Sunday, 23 December 2012

Enemy within the gates

A comment by Phil alerted me to the dubious delights of CAMRA’s Nottingham Drinker magazine:

I've just got back from Nottingham, where I had a pretty foul pint of flabby, metallic-tasting beer while reading the local CAMRA magazine - which featured a column applauding the decision to bar a local offie from selling anything over 6.5%. The enemy is already within the gates, I fear. (Other odd features of the mag included what appeared to be a regular column contributed by the local police. I was glad to get back to Opening Times-land.).
Further investigation reveals that, not only does the magazine include a column from the police, it also includes one from an anti-drink pressure group. See here to download the latest issue.
News from Suffolk: The local Police, fed up with ‘offies’ selling super-strength cider and lager to known nuisance characters, are encouraging the offies to stock nothing above 6.5% ABV. It is a voluntary scheme, with a slow take up, but it is a positive step towards dealing with the products that are associated with most of the problems. Responsible drinkers will be heartened by this news and we look forward to seeing the scheme adopted locally.
Oh, sorry, I had a bottle of Duvel (8.5% ABV) the other day which I bought from Tesco on a 3 for 2 offer. Apparently I am not a responsible drinker and don’t feel in the slightest degree “heartened”.

In what weird and perverted world do those who claim to stand up for pubs, beer drinkers and breweries see it as in any way sensible to give a mouthpiece to those who abhor all those things? Has Nottingham CAMRA somehow been infiltrated and taken over by the anti-drink lobby?

And, of course, the police are no friends of pubs either.

To his credit, the editor of our local CAMRA magazine Opening Times will have no truck with such appeasing nonsense.


  1. Umm. Even if there are offies which are a problem to their communities through under age sales it is sad to see the beards celebrating their possible demise. It would be interesting to see what they thought of a pub selling to an underaged clientele.

    I think the mindset of many of the beards is to be against anything they are not explicitly for. Sad and ultimately self defeating.

  2. The problem is, Mudge, most people wouldn't know a bottle of Duvel if it came up and barked in their face. They think that the only beers above 5% are Special Brew and Tennent's (is there an apostrophe? Never drunk it, so I don't know) Super Lager. A little education would go a long way.

    Oh, and your captchas are getting positively fiendish.

  3. Sorry about the captchas - they're completely beyond my control. However, experience has shown that if I turn them off I get an avalanche of spam :-(

  4. Hello, I gave up downloading Nottingham Drinker after my "amazing" Orange snoozeband took two minutes to download the first 2.4mg, so I'll have to rely on my memories of the last ND I picked up.

    I too was surprised at the inclusiion of the Police report - couldn't understand whether they were trying to curry favour, paint a high moralistic picture of themselves or suggest that as ale drinkers we needn't consider that people like us might fall foul of the law - or all 3?

    I was more peturbed by an article bemoaning the appearance of numerous fake breweries, when, erm, at least 2 of them exist. In the age of the Internet (or not quite in my case) its a poor show to rail against misleading non existent breweries you can find online. An odd tome.

  5. latest London drinker covered the Ipswich scheme (it's not all of Suffolk for a start) too & whilst not as 'heartened' still got the facts wrong and presents it non negatively at least,which did make me wonder how editors sourced this stuff or even how they approach stuff like this. Actually don't think we've covered it in our local branch magazine yet. But you could still buy Duvel in these off licenses if anywhere sold it ( Aspalls is probably better example) it's just a classic politicians solution to a problem,announce a scheme as a new initiative,even though most shops aren't affected by it,then claim credit for it working.

  6. It also features an advert for Ape Ale, now available in bottles and including 6.8% and 7% beers, presumably it's not editorial policy.

  7. This is jaw-dropping stuff. It would be funny if it wasn't so perverse. However, it does seem mainly to stem from one columnist who, dare I say it, is probably their version of your good self.

    I've heard of sleeping with the enemy, but carrying an advert for them really takes it too far. I await with baited breath for your column in OT to be sponsored by Alcohol Concern.

  8. While the Ipswich scheme is "voluntary" the Plod have been dropping hints that those NOT joining in may find a few objections come licence review time. Oh, and the Co-Op has already stated it's adopting the scheme across ALL Suffolk stores.....

  9. As I've said before, you can't make any kind of meaningful legal distinction between Spesh and Old Tom, and so all strong beers end up being tarred with the same brush, whether craft or tramp juice.

    And I recall Cookie posting recently that he had seen a Belgian tramp necking Chimay Blue.

    Apparently the Belgian tramp's tipple of choice is now Gordon's Gold, though. 10% ABV, probably under €1 for a 50cl can, can't go wrong.

  10. Plod are tasked with upholding and enforcing the existing laws of the land, not making up new ones on the hoof! And as for making none too subtle threats against traders who wish to stock a perfectly legal product, well words fail me.

  11. “Has Nottingham CAMRA somehow been infiltrated and taken over by the anti-drink lobby?”

    I have a feeling that I may well have alluded to something along these lines in a previous comment on your blog. The truth is that the more you hear about CAMRA and its somewhat barking approach to all and any legislation which may have an impact on the pub trade (not just in Nottingham, either), the more likely it seems that there are some members in there who aren’t all that they pretend to be. That song: “Things that make you go, ‘hmmm?’” springs to mind.

    But the real trouble seems to be that there aren’t any genuine members who appear to have the nouse to recognise, and thus to “out,” the infiltrators and, as so often happens, left unchecked, devious characters will merely use the compliance (or naïvety?) of an organisation to recruit more of the same ilk to their number, thus increasing their influence and gradually railroading the organisation towards an aim which is very different from its original one. CAMRA would do well to be careful, although I doubt that they will until it’s much, much too late.

  12. >appearance of numerous fake breweries

    Let us not forget that Nottingham is the home of Steve Westby who is very keen on the provenance of beer. He's got a special interest in this as he runs the bar at the excellent Nottingham festival but for me it falls into the "beer geek" category and a waste of CAMRA's time to have it as a campaign.

  13. Rob, presumably you are talking about CAMRA's "LocAle" scheme, something I have mixed feelings about. In principle it's a good idea, providing the "beer geek" element you refer to don't become too obsessive over it. (I remember when my local branch were looking at this there were ridiculously strict guideleins to follow. Our branch chairman and campaigns officer had to resort to using Google Maps to measure distances between the brewery and certain pubs, so establish whether they qualified or not!)

    Whiilst it's undoubtedly good to to enjoy locally brewed ales in their home area, it's also good for pubs to offer something from further afield as well - particularly if it's something interesting rather than just another nationally available brand.

  14. Paul, not specifically about LocAle but more Steve's intense interest that the beer he serves at Nottingham is a known brewery and not a so-called "fake" one. But I understand your reservations about LocAle. We've sort of dropped it silently in our branch as we couldn't really track it accurately and we're not 100% sure if it was overall a positive initiative. It certainly caused some waves with our local family brewers. When one learns the scheme was originally called Microale, it's raison d'etre becomes a little more clear.

  15. @Anon 25/12/12:

    There are a lot of members of CAMRA who are to a greater or lesser degree sceptical about the political stances taken by the national leadership - look for example at the blogs written by RedNev, Tyson and Tandleman. However, the point is that it is primarily seen as a beer and pub appreciation society, not a political campaigning body, and therefore there is a tendency for people just to grit their teeth when Colin Valentine starts banging on about minimum pricing.

    In a similar way, many people are members of bodies such as the National Trust and RSPB but don't necessarily subscribe to the political line taken by the official spokespeople. It's depressing in a way, but in the absence of anything remotely resembling a "party system" in CAMRA it is difficult to see what practically can be done. I tend to take the view I can actually do more staying inside the tent and pissing out. Cutting off your nose to spite your face might be tempting at times, but in the long run achieves little.

    I have written in the past about how many CAMRA members view pubs as Ale Shrines and therefore are sceptical of anything that might detract from from the pure unadulterated enjoyment of beer. Likewise there is a tendency to view the consumption of real ale, especially in pubs, as a morally superior activity and hence to fail to perceive any common interest with the consumers of Spesh. Of course, in the long run, claiming "we are the good drinkers" will cut absolutely no ice with the anti-drink lobby.


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