Saturday, 1 March 2014

Passing me by?

The original reason for creating this blog was the smoking ban in July 2007 which, as I predicted, has largely ripped the guts out of the British pub trade, especially traditional, working-class pubs. Since then, it has ventured on to various other topics relating to pubs and lifestyle freedom in general. But, while I obviously enjoy beer, I’ve never claimed to be a “beer enthusiast” as such. I’ve written here about how I am basically more interested in pubs than beer.

Clearly it’s not the case that I couldn’t care less about beer and, if you did a survey of the population of the UK, I would probably qualify in the 1000th most interested in it. But, essentially, I value the atmosphere and conviviality of pubs, and as long as I can get a decent pint of bitter – whether Robinson’s, Hyde’s, Holt’s, Sam Smith’s or whatever – I’m not really too bothered. I’m not someone who is constantly chasing after new, rare and weird beers.

I’ve been a member of CAMRA for over thirty years (most of those as a Life Member) and, despite my oft-expressed reservations, am currently a responsible official of the organisation at a local level. I am pretty much in favour of everything CAMRA campaigns for, but sometimes sceptical about what it campaigns against.

There has recently seen an astonishing upsurge of interest in beer, much of which doesn’t qualify as “real” in CAMRA terms. This is basically a Good Thing, and I welcome the way that some CAMRA shibboleths are being punctured. But it seems to be very much an urban and youth-oriented phenomenon. I don’t see much evidence of this beer revolution in the kind of pubs I frequent, and I doubt whether it’s going to permeate through to places like the Bennett’s End Inn.

So I hope you will pardon me if I take the view that this is all very interesting, but it doesn’t really affect me too much.


  1. Don't be in such a hurry to grow old. Rage against the dying of the light, fella.

  2. Can anyone who still frequents the
    remaining licensed venues explain,why, there is an ever increasing hysteria about E -Cigs,some pub chains allready banning them.
    It must be patently clear now,the impetus behind the original cig ban and the current paranoia re the E-Cig is due to financial interests,certainly not health concerns.Its a pity so many ban supporters are not prepared to
    face the truth and ask quetions about the lies,bribery,corruption,political skull duggery and misleading Labour Manifestos which led to the
    disgracefull abuse of the Principle of Parliamentary Democracy.
    Just ask WHO benefitted (financially) from the Restrictive Regulation


  3. Check out your local social clubs, anon.

    In my vicinity, one working mans club & one tory club permit e cigs inside the venue. People have told me of a few labour, social & working mans clubs that are a bit of a traipse from me permitting them. I gather club land is more welcoming of them than pub land, in general.

  4. I did not realise you were a CAMRA 'official'. Do you not realise that they support the smoking ban?! I was also a life member but I resigned my membership when they applauded the introduction of the ban with the headline 'Relief Over Smoking Ban'. As far as I'm aware, they continue to deny that the ban has had any effect on pubs - the last time I looked at one of their Good Beer Guides, they were taking the line of 'pubs have to adapt to changing times and if they can't hack it, it's their own fault'. (Which I know sounds good, to some of the commentators on here, but it's not that simple when the deck is so heavily stacked against you). Anyway an organisation that wants to preserve traditional pubs, gets its knickers in a twist about 'craft keg' or whatever, and yet supports the smoking ban, makes no sense to me.

  5. When you are a life member it makes no sense to resign, from a perspective of self interest. It makes a statement, but in effect you decline all the stuff you are sent thereon for free. Magazines & Spoons tokens. And Mudge loves his Spoons tokens ;)

    Second off, for most longer standing active members, beard club is a significant part of their social life. So you are in effect removing yourself from long time friends in order to make a statement.

    It is easier to resign a club if you pay subs & have not been in it that long.

  6. Yes, Cookie sums it up very well - I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face and sever myself from long-standing social networks on a point of principle.

    Better to continue to fight your corner inside than rant impotently outside.

  7. "I doubt whether it’s going to permeate through to places like the Bennett’s End Inn."
    I don't know - I followed the link to their website and saw lots of photos of fancy meals in small, artistically laid out portions on posh looking plates. Very much your 'gourmet pub food'. I imagine the sort of people impressed with that will be more inclined to pay a fiver for an artisan beer than they would three quid for a murky brown pint of Old Scrotum, if you could get them away from buying a bottle of Red or White to go with their food.

  8. Though it begs the question why be a life member? If a life membership costs 20x annual subs then in a normal financial time (not today’s world of cheap money) you might expect 5% return on any bond. Your life membership fee is allowing an organisation to hold your bond in perpetuity to pay for your subs. You would be better off holding the bond yourself, thus allowing yourself the freedom to take the stand of leaving or being chucked out without the club holding on to your bond. The only life membership it is logical to accept is one of a club where all older members with 20+ years paid subs, of retirement age, get free life membership, like many workings men’s clubs. In this sense you are only accepting that your subs are paid by other members in recognition of your long standing support.

