Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, November 28, 2014

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The time of year has arrived when people start subtly inquiring or straightforwardly asking what I want for Christmas. The answer is not much. I have a roof over my head, food in the pantry and wood for the fire.

My needs are simple and pleasures few, mostly consisting of beer and football. I don’t understand jewellery and about the only thing I might buy if I won mega millions on the Lottery is a League Two football team.

So what to suggest? It’s too late for me as I already have it, but a clue to the perfect present was suggested by the visit of the Bar Wife’s nephew over half term. He is a teacher down in Sussex and came up for a couple of days over the holiday.

We met him in Norwich, at the beer festival. He likes a pint but did not know a great deal about CAMRA, but after a pleasant lunchtime he went away and gave it a bit of thought and a couple of days after he had returned home he sent a text saying that he had joined up as a life member.

I don’t suggest everybody plunges in with the lifetime option, although the younger you are, the more you will save, but why not consider a gift membership for the man or woman who has everything? With membership from as little as £23 for full members and £15.50 for the under 26s and some other categories, it could be just the thing.

So what do you get? You can look at the benefits on three levels. First there is the warm and fuzzy feeling of satisfaction of helping to save traditional beer and pubs.

Secondly, it makes financial sense. In addition to receiving a monthly newspaper, ‘What’s Brewing’ and the award winning quarterly magazine ‘Beer’ there are £20 of beer tokens for Wetherspoon for every member each year. Many beer festivals, including Norwich offer free or discounted entry to members and it also means that you may not have to queue. CAMRA has negotiated discounts with a number of firms, meaning for example that I got a 10% off the cost of a cottage booking I made last week.

Third, you can get involved in our campaigns if you so wish. This can be something as simple as entering beer scores on the NBSS system which helps to choose pubs for the Good Beer Guide or delivering newsletters to your local.

There is also a chance to make a difference in CAMRA’s key campaigns. Number one is to stop tax killing our beer and pubs. No-one thought that we could stop the beer duty escalator, but not only were we instrumental in that, but beer duty has been reduced. The culmination of this was a mass lobby of parliament which I attended a couple of years ago and was probably the most effective and enjoyable day in the Campaign’s history.

Other key campaigns are helping to secure an effective government support package for pubs, encouraging more people to try a range of beers and ciders, and to raise the profile of pubs and encourage more people to use them.

It’s your choice. Join for a happy feeling, to have some fun, save money, or to campaign on important issues. So think it over. A CAMRA gift subscription for Christmas or £95 for a stuffed penguin? Don’t think too long though – membership rates go up in January.