We formed in 1972, initially as an all-Hertfordshire branch, later becoming South Hertfordshire Branch (after a number of other branches were formed in the county). We are the oldest CAMRA Branch in Britain, 48 years old in 2020.
Our first branch meeting was held on 20 November 1972 at the Farriers Arms in St. Albans – marked today by a blue plaque mounted on the pub’s frontage. Our first social gathering was held one month earlier at the Builders Arms in New Barnet. Branch meetings continue to be held monthly – at pubs across our area.
In 1974 we organised Britain’s first Beer Exhibition, held at the Market Hall in St. Albans – so new was the concept that the brewers donated the beer for free! The beer was sold at 2p per pint.
We organised the initial all-Hertfordshire Beer festivals which were held at Hatfield Polytechnic between 1977 and 1980.
Today, its local successor, the St. Albans Beer & Cider Festival (annual since 1996 at St. Albans Arena), is one of CAMRA’s most prominent provincial beer festivals, offering over 350 beers and 50 ciders and where 35,000 pints are consumed. For further information – stalbansbeerfestival.org.uk
In 2009 and 2010 the branch held successful beer festivals in Harpenden.
Our campaigning Newsletter, Pints of View (circulation 8750), has an unbroken pedigree dating back to July 1976, when it was founded as the Campaign’s monthly Hertfordshire Newsletter and subsequently the South Hertfordshire Newsletter.
There have been 12 printed editions of the Hertfordshire Real Ale Guide (all organised, edited and produced by this branch with information provided from all Hertfordshire branches) – first published in 1974; the latest edition in 2000. We have published local guides to pubs in Hertford, Ware and St. Albans since 2000.
In 2007 the branch launched its Hertfordshire on-line pub guide, now subsumed into the WhatPub? CAMRA database – whatpub.com
We encourage publicans to stock real ale, rewarding the best pubs with our annual Pub of the Year award. Recent winners have included the Old Cross Tavern, Hertford (2020), Mermaid and Six Bells in St.Albans, Crooked Billet, Ware and Woodman, Wildhill. The Woodman has also won the county award.
A branch Cider Pub of the Year competition was introduced in 2013 – the winner that year the Mermaid in St. Albans. Also, the winner in 2014-2020.
A branch Club of the Year competition was introduced in 2014 – the 2020 winner is the Hertford Club in Hertford. There are around 40 clubs in the Branch area.
The branch has a Most Improved Pub award utilised on an as and when basis. The latest winner is the Robin Hood, St. Albans – in 2018.
We are supporters of CAMRA’s LocAle Scheme, promoting local breweries and beers. We accredit and promote pubs that fulfil the criteria.
In the mid-1970s we were instrumental in real ale being re-introduced into many local pubs with our handpump refurbishment and loan scheme.
The Dave Burns Memorial Award is presented to individuals who have made notable efforts in the furthering of the Campaign’s ideals. These have included publicans, campaigners and brewery officials.
The South Herts Branch area is bordered approximately by St. Albans and the M1 in the west, Ware and the A10 in the east, the Greater London boundary to the south and Redbourn, Harpenden, Welwyn, Oaklands and Stapleford to the north.
We actively support Hertfordshire brewers in the production of cask-conditioned beer and campaigned to save McMullens during their troubles in 2003. The Branch spearheaded the 1987 campaign to save Rayment’s Furneux Pelham brewery. Branch members formed the Victoria Brewery in Ware, which operated between 1981 and 1985. Forty members took part in the famous march to save Barnsley brewery in 1974.
Around 2500 CAMRA members currently reside within the branch area.
Of the 900 pubs in Hertfordshire, 250 are in the South Herts area.
South Hertfordshire is home to one long-standing family brewer, McMullens of Hertford; the independent brewers, 3 Brewers of St. Albans Farr Brew of Harpenden, and the can-only Gold Bear Brewery based in Hertford but currently brewing in Suffolk.
When CAMRA started in Hertfordshire, only 90 pubs sold real ale. We lost a further fifteen before we could reverse the trend. Today over 85% of Hertfordshire’s pubs offer real ale.
We fight pub closures (actively taking part in planning processes) and oppose the desecration of traditional pub interiors. We provide information on and back applications to list pubs as Assets of Community Value.
Each May, the branch puts on events to actively promote mild. In 1979 we successfully campaigned for Greene King XX Dark Mild to be retained. The Mild pub crawl in Hertford is an annual May fixture with a 14-year pedigree.
Our branch committee comprises a maximum of 14 members and is elected, each year in January, at the Branch AGM. There is currently 1 vacancy. All Branch meetings include a speaker – brewers, publicans, politicians, campaigners, maltsters, historians etc.
The branch is currently allocated 26 pubs in the Good Beer Guide.
This website, relaunched in 2017 and awarded “Best Branch Website of the Year” in 2019 and 2020, gives information on the branch, its events and campaigns and has an on-line version of Pints of View.
Branch Social events include the annual Hertford Autumn Ale Tour and the Ware Summer Saunter. Branch Socials have included visits to 100 UK breweries – McMullens, Crouch Vale, Fullers, Paradigm, Harveys, Mad Squirrel – all in 2019.
Branch members are available to give talks to local clubs and organisations.
In 1992 branch member, Iain Dobson, was awarded the MBE for his work when the Campaign’s National Secretary.
Further information on South Hertfordshire Branch can be sought at email@example.com.