  9. In general, taking out a life membership of any organisation is a demonstration of support; it's not just a pragmatic financial transaction.

    When I took mine out, it was only ten times the annual fee, and I got it for £70 just before the subs went up from £7 to £9.

    I do recall one member (who wasn't short of a bob or two) saying he wouldn't become a life member as it took away the option of withdrawing your support on in issue of principle. With the benefit of hindsight I can better appreciate what he meant.

  10. Martin, Cambridge3 March 2014 at 20:54

    Do you do Beer Fests Curmudgeon ? I'd rather spend an evening in Winters drinking Holts (excellent the other week) watching Football with drunks than at the Winter ale fest in a velodrome.

  11. I work at our local beer festival in Stockport but tend to avoid them as a punter. I did go to NWAF a few times when it was held in central Manchester - mainly, in fact, for the draught German beers.

  12. The Holts was excellent in Winters? That may be a first.

  13. Winters is reliable for drunks, though ;-)

  14. Martin, Cambridge3 March 2014 at 22:40

    Winters was excellent for atmosphere,the Holts was good enough to stay for a second if not up to standard of the Railway.

  15. We normally encounter Winters in the early part of our annual Hillgate stagger, when a few "well-refreshed" characters are invariably encountered. A slightly edgier class of drunk than the old boys in Turner's Vaults.

  16. For the roughest drunks you have to wait until the end of a beard club pub crawl then mention craft beer. Then it all kicks off.

  17. Oh and Mudge, if you do like to work festivals you can get paid for it, these days.

    like a job or summat. Do it for nowt and let the beard club mug you by selling you on?

  18. Its an ongoing trend on multiple levels. Craft beer as a consumer driven trend is not exclusively confined to keg beer; the wider range of cask ales being seen in pubs and the wider range of PBAs in the supermarkets are all part of the same movement.

    Are you drinking exactly the same beer that you were 10 years ago? I doubt it.

  19. "Are you drinking exactly the same beer that you were 10 years ago?"

    No, of course not, but neither am I haring after new and unusual beers, which thirty years ago I might have done given their rarity, and if I hear of a new local brewery opening my first reaction tends to be "yawn!"

    It's all a matter of degree, really.

    And it seems as though the backlash has begun.

  20. What a twat that guy comes across as. Exactly the kind of luddite moron CAMRA should distance itself from. I bet the "story" is completely fabricated.

    Half of your recommended PBAs are craft beers Mudgie. Ghost Ship would not exist without Brewdog.

  21. Twat? I think he identifies the next big thing. Anti Craft is where it is now at. There is nothing trendier than than a pint of boring brown or can of fizzy lout. It is where the kids are at.

    A few years ago hipsters, crafty, it was all about expressing individuality in mass produced conformist world. Now hipsters & craft is conforming. A band wagon to jump on. Fat middle aged people saying burgers are "dirty" because they have a different kind of cheese on them.

    The cool are where the next thing is, and us cool are necking a dirt cheap pint of Sams and eating cheese and onion crisps.

  22. Has craft beer gone from cult to mainstream to backlash in a record time? ;-)

  23. I can't be the only one that reads Bennett's End Inn and thinks "Bell End Inn" ? It's every time. They ought to rename the establishment and have done.

  24. In Bristol we are not seeing any kind of backlash at all. We are seeing a backlash against some of the more trendy craft beer venues, but ale such as Moor flies out in my pub four times as quick as some more traditional ale. I try to keep away from the obvious trendy breweries (mentioning no names) who charge 30 quid more than others but can be just as variable as some of the old school brewers.
    That article became a joke as soon as he mentioned that he enjoyed Greene King IPA. He doesn't strike me as somebody who knows good beer from dishwater.

  25. I did add a smiley, Luke :-)

    But, as with anything, some "fancy wank" eventually becomes assimilated into the mainstream, and some doesn't.

    Heck, it wasn't that long ago that golden ales were considered a bit outré...

  26. golden ale was the original craft beer in many ways. Good quality, increased choice, appealing to younger drinkers. What's the difference?

  27. What exactly was the difference between the golden ales of the 90's and the light pale ales, light dinner ales that my granny necked during the war, when all this was fields? Post war posters of Robinsons light dinner ale show a beer distinctly similar to Dizzy Blonde.

  28. The way it was marketed Cookie, thats the key.

    The colour of course was key, stuff like Summer Lightning or Brewer's Gold looks more like lager than a bitter, and that was obviously a deliberate ploy to entice lager drinkers - and I suspect it worked quite well, for a while.

    Craft beer in general is really just about taking the good things about real ale (ie the variety of styles and interesting flavours) and separating them out from the undesirable things (the warmth and inconsistency) to widen the appeal at a time when the beer market is in danger of losing a whole generation of drinkers.


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