Monday, 12 February 2018

CAMRA, a chance for change?



Gazza, supporting Tiny Rebel? What's that all about then?

OK, we haven't always got on and as companies we don't see eye to eye for various reasons... but here Brad speaks a massive amount of sense (although he's maybe a bit of a moderate for the likes of me 😉) and what he's saying is, in my opinion, pretty much exactly what the brown beer society - aka CAMRA - need to do in order to survive in the current fast-moving and, to them, increasingly alien - and fizzy - beer world.

I'd vote for Brad if I was in CAMRA and I am actually vaguely considering rejoining just to vote for him, a la Corbyn... So, please read his manifesto, ALL of it, and then tell me it doesn't make a huge amount of sense to start from zero over again rather than doff the cap to the hardliners who don't want change and consider anything more modern than 4.2% brown beer with a few fuggles in heresy.

As a vaguely progressive brewer I love cask ale and feel that most of the beers we brew, which are mainly hoppy pale ales in the 4.5-5.5% range - are best served from a (well looked after) cask, but freely acknowledge that keg/can/bottle all have their place and there are plenty of beer styles which just don't work in cask but shouldn't be shunned because they are packaged in keg/can/bottle and, in the case of most small brewers, unfined/unpasteurised and tick all the "real" boxes except for containing the dreaded "bad" CO2 (force carbed rather than container conditioned!)

Fundamentally, IMO and that of many others who know what's going on in the industry, beer quality is the key to cask beer's survival as if it's no good people simply won't drink it, and sad to say there are just too many ropey beers (and brewers!) around.  This can be blamed, in the main, on the lemming-like rush to the bottom quality-wise in the current cutthroat price war being waged in the brewing industry due to overcapacity and it'll all end in tears, mark my words...  the big boys are sitting on the sidelines watching us rip each other to bits and, when the gory scrap has finished, they'll step in and take what they want; welcome to the dystopian future of brewing and beer.. 
divide and conquer as I'm sure AmBev, Heineken and their ilk are thinking looking at us fighting under the table for their crumbs.

Quality beer - in general - costs money to make and CAMRA should be explaining that if you want more hops in your beer then someone's going to have to pay for said hops and it shouldn't be the brewer!  Conversely, the Wetherspoon vouchers are a total anachronism for an organisation proclaiming itself to be independent and, IMO, gives the chain an unfair advantage at the expense of other pubs, plus with the laughably low prices Wetherspoon pays us brewers for beer, how are these vouchers encouraging the consumption of quality beer when all more trade for the chain encourages is more brewers selling beer at or below cost because the 'spoons is the only option left in town with other pubs closed down?

With regards to CAMRA, listening to the stuck-in-the-80s mantra many of them (and usually head office) regurgitate, it's evident that something needs to be done.  CAMRA doesn't represent the current beer drinker, the modern brewer, the modern publican or anything apart from old men moaning about how much beer costs, how they saved real ale and how "Red Barrel" (whatever that was) has returned.  It's time for an alliance between brewers and CAMRA but, for this to happen, there has to be a lot of conciliation on the CAMRA side as many modern (and semi-modern!) brewers no longer care what CAMRA say and see them as, at best, an irrelevance and at worse a hindrance.

It's time for a clean sweep of the decks and IMO there's not been a chance like this for a long time... of course, even if Brad gets elected it's doubtful he will be allowed to achieve much, but it's worth a try, for the sake of cask ale.

So, have a read of his manifesto here and decide for yourself.







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