Real Camra versus the revisionals

Is this newspaper report about ructions on Tyneside the start of civil war in the Campaign for Real Ale between “Real Camra”, those who hold to the original verities, that all keg beer is bad, and “Revisional Camra”, a younger set who argue that the campaign needs to accept “craft” keg?

I very sincerely hope not: Britain needs a “beer drinkers’ union”, and whatever criticisms anyone might have, Camra is and is likely to remain the best organisation to represent the concerned beer consumer that we have.

But the division in the Tyneside and Northumberland Camra branch reported on by the local Sunday Sun newspaper under the headline “Beer war erupts” does seem to have taken place along a faultline that I predicted 18 months ago, when I suggested that if Camra did not take care

it is going to become increasingly irrelevant to the real concerns and desires of keen younger drinkers unfettered by a too-rigid application of the tenets of the Founding Fathers. Instead it will become a beery equivalent of the Royal British Legion, the only active members those at or approaching bus pass age.

The problem is that any Camra member younger than 40 wasn’t born when the Campaign began, cannot remember what all those beers that so revolted the Founding Fathers, such as Whitbread Trophy and Courage Tavern, were like (and they were, truly, very poor indeed), and they simply will not accept the mantra “all keg is bad” if it clashes with their own current experiences.

Those experiences, I suggest, are that some modern “craft” keg can be very good indeed, and certainly much better than badly kept cask. And if you try to tell them that it’s irrelevant whether or not they enjoy a particular beer, if it’s not served from an unpressurised cask it must automatically be cast into the outer darkness, they will regard you as an unreconstructed old beardy who is stuck back in the days when “internet” is where you tried to put a football.

I’m not in any place to pass judgment on the argument between the Tyneside and Northumberland Camra old guard and the youth squad, since I know only what little I have been able to gather from the Sunday Sun article, a comment piece from the local Journal newspaper’s website and from links provided by Tandleman on his blog. The battle seems to encompass a number of different issues, including proposals for a new website, and the choice of beers and ciders at the branch beer festival, as well as “craft” keg, and it has ended up with two different websites running under the “Canny Bevvy” label used for the branch’s newsletter, one (the “official” site) dot-co-uk and the other (the “revisional” site) dot-com.

But I suspect the statement on the website run by the “revisional” wing of the branch sums up what a lot of Camra members under 35 feel:

Beer and cider should be most of all about having fun, experiencing new things and if you can, supporting local producers and pubs. We don’t mind if a landlord wants to use more modern technology to keep their beer in tip top shape, or if there’s another fruit flavour in our cider. We don’t even mind if a brewery wants to have their beers served from a keg. After all, surely it should be up to the person who creates something how they think it’s best to drink it, and for pub-goers to decide if they like it?

You can argue all night about whether that’s the best position to take in modern Britain to safeguard great beer. All I will say is that it’s an argument Camra is going to be increasingly hearing from its younger members, who have tasted and liked craft keg beers. What happened in Tyneside and Northumberland branch when the “revisional” wing put forward that argument, according to the “revisional” website, is that

the “beards” started shouting things about “mutiny” and “bringing the campaign into disrepute” and a great deal about why they didn’t want to change.

which might, some may suggest, be the surest way to drive away the new young enthusiasts Camra needs to keep it going as the Founding Fathers pass through their sixties and head towards their seventies.

0 thoughts on “Real Camra versus the revisionals

  1. “the start of civil war in the Campaign for Real Ale”? I doubt it.

    Even local newspapers don’t normally report rows at CAMRA branch meetings. The only reason it has in this case is because the journo is one of the “revisionals”.

  2. Despite being 54 and a CAMRA member for over 20 years, I’m all in favour of “craft keg” and have been ever since I first tasted keg de Koninck on a tour of the Northern Quarter with Stockport CAMRA many, many years ago. I also believe that as the number of true pubs dwindles, craft brewers will be forced to target the keg-only on-trade (hotels, restaurants, sports & social clubs, community centres, theatre bars, functions suites etc) if they are to find a market big enough to sustain them. In fact I have written an article for SIBA Journal on the technical and financial implications of doing just that, and I’ve also put up an outline proposal to K Bott Esq of the county of Staffordshire setting out some of the steps SIBA can take to support members who want to tackle the keg market. But it’s a long, long journey from there to getting any sort of CAMRA endorsement; and it’s a big assumption that any sort of formal CAMRA endorsement is relevant in the first place. Perhaps, though, to pacify those radical young hotspurs the North-East, a first tentative step might be to stock draught Belgian beers (keg, as they’re served in the Holy Land itself) on foreign beer bars at CAMRA festivals and see where that leads us? It wouldn’t be too extreme a position to pull back from if too much apoplexy were produced; and it would at least have the fig-leaf of “authenticity”!

