Sunday, 15 May 2016

A taste of tradition

I’ve been a member of CAMRA for thirty-five years, and my interest in real ale goes back further than that. I remember in 1978 a friend getting hold of the 1977 Good Beer Guide, and, in the university holidays, going on train trips with him to places like Manchester, Preston and Stafford in search of unusual beers. Back then, I always thought of it as essentially a preservationist movement, seeking to promote and champion the independent breweries and their distinctive beers that had survived the takeover frenzy of the 1960s.

That decade saw probably the most dramatic transformation in business structures, popular culture and the physical appearance of the country of any in the past hundred years. Modernity, progress and renewal were the watchwords, and anyone who sought to stand in the way was condemned as negative and fuddy-duddy. This, after all, was the era of the New Britain that was to be forged in the white heat of the scientific revolution. It was something that was keenly embraced by both of the major political parties.

However, as the 60s turned into the 70s, the downsides in terms of the destruction of the traditional and familiar became increasingly apparent, and there was a backlash in popular sentiment. E. F. Schumacher’s bestselling book Small is Beautiful is often seen as epitomising this trend, and it gained wide public recognition in the TV sitcom The Good Life. There is no way that could have been made ten years earlier, or ten years later.

CAMRA obviously was a major part of this, and there is a strong parallel with steam railway preservation, which shared many of the same motivations and personnel. This wasn’t simply a matter of defending something that already existed: it involved reopening long-closed lines and bringing locomotives back into use from the scrapyard. It has proved remarkably successful and enduring – there have been no major closures of preserved lines, and many now carry far more passengers than they ever did before being closed by Dr Beeching. The presence of a real ale bar on many preserved stations underlines the close connection between the two.

It wasn’t long before the real ale world started to move beyond mere preservation. The brewers introduced new beers to appeal to a growing market, and the first new breweries sprang up, although it quickly became clear that in many cases novelty did not compensate for poor quality. Since then, there has been a steady move towards a more innovative and less traditionalist beer culture, starting with the growth of the multi-beer freehouse and the ticker fraternity, and culminating in the modern craft beer movement. There has also been a growing view that beer should be fully embraced as part of the world of gastronomy, which can encourage a certain amount of disdain for the widely-enjoyed and moderately-priced.

Many new breweries have fallen by the wayside, but some have survived and become long-established businesses with a substantial foothold in the mainstream market. Prominent examples are the likes of Butcombe, Black Sheep, Wye Valley and Otter, plus the more recent and cutting-edge Hawkshead. These are beers that will catch my eye when seen on the bar, and which have become part of the scenery.

CAMRA has often been criticised for taking a narrow view of beer and failing to support high-quality new beers that do not technically qualify as real ale. But that, surely, is missing the point. Its core objective has always been to “Campaign for Real Ale” and the pubs in which it is sold. It has never set out to be a generalised Campaign for Good Beer, even if it has sometimes given that impression. If you’re a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, you’re not expected to actively champion all good architecture.

And, whatever you may say about organisations, nobody can dictate what individuals embrace as leisure interests and enthusiasms. It’s entirely a matter of personal choice, and may often come across to outsiders as irrational.

Personally, what interests me, and what I want to campaign for, rather than just drink, is beer brewed in places like this:

And sold in places like this:

Or this:

I’m certainly not against innovative sours and triple IPAs brewed in railway arches and sold in trendy bars devoid of comfortable seating, but I’m no more interested in them than I am in wine or baking. The more CAMRA seeks to promote and encourage these things, the more my interest in it dwindles. I can, of course, equally understand why an IPA-loving urban hipster would find nothing to appeal in sitting in a cosy wood-beamed pub in a market town, drinking a pint of Draught Bass and listening to the banter of the regulars, although that is far closer to my vision of pub heaven.

I’m happy to eat and drink in Wetherspoons, but they’re just another retail business in the same way as Pizza Express or the local curry house. They’re not something I want to campaign for, just as the steam enthusiast will be happy to use the modern railways, but won’t feel any sense of attraction to the rolling stock used. If new-wave bars were cosy, comfortable, warm-coloured and soothing, I might be keener, but so far I haven’t yet come across many that qualify. If I hear that a new bar or brewery has opened up, I make no apology for usually thinking “yeah, come back in five years and we’ll see then.” And I can’t conceive of a single reason why I might want to attend an event like IndyManBeerCon.

