Thursday, 7 July 2011

I can't believe I'm writing this.....

I have a vague recollection of writing a blog entitled 'Why I hate CAMRA'.... so what I am about to write will no doubt smack of total hypocrisy. Let me explain.

I have very strong feelings about what I believe CAMRA should be doing and what, in my opinion, they have a responsibility to do. That is, look after ALL UK breweries, irrespective of how they make their beers. Now, I know it's not part of their manifesto but times change and things move on and rather than stick their collective heads in the sand it is time they saw the opportunity they have, rather than dismiss it as a regression. Cask beer has won the battle, it doesn't need saving anymore, it's hit critical mass.

This is the largest consumer group in Europe, and they could, if they chose, support all UK breweries and push all UK beer. Instead of telling their members, some of whom will be new to beer and will be looking for guidance, that some UK beer is bad because its kegged or bright bottled. How does this help the industry? It doesn't, but encouraging their members to drink any UK beer (and let's be honest, if you say you're an adviocate of great beer but you don't like Lovibonds because of dispense for example, you're a feckless idiot) does help the industry, it helps the local and national economy and on a microeconomic level it keeps money local rather than giving it to those lovely chaps at Coors or AB In Bev. That is my gripe with CAMRA.

However, I am equally getting a bit tired of all this 'lets have a festival at the same time as CAMRA and do our level best to undermine what they are doing' because at the end of the day, whether some of these breweries like it or not, many of them only exist because CAMRA fought a fight for 30+ years. Yes they are way behind the times and could be far more productive and useful, but what they have done at least deserves a little bit of respect.

The SRAF, for me, was a total disaster. No offence to those who won awards (or who judged them), but they are not the three best beers in Scotland. It's all subjective, but does anyone know anyone who thinks they are? (Then again, its better than my solution, which is just post all the awards to Rob Hill, Jamie Delap and Gavin Meiklejohn with randomly assigned colours each year.)The beer was mostly in dreadful condition and the venue was terrible, BUT it was packed so clearly the market is there which is great, and you have to say well done to CAMRA for filling it and actually running out of beer.

Now they just need to find a way of getting the beers in the right condition, sucking it up and putting kegs on because by next year there will be a lot more on the market I've absolutely no doubt, and start championing UK beer full stop.

Hopefully then the 'We're going to do whatever we can to ruin it' brigade might cheer up a bit and we can all muck in together. I remember James at Summer Wine once said 'Beer people are good people' and it's true. So why don't we all just bash on together and help everyone out?

I think I've just made myself sick.....


  1. Clearly you have something of the unique viewpoint on this Chris, having seen it from both sides. The thing that always annoys me, is that everyone seems to agree the basic point - everyone should support, and drink, British beer. Getting tied up in the minutiae of dispense or production does nobody any favours. Hopefully things are starting to change, and maybe moving in the right direction.

    And as one of the SRAF judges, we simply picked the three best beers in front of us on the day, as we had to. The way those nine beers are selected, and the two-year delay in new beers being given a chance to compete for CBoS, really needs looking at...

  2. It really frustrates me Rich, we are all after the same thing right? Great beer produced in the UK, so by working together we might actually achieve great things.

    As I said, i have nothing against the judging panel, you picked what you thought was the best beer on the day. As you say, the selection process is clearly an issue. Why is there a two year delay? Thats just ridiculous. Gavin for example might only make a beer for 6 months before getting bored, but that one beer might be the best thing that year and it can't be voted for? That's just daft

  3. From what I was told, the gap between the heats and the final is about a year, as the participants are chosen well in advance. Also, a beer isn't eligible unless it's been on sale for 12 months prior to the heats, I guess to rule out seasonals or breweries that might not be around - no point awarding a CBoS to a one-off that you can't stick an 'award-winning' pump clip on. So no Jarl this year, for example...