A good question from Barm on Twitter yesterday:
@boakandbailey Can we try to find the first newspaper article saying CAMRA all have beards? I have one from 1976
— robsterowski (@robsterowski) September 1, 2012
1974: a report on beer strength in The Guardian from 2 April makes pointed reference to Michael Hardman as ‘the bearded 27-year-old journalist who founded CAMRA’.
1979: famous beard-wearer David Bellamy opens the Great British Beer Festival and The Guardian coverage makes much of the number of beards in attendance, with a CAMRA spokesman clarifying that, contrary to appearances, the clean-shaven are welcome. The Daily Mirror report from Alexandra Palace says ‘the connoisseurs imbibed through their beards — there was enough facial hair to stuff a thousand tap-room stools’. (The stereotype is developing, but there are actual people with actual beards being referred to here.)
1982: The Guardian’s coverage of the launch of The Good Beer Guide mentions ‘people with belly laughs and bushy beards’. (The stereotype now in the abstract, fully developed, and sounds rather like a mythical, Falstaffian Lord of the Beers.)
Based on what we’ve found so far, we reckon GBBF 1979 is to blame. More alternate history: perhaps if Johnny Morris had opened it instead of Bellamy, the stereotype would be that all CAMRA members wear zoo-keeper’s hats?