Thursday, 3 March 2011

Why I hate CAMRA

This has been going around in my head for a good period of time now, years in fact. CAMRA is an acronym that is guaranteed to make me talk faster with fewer breaths in long sentences, usually punctuated by my voice rising in pitch towards the end as my lungs run out of air. I don't like CAMRA.

My loathing for this decrepit, spineless, toothless collection of dinosaurs began when I ran ale pubs. Before I start on what will inevitably become a rant, I have nothing against CAMRA members. Its the pointless, needless clutching on to history by a consumer group who have become a parody of themselves that I object to....

Annnyway..... In my experience, which whilst not vast is not inconsiderable either, CAMRA is full of the least adventurous, most irritating drinkers it is possible to get in a pub. They moan about everything they can from their elevated vantage point of being 'ale experts'. The head is too small, the head is too big, the beer has a haze, the beer is too cold, the beer is too warm. They will then offer up various explanations on where you, as a publican, trained cellar manager, experienced beer handler, can improve the distinctly average beer they are inevitably drinking. All they want is quaffable, easy drinking session beers. They don't want huge hop character, or deep rich dark stouts, they shun great beers with loads of flavour and they head straight for a 'proper beer'. They want the ale equivalent of an industrial lager. Yeah, and these people are the torch bearers of UK beer? Fucking marvellous.

Right, so thats my personal opinion out of the way. It might not be completely rational but its born out of experience of having to deal with a largely self righteous bunch of pricks, all of whom think that paying a yearly subscription to their beloved propoganda cult means they actually know something about beer. Many of them do not.

However, I do have friends who are members of CAMRA, and some of these people know a good deal more about beer than I do. These people I have a huge amount of respect for, they also accept that CAMRA has serious flaws.

My main bugbear however is that CAMRA could, and I believe they have a responsibility, to support ALL British beer and ALL British brewers. Irrespective of how they chose to serve their beer.

It is 2011, and CAMRA are the largest consumer group in Europe. Step up to the plate guys, get the respect of all British brewers, champion all formats of great British beer. This ridiculous notion that keg craft beer will marginalise cask beer and therefore should be treated like the enemy makes no sense. Cask beer will never be replaced by kegged beer, but kegged beer could introduce a new wave of drinkers to cask. Look at the bigger picture, support one of the only industries we have left in the UK wholeheartedly, encourage younger beer drinkers, revamp the CAMRA image.

The other option of course, is you can stick your heads in the sand until you become obsolete. Having 100,000 members means nothing if only 10 of them are active.

Rant over..... next up, religion :-)


  1. Interesting - didn't know CAMRA was the biggest consumer group in Europe. I'd always considered becoming a member, but will put that on hold for just now. ;-)

  2. Ah but don't forget about the 'spoons vouchers, or the 10% off bookings with cottages4you. Never mind the free beard trimming service!

  3. Time for a rant in return... if Brewdog seriously wants to convert a generation of industrial lager drinkers into craft beer fans (and I think it can be done), then it needs to stop being gimmicky and decide exactly "what" it is doing. Settle on a format, produce a range of recognisable beer types, as good as you think you can possibly make them and let the products speak for themselves. Chuck in a couple of seasonals (see Denmark for examples of how this works) and crank the PR machine up to 11. Loving the passion though...

  4. @dredpenguin They give free Wetherspoons vouchers? Another excellent reason not to bother I would say (I have a long standing hatred of 'Spoons too having run a bar four doors away from one down south a few years back. 'Spoons was essentially an unlicensed boxing ring. I believe things have changed these days, but it was always full of scumbags back then).
    Still, if CAMRA offer a sandal repair service I'd consider it, the dog ate mine.

    @Tom Don't disagree with you there actually (although this blog has nothing to do with my erstwhile employers). I was actually thinking what I'd do with my own brewery, and that is have a keg range and a cask range, and none of the same beers (idealistic I know) and make them the very best to suit their dispension.
    On the subject of BrewDog though, when James and Martin started out they always wanted to keg, but kegging is expensive, and all but imposiible for a new brewery in the UK with zero track record. It was only 4 years ago, but microbreweries kegging beer was virtually unheard of. The second problem they would have encountered is persuading landlords and pub managers to take a proven 'premium' product off their bar and replace it with a new style of beer (for the UK)from an unknown brewery and hope it sold. That takes some bravery and I don't know too many people who would have been brave enough from either the brewery pespective, or the pub perspective to allow either to make enough money to make it work.
    Another point is, the UK is cask-centric in terms of ales and to get people to pay attention it really had to be in cask first.
    I know where you are coming from about 'deciding what they are' but as James says 'keg is the future' its not 'the present' and its going to take time to convert those industrial lager drinkers to change their habits.

    The great thing is, more and more breweries are changing direction or even being started with the specific intention of getting that market. In ten years time I'd love to see bars with no Stella, no Heineken etc and just a swathe of microbrewed beers on keg and cask.

  5. and it would be no bad thing is a new wave of CAMRA members carried to torch for all of these and became a champion of great British beer, not just about 'real ale'

    (an aside, Lovibonds don't filter or pasteurise their beers, yet they are all kegged. How is that not 'real ale'?)

  6. Aye I've done you a disservice Chris, by assuming that you are in Brewdog mode at all times - apologies. I think the phenomenon that I describe is pretty typical of some Scottish craft brewing though. My ideal world is four or five beer styles in every bar, locally brewed and as much part of being Scottish as haggis.

  7. Nice rant Chris......but....surely CAMRA is there to specifically promote/support Real (Cask) Ale. This it has done very well. It is NOT set up to support "craft beer" (whatever that means) in other formats. Maybe there should be a group set up to do this rather than trying to hi-jack what CAMRA exists for. One thing is certain...all the in-fighting and sniping between brewers (large or small), consumer groups etc. does the beer industry no favours. Time to accept that beer is more diverse than ever and different people will support different causes and types of beer. Who is anyone to say that one way or other is the right way and try to force their opinion (or beer) down my throat. In this CAMRA and Brewdog seem to be as bad as each other. Let's respect each others differences (even appreciate them) and get on with the job of keeping Britains beer industry alive.