Own Goooale!

Posted on May 31, 2012

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” Gasp” Pete Brown has joined CAMRA, say it ain’t so!!  It only ruddy is but seemingly not to stealthily get members over to his side ahead of staging a coup, but to get his hands on Tom Stainer’s excellent BEER magazine.

If you’ve had your mitts on a copy of BEER you’ll understand his about-face. It’s a quarterly magazine about all things beer, brewing and pubs and well worth the CAMRA membership alone. It looks great, it’s well written, printed on nice stock and even smells nice. It’s the antithesis of most CAMRA stereotypes and if it was on sale in WHSmiths you would definitely pick it up, pay the cover price and get more than your monies worth.

BEER lands on the doormats of all CAMRA members and, in the main, it does a great job of modernising CAMRA and showcasing the more moderate view coming from CAMRA HQ of late. Have spent  time at CAMRA towers I do have some sympathy for them. CAMRA, by their own definition, are an independent, voluntary organisation campaigning for real ale, community pubs and consumer rights. Mostly people join CAMRA because they care about real ale (aside from Pete and Cookie that just wanted the free ‘Spoons vouchers) and as a member you are more likely to encounter the regional heroes than anyone from head office. Those local CAMRA members that care so much they give up their free time and volunteer to organise and man festivals, run regional events, create newsletters – people don’t do that if they’re a little ambivalent about the cause. These are the zealots that espouse the dictate that real ale is the ONLY way to drink beer which is not quite the central CAMRA view. Their passion and dedication should be admired but if that’s your only encounter of CAMRA you’re not going to be convinced they’re not anti anything but real ale.

So BEER has an important role to play which generally it does very well. It reaches all members and should help spread a more moderate view amongst them – CAMRA is pro Real Ale, that doesn’t make it anti lager they tell me. Which is why the summer edition of BEER has me sniffling a little into my pint.

Leigh Linley over at The Good Stuff has written a very nice piece questioning why more football grounds don’t serve real ale asking “why so many football grounds can’t – or won’t – serve more cask beer alongside the usual contract brewed fizz”.  My football knowledge is limited but I’m sure they don’t play around the clock so I’m guessing there would be some quality issues, would you want a pint that’s been on sale for 5 days and not poured for 4?  And then there’s the operation – most of the bigger clubs would use a catering agency rather than a club steward so I’ve a hunch the beer would not be kept as well as the local clubs Leigh talks about. For big clubs that have a massive beer turn over in a short window using agency staff, real ale is not a practical or cost-effective solution, they need something that’s easy to dispense, delivers consistently, will keep between match days and can be served quickly by staff that may never have seen beer before. That’s why they have keg lager and it makes good sense,  I can’t be alone in preferring a good pint of lager than a stale pint of ale. Not to mention if poorly kept and served it could put new drinkers off for life, why take the risk?

Leigh points to some great examples of smaller clubs that have a strong, local beer offer and he’s right, where it’s practically possible it would be great to see more clubs follow suit. My problem is the headline that BEER have opted for:

“Following Football Doesn’t Restrict You To Drinking Mass-Produced Lager Brands”.

Hold on a second, isn’t that just the type of language the CAMRA central are trying to stop? That doesn’t sound very “pro real ale” to me. In the beer world “mass produced” is one of the worst insults you can throw at a brand. Growing your brand to a decent size isn’t seen as a sign of your success, popularity and quality. It’s a sure indicator you’ve sold out, marginalised your product and lost the art and creativity of brewing – I know, odd isn’t it. Rather than mass produced you might as well call lager fizzy disco piss and have done with it.

This isn’t a call for CAMRA to change their mission, although many have argued they should, but a request that they stop knocking other beers along the way. If that’s going to happen in the regions it needs to be led from the centre and that’s a job for BEER.

Let’s not forget for real ale to continue to grow we need a burgeoning beer category – that’s not going to happen if a body as big as CAMRA keeps suggesting that other beers are tripe. Leigh’s article called for local football grounds to support locally brewed beers, they could easily have made a headline out of that without attacking lager.

I’ll leave you with Leigh’s final line “Let’s Support Each Other”. Couldn’t agree more, or at very least if you can’t say something nice…..

P.S. In other news CAMRA have 2 exciting milestones to celebrate this week. Reaching  140k members and getting 50k people to sign the Save Your Pint e-petition, part of their ongoing campaign to lobby Government for the duty escalator to be abolished. Congratulations on both.

But to trigger a parliamentary debate to review the duty escalator we need 100k signatures. Simple maths would suggest 90k members are still to sign up – come on guys, if you care enough about beer to part with hard cash to join CAMRA you must care enough to spend no more than 2 minutes signing the petition, that’s all we’re asking. And it shouldn’t fall on CAMRA’s shoulders alone to reach the 100k – anyone with an interest in beer or pubs should be rallying their comrades to sign up – come on folks, your pint needs you!!

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Posted in: CAMRA, Save Your Pint