Arthur

Branch Area

The Branch area agreed at its formation covered East Staffordshire up to the A515 to the west, and to the south it included Barton-under-Needwood, but not Yoxall and Alrewas (both coming under Lichfield Branch). The Branch part of South Derbyshire included Newton Solney, Hartshorne, Smisby, and the all towns/villages to the south of these, but not Repton and Ticknall (both retained by Derby Branch).

Unfortunately, due to a dwindling membership, Lichfield Branch was merged with Tamworth Branch in late 2002, but some of its outlying areas were transferred to those neighbouring branches better located geographically to serve their pubs and CAMRA members. As a consequence, the Branch area in East Staffordshire was extended to include villages such as Alrewas, Kings Bromley and Yoxall to the south, and Abbots Bromley, Colton and Lea Heath to the west.

With its area straddling the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border, the Branch finds itself associated with both CAMRA East Midlands Region (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland) and CAMRA West Midlands Region (Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Worcestershire) and contributes to the activities of each.

Meetings

The Branch holds monthly business meetings (excluding August) at which news and views are exchanged, and the Branch's various activities and campaigning issues are discussed and actions decided. The Annual General Meeting is held in April.

These meetings are held at pubs (and occasionally clubs) at various locations within the Branch area. Alternate meetings are held in Burton town, and the remainder divided equally between East Staffordshire villages and South Derbyshire.

Social Activities

The Branch organises a range of activities, such as evening pub socials, day trips to pubs in other parts of the country, brewery visits, ‘bike ‘n' beer' cycle rides, and occasional pub games evenings. These are generally advertised in the ‘What's On' section of the CAMRA newspaper What's Brewing.

Since 1985, the Branch has also entered a team in the Burton Bridge Brewery Skittles League, but has not yet managed to win it! Mid-table obscurity is the norm.

Beer Festivals

September 1980 saw the 1st Burton Beer Festival at Burton Town Hall , organised in collaboration with the Burton & District Licensed Victuallers Association. This successful event set the scene for further annual beer festivals which continue to the present day (although the LVA were never again invited to become involved due to their minimal contribution).

In April 1984, the Branch ran its one and only beer festival outside Burton : “SwadFest 84”, in the Market Hall, Swadlincote. While this event was regarded as a campaigning success, it lost money, and the ‘experiment' has never been repeated.

Due to the general popularity of CAMRA beer festivals and their increasing benefit as campaigning and fundraising events, in February 1996 the Branch introduced a Burton Winter Beer Festival at Burton Town Hall , albeit on a slightly smaller scale than the September one. This also became an annual event in January/February, although for various reasons it has been moved to March from 2008 onwards and has become the Burton Spring Beer Festival.

It is worth noting that, despite its relatively small size, the Burton Winter Beer Festival incorporated CAMRA's National Winter Ales Festival in 2003 and 2004, reflecting its convivial atmosphere and the widely admired interior of Burton Town Hall .

Publications

Since its formation, the Branch has submitted nominations every year for CAMRA's annual Good Beer Guide . Based on members' beer quality reports throughout the previous calendar year, a short list is agreed at the January Branch meeting. Following formal surveys, the final submissions are decided at a special meeting held in late February.

The Branch has only ever published two local real ale guides, in 1985 and in 1994, both limited to the town of Burton and its suburbs. (Three other attempts in the late 1970s, early 1980s, and around 1990, foundered due to, respectively: the loss of survey information by the prime organiser; funding issues and a perceived enthusiasm for county guides; and an impending national pub exchange following a Monopolies & Mergers Commission report. A subsequent attempt in the late 1990s was eventually abandoned due to the work commitments of the editor/organiser.)

The Branch has, however, contributed to a Derbyshire county beer guide, Derbyshire Ale , which was first published in 1982, with a second edition following in 1990. Unfortunately, the publication of a third edition was eventually shelved in 2005 after certain other branches in the county were unable to fulfil their commitments.

To date, there appears to have been no serious and sustained attempt to produce a Staffordshire county beer guide.

In July 1979, in collaboration with the Burton Trader, a local free weekly newspaper, the Branch launched a Pub-of-the-Month initiative. This involved a feature in the Burton Trader (written by a Branch member), accompanied by a photograph, and with a certificate presented to the pub at a Branch social. The Branch and the pub benefited from the publicity, and the exercise continued until mid-1982 when the newspaper lost interest. (Sadly, the Burton Trader folded in July 2009.)

A Branch newsletter primarily intended for members, Burton Waters , was inaugurated in late 1989. This was published on an irregular basis for many years, subject to the work commitments of editors and the flow of contributions from members, but was essentially superseded in early 2001 by the Burton Real Ale Times . The latter was more of a magazine and aimed at a wider audience, being distributed free-of-charge in many local pubs. Regrettably, lack of support, in terms of articles and production assistance, led to its demise in mid-2002.

A Branch website was first introduced in early 1996, but clearly it has been subject to considerable development since that time.

Pub Information and Surveys

The Branch operates a rolling survey programme covering all 200+ pubs in its area in order to maintain reasonably up-to-date data on all such premises. This enables the local real ale scene to be continually monitored and provides information for national CAMRA surveys and statistics.

National Competitions

CAMRA nationally runs Pub-of-the-Year and Champion Beer of Britain competitions. The Branch submits nominations for both of these through CAMRA's East Midlands and West Midlands regions.

A short list for the Branch's Pub-of-the-Year is drawn up in early March from those pubs submitted for the next Good Beer Guide . These are visited individually (and anonymously) during March by a team of selected surveyors and marked according to several criteria. The top-scoring pub is declared the Branch's Pub-of-the-Year. Depending on whether the winner is located in South Derbyshire or East Staffordshire, or in Burton town or in the countryside, other high scoring pubs may be designated Burton Town Pub-of-the-Year, Branch Country Pub-of-the-Year, or South Derbyshire Pub-of-the-Year, as appropriate. In any case, the top-scoring pubs in South Derbyshire and East Staffordshire are nominated for the next stage of the competition at county level, ie . Derbyshire and Staffordshire Pub-of-the-Year respectively. The Branch also nominates judges to take part in the county-wide surveys at this next level, where Pub-of-the-Year nominations from other CAMRA branches are assessed. There are several subsequent stages to decide the national Pub-of-the-Year: Regional, Super-Regional, and National.

The Champion Beer of Britain competition commences at a regional level, with CAMRA branches submitting nominations for each of several categories, eg . Best Bitters, Golden Ales, Old Ales & Strong Milds, etc . (It should be noted at this point that nominations for each region are restricted to beers brewed on a regular basis within that region .) The Branch process involves drawing up short lists for each beer category for each region, in consultation with Branch members. Each member then has the opportunity to vote for their favourite beers, leading to Branch nominations for each category being forwarded to East Midlands and West Midlands regions. The later stages in the Champion Beer of Britain competition are conducted at CAMRA beer festivals by blind tastings of the most popular beers (by appointed Tasting Panels), initially at local beer festivals, and then finally at either the Great British Beer Festival or the National Winter Ales Festival, depending on the beer category.

Membership

Since its formation, CAMRA membership in the Branch area has risen steadily from around 50 in the late 1970s to over 400 now. Unfortunately, this increase has not been reflected in attendances at Branch meetings which, on average, have barely doubled, nor in the number of significantly active members who contribute to the organisation of the Branch and, most critically, of the Burton Beer Festivals.

The branch needs more active members, particularly young ones (under 30), in order to sustain, and indeed develop, its mission to encourage and promote the availability and enjoyment of a wide range of quality real ales in East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire.