Friday, 3 June 2011

A CAMRA Fundamentalist View

There has been much noise recently about whether CAMRA should embrace the new wave of craft keg beers that are now available.

As a fully paid up noisome blogger and also a previous CAMRA regional director, it is time for me to throw my tuppence in.

I am firmly of the opinion that CAMRA works best as a single issue Campaign. Focusing on the single issue of real ale gives clarity, strength and focus.

I agree with CAMRA chairman, Colin Valentine, when he says "The clue is in our name. We are the Campaign for Real Ale. Which one of those four words do the bloggerati not understand ? .....We decide what we will campaign for, not the bloggerati and while I have anything to do with it, we will remain the Campaign for Real Ale."

Oh, and by the way, as a CAMRA fundamentalist member of the bloggerati, I don't think the Campaign should spend its time, effort or resources on supporting, promoting or campaigning for any of the following :

Historic Pubs
Public Transport
Cheap Beer
Beer is Healthy
Beer for Women
Belgian Beer
German Beer
Czech Beer
Budveiser Budvar
Any Foreign Beer (that is not "real")
Good, Traditional Beers from Foreign Countries
Craft Keg
Any Keg Beer
Beer Duty
Beer and Food
Drinking Beer at Home
Real Ale in a Bottle
Bottle Conditioned Beers
Full Pint
Discounts for Members
Overseas Travel
Alcoholic Ginger Beer

This is not an exhaustive list.

I'll accept generic pub campaigning given that the on-trade is the only place to get good, fresh and tasty cask conditioned beer, but bring back the Campaign for REAL ALE and be rid of all the other detritus.

CAMRA's External Policy Document, clause 15 states :

CAMRA supports :
- the promotion of real ale as an environmentally friendly product.
- the promotion of the provenance and local identity of real ale, brewers and pubs.
- all real ale breweries,..., encouraging activities in line with CAMRA policies.....
- the consumption of real ale in pubs.
- campaigning activity against market distortions which damage real ale.

That's enough for me !


Des de Moor said...

At least it's a relatively consistent position, Steve, setting aside the difficulties of defining even real ale/cask beer (would a decoction mashed cold fermented lager count if it was cask conditioned?). But it'd be a much reduced CAMRA -- no longer worthy of super-complainant status, for example.

Chris Hall said...

It may as well be like this as anything else. It's odd that craft keg etc. is now a dirty word in CAMRA but craft cider and perry always has a massive presence.

I'm more of what marketing types call a 'repertoire' drinker, so I could never give up all else but real ale, but if it means real ale gets better, and is better represented, then I'm all for it.

If CAMRA is going to continue to fulfil a role in the beer industry then it might as well be as the hard-line-cask-ale group. I still think more focus should be put on the quality of real ale, funding and sponsoring quality schemes and indeed the quality at CAMRA events which can be variable.

ZakAvery said...

But what about real ale with ginger?! I can't believe you won't campaign for that, it's an incredibly important niche!!!! [internet irony]

chriso said...

Des has a point. I don't know how much of the portfolio is specifically designed to meet super-complainant status but it is awfully wide these days. When the CAMRA website says "acting as the consumer's champion in relation to the UK and European beer and drinks industry" that doesn't leave a whole lot out. And it rather undermines the argument of those who oppose supporting "craft keg" on the grounds that "the clue is in the name".

chriso said...

Actually Zak, I don't think Steve needs put real ale with ginger on his exclusion list. The CAMRA definition includes "Real ale is a beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops water and yeast)". So that seems to exclude ginger anyway. Not to mention wheat, other grains, herbs or spices of any description, traditional unhopped beers and all sorts of other stuff.

The Beer Justice said...

Des/Chris, don't get me going on the values or otherwise of super-complainant status - CAMRA went through hoops to get it and IMHO it has turned out to be a toothless beast.

Zak/Chris I have no real prejudice against ginger. I have a ginger wife and son to love.

chriso said...

Can't be bothered to wade through the super-complainant guidance right now but I did look at it a while ago and seem to recall that it did not exclude organisations covering "particular groups" of consumers. I remember being rather surprised by that at the time as I thought it would require wide constituency. Of course, how that is interpreted by the designating authority is a different question.

Phil said...

What makes keg different (from cider, full pints, opening hours etc) is that advocating keg is incompatible with advocating real ale. If "craft keg" people could come up with technical ways of differentiating what they do from the corporate keg barons - lack of filtering, lack of pasteurisation, etc - we might have something to work with. Otherwise we're just left with "drink more cask... but also, drink more keg!", which doesn't make much sense.

Tandleman said...

"I'll accept generic pub campaigning given that the on-trade is the only place to get good, fresh and tasty cask conditioned beer, but bring back the Campaign for REAL ALE and be rid of all the other detritus."

Best get working on that time machine then Old Son.(-;

E. I. Addio said...

Steve, on a lighter (paler? blonder?) note, you missed out the first "t" in strength in the third paragraph!

Ho ho, how we laughed!