The core ethos of CAMRA was well summed up by Ian H recently on Boak & Bailey’s blog:

CAMRA is a people-powered cultural heritage organisation in all but name. Traditional drinking culture is what links real ale, real cider/perry, historic pub interiors and community pubs. Embrace it! By all means show craft more respect (the same respect shown to Belgian beers and quality German and Czech lagers, for instance), but don’t water down the central purpose of CAMRA.
That is exactly how I see it, and what makes me want to support and contribute to it.

It seems to me that much of this crafties vs beardies argument basically stems, not from genuine antagonism, but from mutual incomprehension. Some people are enthused by gastronomy and innovation, others by heritage and tradition. People are just interested in different things. Maybe it’s time we accepted that there’s no need for any kind of big tent to embrace them all, and that the two strands should be allowed to go their separate ways. There’s no point in getting irate if someone else doesn’t share your particular enthusiasm.

52 comments:

  1. When you join CAMRA you sign up to the cause.

    You put aside your own view for the collective vision.

    A pub is no longer good or bad on your own experience but on "the beer scores"
    You must drink mild when you are told.
    You must show an interest in cider when you are told.
    You must drink pong because every pint is a campaigning action.
    You must tell the drinkers of fizzy euro piss they are ignorant and the Pride is drinking well.

    You don't get to cherry pick. You signed up to it. Now get that citrus IPA down you and stop moaning.

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  2. Age 13 or so I got terribly interested in wine and beermaking-purely theoretically- and even swapped my weekly 'Battle Action' comic for 'Amateur Winemaker' (remember that anyone?). During the course of my 'studies' I very soon came across CAMRA...and this is my point, I assumed it was a slightly tongue in cheek/Monster Raving Loony Partyesque pseudo-movement of the sort only the British really do well! It wasn't until I read an article in Countryman about the Hook Norton brewery that I realised that those bearded students at CAMRA were actually seriously-ish concerned about the state of brewing in the UK.

    Thing is when I became a student myself (6th form) I discovered that most of my peers felt the same way about CAMRA I had ie 'bunch of soil association type hippies having a laugh'.

    Now of course I know that is horribly unjust but it might pay present CAMRA-ites to remember that beer, like sex, is far too a serious a thing to be taken too seriously.

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  3. I consider that I'm quite lucky in being able to enjoy both the pubs and beers that inhabit Mudgie World and also their more modern iterations.

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    1. I know that, and I remember many years ago going on trips to survey potential National Inventory entries. I even started to write about that before deciding it was going off on too much of a tangent, although it might deserve a post of its own.

      Although we both know there are some people who wouldn't be too upset about the Alexandra becoming a knocked-through chrome and glass palace so long as it sold awesome craft beers ;-)

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    2. Yes, National Inventory hunting was great fun - well worth a post I'd say.

      And yes - there are some people who remain remarkably unable to see beyond just the beers sold and fail to appreciate the intrinsic qualities of the pubs themselves.

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  4. There is no 'versus' match here.

    Craft embraces, encompasses and includes 'real ale' within its remit, the issue I have with CAMRA is that it specifically excludes (that is to say 'does not allow for recognition of') lots of beers that are equal to its own pursuit of high standards, so it's now unclear what CAMRA is for and against - especially when it is apparently 'against' so many truly beautiful beers. There have been mighty shifts in technology and yet mightier shifts in what drinkers demand - lead largely by CAMRA itself - which have brought us to a time where keg beer simply isn't the 'old enemy' any more. As for the buildings and places, I agree that a certain coziness is often lacking in new venues, but as far as I am aware CAMRA has never once campaigned for the preservation of soft seats, so I don't see any relevance there. CAMRA is becoming an exercise in nostalgia. That's not necessarily a bad thing. In terms of an industry leading campaign group, it cannot continue to represent all drinkers who seek the best products, as it once did. It cannot, simply because of its proud tradition of deliberately promoting just one of what is now many excellent beer styles, some of which are produced in direct contravention of its decades old, super-strict and totally inflexible rules. The sad part for me is that CAMRA has actually achieved its goal - but somehow not manage to recognise the scale of its own achievement. Craft beer is CAMRA's victory. Nothing less. I just wish CAMRA could see it that way and rightfully claim the prize it has worked so long and hard for.

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    1. Hmm, "an exercise in nostalgia" is a bit of a dismissive phrase. Is the National Trust just "an exercise in nostalgia"? CAMRA has never set out to be the arbiter of all good things in the beer world, although some members have seen it that way, and if it decided to metamorphose into that it would become an entirely different organisation. There would also be a risk of becoming élitist and losing touch with everyday beers drunk by ordinary people.

      But the point of the post is not really what CAMRA should do, but what I want to pursue as a leisure interest as opposed to just being a consumer. What I am interested in is traditional British breweries, beers and pubs. There's no obligation on me personally to lift a finger to champion craft keg beers and trendy bars. If someone starts spouting off along the lines of "Ooh shinee! New breweries! New tastes! New bars!" then my eyes glaze over.

      Thus I'd say the analogy with steam railway preservation is very apt. I have a bit of an interest in railways, although have never been a member of a preservation society. But I don't see why an active member of the Keighley & Worth Valley Society should be expected to be a supporter of HS2 or indeed have the remotest interest in it.

      If CAMRA did nothing else but maintain and promote the National Inventory, that would still be well worth doing.

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  5. Good stuff Mudgie, but I see Mark (above) is still telling you that your own point of view is misguided. I have long thought what you conclude (though I have admittedly been involved in bring a bit more closeness) and indeed wrote a piece for Beer Magazine saying so some years ago.

    Still, I have rediscovered the true path.

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  6. Well, mercifully I'm not nearly an "urban hipster" (an equally dismissive phrase?) but I do love many of the US inspired IPAs, just as I love a traditional copper ale served in a softly furnished country inn. But there is a tendency to talk about the 'vs' issue which to my mind does not exist. There should be a freedom to write about the values at the heart of CAMRA's ethos without making reference to uncomfortable railway arches - it conjures a 'them and us' dynamic which barely exists outside of social media as far as I can tell. Inner city bars and local pubs have always differed, they sort of must, but the good news is that they are all selling fabulous beers these days. Before CAMRA this was not the case. That's worth celebrating. Not sneering at or being bewildered by. (I realise you weren't sneering, btw, but many do.) Let's see more of a drive for uniting and less of this bizarre chalk and cheese narrative. I'm quite sure that people like me make up the greatest number of beer lovers - i.e those who can exist happily in both environments you describe without feeling remotely inclined to pit one against the other. In short, why can't we extol the virtues of both types of 'good beer experiences' without worrying about 'watering down' each other's 'central purpose' in the process? I vote for more comradeship and acknowledgement of our shared passion, less suspicion and devisive rhetoric. We all love well built beer. It is vital that the old (favourite) ways are preserved, but there should always be room for new ways - providing standards at 'new' breweries and venues remain as high as they generally are right now. A 'triple' black IPA served in an oak beamed riverside tavern is as perfect as I could imagine. Carpet, log fire, scratchings and a warm welcome thrown in too... what's not to like? (I'm picturing a wide range of other beers to follow on of course... cask, keg, bottle, can.... heaven!)

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  7. Why do you have to create these divisions that simply don't exist? Its just unhelpful and divisive. You're knocking down the same strawmen as all the other "we hate hipsters" beer bloggers. Most craft beer drinkers love real ale and love quaint little old pubs.

    Its only the CAMRA dinosaurs that are so overwhelmed by hate that they can't bring themselves to see merit in anything other than their personal little fetish or to understand that other people don't want a fight, they are simply more open-minded than them.

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    1. Nothing like a little light trolling for Sunday afternoon....

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    2. whatever gets you through the day John.

      I'm going to start keeping count, that's your 15th unprovoked personal attack on me of the year so far. This is going beyond trolling and into outright stalking mate. Take a break from the internet for a while, eh?

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    3. Trouble is you come across as such an idiot its difficult to resist having a pop (that'll be no. 16 by the way - although I suspect that 15 was, like many of you other "facts" plucked out of thin air. Oops, that's no. 17)

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    4. I'm not really interested in exchanging insults on the internet John, I have better things to do with my time. So I'm going to politely withdraw from this conversation and wish you a pleasant day.

      If you can sum up the will-power, please do try to refrain from replying to my posts with these extremely predictable personal attacks in the future.

      PY

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    5. Oh, btw, PY, we're still waiting for some examples of those working-class inner-city boozers that you claim to frequent.

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    6. I posted a reply to that ages ago Mudgie, go back and look at the thread.

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    7. You guys could be an act on the telly

      "The 3 Bell Ends"

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  8. I'm not being at all divisive - I'm just saying that I'm interested in what I'm interested in. Are you saying we need to have a unified Campaign for All Good Architecture or a Campaign for All Rail Traction?

    And I've seen plenty of derogatory references to "boring brown bitter" and "old man pubs". Generally from craft wankers ;-)

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    1. A lot of bitter is brown and boring and seems to be made with very little care or interest.

      I happen to like "old man pubs" and I don't see that as a pejorative, just a descriptive term. "Pubs that are welcoming to males of pensionable age", if you prefer.

      Not everyone who likes craft beer is a wanker. In fact I would say that the vast majority are perfectly nice people.

      Its fine that you're interested in what you're interested in. But that's not what the majority of CAMRA members are interested in - hence the reason so few of them ever volunteer or become active in the organisation.

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    2. If CAMRA members weren't interested in real ale, why did they join in the first place?

      The idea that there is some silent majority of CAMRA members yearning for the organisation to embrace craft keg is utterly ludicrous. Most members of any organisation in practice do nothing beyond paying their subs.

      And if CAMRA really wanted to appeal to the majority of beer drinkers it should be championing Carling and Stella.

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    3. Because it works out cheaper than paying for multiple entries into the beer festivals, and then direct debit inertia kicks in. Honest to god, I know dozens of CAMRA members who I hardly ever see drinking cask ale, but they signed up years ago to skip the queue at the beer festival. They couldn't give a monkeys about real ale, they just recognised a good deal when they saw one.

      I bet you £10 that if you took a completely random sample of CAMRA members, less than half of them could tell you the official definition of real ale off the top of their heads.

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  9. Craft wankers sums it up. We fought for real ale not craft keg shit which these hipster twats are pushing. If you want to taste any of this rubblsh just try Brew Dog. Then do the right thing and get yourself a pint of Taylors or Theakston or Fullers or Wadworth or Sam Smith etc.

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    1. Brothers and Sisters! To the barricades!

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    2. It will be 50 years this June since I first started drinking beer, and I am happy to say that I can find as much, or almost as much, to enjoy in BrewDog's best beers as in anything from Tim Taylor's. If you can't, then I'm sorry for you, you're missing out.

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  10. No, I think I'm saying that CAMRA's beef used to be with bland insipid beer. Nowadays the CAMRA stance makes almost no mention of the old enemy, and instead is most often faced off against the Craft movement, which is a great shame and rather self defeating as both CAMRA and Craft would appear to be natural allies, not foes.

    I'm not saying lets form an alliance, just recognise that beer drinkers can wear many hats, and we ain't all that different when sat together at the bar. Many of us embrace both CAMRA and Craft - seeing them as two rather marvellous ideologies sharing many common goals - and we are puzzled by the negative partisanship whenever it crops up. I say we lay down arms (preferably in the Kings Arms) and focus more of our energies on what we all have in common rather than the relative minutia of what sometimes sets us apart.

    NB - Those who STILL find themselves in the 'boring brown bitter' brigade are almost always wind up merchants or teenagers trying to find their feet in (whilst greatly misunderstanding) what they see as a 'cool persons' movement. They ought to be diplomatically ignored, not emulated. We shouldn't feel the need to credit their niavety with counter attacks. They just need to go full circle and realise (as implied in the comments above) what the truth really is. It's a phase that many newcomers to Craft go through, and it passes over time. They'll grow out of it, bless them.

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    1. Agreed. Just don't see an issue. Who eats at the same restaurant every time they go out for a meal? Sometimes fancy a traditional British roast, sometimes Indian, Mexican, Thai, Italian, very occasionally Chinese, sometimes some trendy nouvelle cuisine, or just fish & chips. What I look for is a place that does what they do really well. Same with beer and pubs. Depending on mood and company: a session under The Railway Arch drinking keg, bottles and cans one night; a session in the snug of Ye Olde Thatch drinking cask another night. Perfectly reasonable for people to prefer one to the other, but that preference often seems to end sliding into denigration of those who don't have the same preference. Not sure why. Someone saying, well actually out of that restaurant list I'm not keen on Italian, would just be accepted. But in the beer world seems a cause for argument, which usually degenerates into slipping in a few stereotyping phrases; with nods and chuckles from those in agreement, and upset denials from those in the other camp.

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    2. @Mark - I would describe the motivation behind the formation of CAMRA as "a sense of cultural loss". It was far more than just "bland insipid beer", and indeed in early GBGs there were plenty of pubs just selling Whitbread West Country Pale Ale, which wasn't exactly the most robust and challenging beer in the world.

      Arguably CAMRA made a strategic mistake my seeking to be over-precise and picky about the definition of "real ale". I'd say the old Hull Brewery ceramic cellar tanks were a wonderfully traditional of storing beer in pubs.

      @Anon - you are continuing to spectacularly miss the point here. I happily eat all kinds of cuisines, but I do so just as a consumer. It's not a hobby or a leisure pursuit. Members of the Pork Pie Appreciation Society wouldn't dream of wanting to extend their remit to cover pizzas, but that doesn't mean they don't like pizzas. Why are people finding this simple point so difficult to grasp?

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  11. Have i been black listed after my expulsion from the pubs galore forums,i noticed that my latest pub crawl as not been added to your latest pub blogs,i would be well pleased if it was added again.

    Thanks Alan

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    1. You certainly haven't been blacklisted here, Alan 😀
      I think Blogger is just being slow in updating the feed.

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    2. Thanks for the reply Curmudgeon and the listing of my blog on your blogroll.

      Thanks Alan

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  12. This is a brilliantly written blog post, and I'm 100% behind this view of CAMRA. But as long as the public face of CAMRA is "The Good BEER Guide" then the intent of members doesn't really carry.

    Apologies for continuing to bang this tired old drum of an argument, but it's the only one I've got.

    Incidentally, despite my crafty leanings I'd also be upset if the Alexandra changed because it's the only nearby pub pool table left that's accessible every time I visit. Thinking of setting up the CAMPPT.

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    1. The only thing the Alexandra is likely to change into is flats. Not that I'm saying that is likely in the near future.

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  13. An excellent post Mudge, and one I can empathise with in many areas. It’s getting rather late in the day now, so I won’t write an overly long comment, but what I will say is I can see CAMRA’s Revitalisation Project producing the same 50:50 split result that the EU Referendum is likely to arrive at.

    I understand why CAMRA felt the need to go down this route, and I suspect the Campaign’s motives are far more honourable than our Prime Minister’s, but it’s often said, “Be careful what you wish for”. Whichever way the EU Referendum goes, one half of the country is going to be left feeling extremely “pissed off.” With little common ground between those CAMRA members in favour of modernisation and its resultant embracing of “craft”, and the more traditional supporters who favour the status quo, I foresee a very damaging split emerging within the organisation.

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  14. "Some people are enthused by gastronomy and innovation, others by heritage and tradition" - as others have said, it's perfectly possible to be enthused by both innovation AND tradition. I know I am. I really don't see what the problem is: it's like saying if you like modern jazz you can't possibly enjoy JS Bach, or if you appreciate Jane Austen you can't love Michael Chabon. Personally I'd like Camra to be like Radio 3 now is: it encompasses all forms of great music, from traditional folk and world music through "traditional" classical to the avant garde, and it doesn't draw artificial lines between one sort of "great" and another.

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    1. Someone else who has completely missed the point. It is absurd to expect everyone to be equally enthused by everything. I'm sure there are plenty of well-known music artists who you would not dream of going to see in concert, or buying a CD by them.

      Tell me again why you don't blog about wine. Or steam locomotives.

      And if CAMRA turned into something like Radio 3, it would be a highly élitist organisation that offered nothing the ordinary drinker.

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  15. CAMRA can do what it wants, but if it doesn't change its stance to reflect the views of the beer drinking public, including the vast majority of its members, then it shouldn't be surprised when there are no volunteers left to run the organisation anymore.

    Embrace the 21st century or slide quietly into obscurity and irrelevance, those are the two choices here.

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  16. Agreed that the over precise focus on 'real ale' (whilst utterly vital in the beginning) is nowadays not just a strategic mistake for CAMRA - it is quite literally killing off the movement. I myself cannot carry the card any longer as presenting it makes me feel insincere about what I believe about good beer. Actually, the painful truth is that carrying the card makes me feel like I must look like a fool, that I don't know how much things have changed in recent years, and the fact is I DO know this. Dropping the 'real ale requirement' would get that card back in my hand in a second, because with that pesky restriction lifted the card would show that I am aware, I appreciate and I recognise what's actually going on in the world of fine beer. The card would show I don't have blinkers on, whereas right now showing that card feels like I'm a champion for the ideals of an organisation - rather than a champion for good beer. I just used 'Good Beer' as a phrase exactly like CAMRA do with their famous guide book, which of course is now only a guide on where to find "good real ale." So if CAMRA really do only stand for real ale, I agree with the comment above that they should cease use of that title, they should stay true to their own terminology by changing the name to the 'Good Real Ale Guide.' Or at the very least they should stop distancing themselves from other people's everyday use of 'good beer' as a phrase by claiming CAMRA are only concerned with "real ale". Those of us who really do just champion 'good beer' regardless of its delivery method would appreciate it if CAMRA didn't use this overarching word 'good' - when it is a word that they refuse to use (and indeed frown upon the use of) in any other context than in profiting from their best selling book. Grrr!

    Your mention of 'pork pie and pizza' being as different to each other as craft and real beer experiences - is further proof of one thing...

    There is a divide in the beer loving community.

    It's a strange new divide between very similar tribes who enjoy very similar things. The divide used to keep apart people who didn't care about what they drunk - and people who did. People who didn't know better - and people who would show those poor souls the light. These days it's beer lovers versus beer lovers. Decent people who I like versus decent people who I like. I don't get it and I hope I never will. There is a fabulous bond we all share. CAMRA's determination to retain what it sees as its one non-evolvable and identity-defining feature (there is so much more to this great organisation!) is causing the biggest headache since hangovers began. The second they tweak this killer issue and thereby broaden the kingdom over which they have long ruled - they will instantaneously regain the 'recognised leadership' status I believe they rightfully deserve, we could all get back to loving good beer under their guidance, and I suspect that this pesky 'them and us' issue we've discussed here would rapidly disappear.

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    1. Of course, the same applies to the "Great British Beer Festival", which doesn't allow a significant proportion of the greatest British beers to be served. That festival should be called the "Great British Cask Ale Festival", and let some other more forward-thinking organisation run a festival that genuinely showcases the best Great British Beers.

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  17. Smoky McSmokeface16 May 2016 at 12:28

    So where were all these people saying "we're all in it together" when the smokers got kicked out of the pubs?

    Nowhere to be fucking seen, that's where.

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  18. Hmmm.

    I can see a strong argument for them remaining a campaign for real ale, and not trying to broaden their scope to "good beer" generally. On the other hand, I think that the same thing applies to campaigning for "traditional pub culture". In my view (as a CAMRA member who appreciates both weirdy-crafty barrel-aged nonsense and proper traditional pubs) they should be happy to support traditional pubs, modernist bars, good keg (whether or not it's "real"), "boring brown beer", steam railways or whatever if they feel that they're doing so in a way that helps their basic goal of promoting real ale.

    On the "divide" or the "two cultures" or whatever, I think it's at least partly a matter of perspective. There's a massive middle ground - people who like pale and hoppy cask, or who mostly drink cask but appreciate "proper lager" or the odd bottle of Punk, or geeks who drink a lot of craft keg but could bore for Britain on the wonders of Harveys or Adnams or Fullers "if you get it really well kept...", but people focus on the extremes because it makes for a better story...

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  19. On Stockport Market Place, there are two pubs right opposite each other. The Boar's Head is a Sam Smith's pub that is the current local CAMRA Pub of the Year. The Baker's Vaults is a Robinson's pub that has been given a crafty makeover. The beer is probabluy 75% dearer, and there are 90% fewer seats.

    I would challenge anyone to say they feel equally at home in both. They may well respect the merits of the other one, but their gut feeling will drive them in one direction.

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    1. I would agree that anyone would have a preferred venue out of the two you mention. Or any two venues, for that matter.

      But would you agree that it's perfectly possible to have a preference out of those two without slandering the one you like less? However subtly and nuanced the digs may be, isn't it better not to draw attention to unfavourable comparisons? Especially when a growing divide within a community is already a 'known issue'. Its creating conflict where there needn't be any. That's the issue. A bit more 'live and let live', I urge.

      By the way, no disrespect to Robinsons, but an essentially 'non-craft' brewery giving one of their pubs a 'crafty makeover' is not what I would regard as a good subject for this comparison. There are a lot of half baked venues trying to get the best out of both worlds which are pretty awful in my view, it's possible that the venue you're talking about is one of those.

      (I'm beginning to wish we were expanding this thread in a pub! Either of those two, frankly! It's fascinating stuff!)

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    2. Well, since you ask, I do. I's also say the seat differential between the tow isn't as high as you suggest.

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    3. Mark - while Mudgie really doesn't like the Bakers, there are plenty of others who do (including plenty in the local CAMRA branch - it's in the GBG by the way). The changes have unarguably revitalised the pub and have helped kick-start the (admittedly still slow) reinvogoration of the Market Place area.

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  20. Well, it can't be denied that the new Bakers has proved popular, and it wasn't really an architectural gem before. But, as has been pointed out on the local newsgroup, at quieter times it's noticeable how there are far more customers in both the Boar's Head and the Cocked Hat than there are in the Bakers.

    And I don't think anyone can honestly claim that it's an example of good modern pub design. It makes extremely poor use of space, includes daft gimmicky design features and is actively unfriendly to older customers.

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  21. I ate well at the Bakers before a small crawl with Mudgie, Cookie, and NHS_Martin one Friday night. Struck me as a rather American sort of design to the place. I liked it well enough (half guests, half Robbies!), but it's not homey or comfy like the Boar's Head, which is fabulous. I'd eat there again, and enjoy something to drink along with it, but a session there? Only if there was something pretty special on.

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  22. Let's take the preservation railway link one step further - they adapted to embrace diesel. I'm sure that upset a lot of steam enthusiasts at the time but in hindsight it helped them survive. I would be interested to learn whether preservation railways face the same issue that CAMRA does - lack of new people getting involved to keep the railway running. Considering most of them appear to be thriving, I suspect the answer is no. Note, I did not says "young people" but "new people".

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    1. You could argue that embracing diesel is rather like CAMRA deciding to campaign for Watney's Red or John Sith's Chestnut Mild ;-)

      Obviously the steam preservation analogy has its limitations, but I'd say the motivations behind the two movements in the 1970s were very similar.

      I'd say a factor in the decline of modern-day railway enthusiasm is the effective abandonment of locomotive traction for passenger trains. You just can't get as excited about a multiple unit as you can with a Class 40 :-)

      Delete
  23. Good to see that Cambridge Beer Festival has stepped tentatively into the 21st century with a keg bar this year selling craft beer from all over the UK.

    I wonder how long before the majority of beers are on keg and it has a cask (aka warm flat beer) bar round the back by the cider and perry tent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will it have John Smith's Extra Smooth? I'm told nitro is now all the rage on the US craft beer scene.

      Delete

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