  3. If those quotes from the CAMRA press officer are accurate though, is it any wonder the “kids” are up in arms? I don’t think *anyone* beyond a tiny tiny subset of people in any organisation wants to take minutes and write agendas, why wouldn’t you want to talk about nothing but beer if you’re at a CAMRA meeting?

  4. Seems to be more about governance than beer. Tyranny of the majority is a phrase we hear in my business circles from time to time. That is why democracies have constitutions that provide for balancing structures which allow other voices to be heard even without 51% of the popular voice.

  5. It isn’t just “craft keg”. Most people born at the time of CAMRA’s founding will have travelled and experienced a bit of the world to a degree there fathers and grandfathers did not (unless they were in tanks) and know many of the world products (and beers) are good.

    Those born 20 years after CAMRA was formed live in a world where real ale is a niche and beer means mainstream lager and whilst bland is not a vile and disgusting product. As they live, travel and experience they will discover what they like and dislike in reference to a global village. A narrow set of hand pumps isn’t the only good beer available to them.

    If CAMRA wishes to be a campaign for maintaining a tradition, all is required is to stop being dismissive in regard to other products. There is no need to use terms like “chemical fizz”, “yellow fizz” or describe people that enjoy such things as “ignorami”. The last time I saw some morris dancers at a fete they appeared to have a couple of younger guys at it with them and I heard none of them slag off other forms of physical expression through the medium of dance. They did have beards and like real ale though. Morris dancing like real ale will be with us for years to come, through those that keep it alive. If they stop campaigning against things that are not real ale, more power to them and their elbows. If they don’t they deserve pass into history.

    If CAMRA wishes to be a campaign for good beer, which appears as much the founding fathers intent when they started it up in, then they need to acknowledge good beer in all its forms. I cannot see such a campaign attracting the broad support CAMRA does. A campaign for “beers we like” is fraught with all the basic problems of elitism, snobbishness that is apparent when you look at campaigns for organic food. It’s a campaign for more expensive beer.

    Anyway, I’ll keep you informed of what happens when I turn up to a beard club meeting. I have my proposal written up that Foster’s Lager be accepted into the campaign just like shed brewed cider. I’m expecting veins on foreheads to burst.

  6. “Seems to be more about governance than beer. “. One does need a little governance Alan and nobody likes minute taking or agenda setting. But without these having any sort of decent structure, dealing with CAMRA members is like herding cats. Just as soon as you’ve herded them etc.
    Of course, none of us was there, so I’d be a little wary before deciding what actually took place.

    1. I agree. But having some governance does not guarantee it is the best. I live by minutes and agendas professionally and understand their importance. But you also have processes to receive and process minority positions and also allow them to develop. Has nothing to do with what happened but how the governance is structured.

  7. Two things-CAMRA is specifically an organisation dedicated to promotion of “real ale” which is further defined.To embrace keg “craft” though perhaps worthy in itself, would be akin to Cruft’s having a section for hamsters, it’s not what it says on the tin.
    The second thing is more worrying in that the survival of the pub as we know it has been markedly helped by the fact that it more or less has a monopoly on cask beer.I can buy bottles and cans in the supermarket which are to all intents and purposes just the same as keg beer but at the fraction of the price and I can drink it in the comfort of my own home.Why go to the pub and pay much more for the same?
    Keg “craft” beer is a step above much of the keg stuff available in most outlets and there is certainly a place for it.Many establishments cannot maintain decent and consistent cask beer so keg is the answer.What it doesn’t do though is develop over a period of a few days;cask at its best is still a superior product to the same beer from the keg.At its worst though cask does show why keg was introduced in the first place, in those days there was plenty of bad and indifferent beer coupled with serious wastage.

    1. Just to act as devil’s advocate here, when Camra was formed it wasn’t to promote “real ale”, since the concept of “real ale” didn’t exist. It was formed to fight for the continued existence of characterful, tasteful beer. The sort of beer that Camra would regard as having any possibility of being characterful and tasteful was then rigidly prescribed, and labelled “real ale”, and the name of the organisation changed to reflect those prescriptions. Subsequently that rigid definition of what sort of beer had the right to be promoted as worthy of support has been fetishised, some might argue, to the point of harm.

    2. “Keg “craft” beer is a step above much of the keg stuff available in most outlets and there is certainly a place for it.Many establishments cannot maintain decent and consistent cask beer so keg is the answer.”

      CAMRA said Fastcask was the answer. You’ll have the Agents Of Protz knocking on your door at midnight with comments like that… 😉

    3. That horse has bolted, since camra has a section dealing with cider.

      It’s taken for granted that pubs can get into the GBG on the strength of their cider, although no one would expect that of a craft-keg or bottled beer pub.

      1. “It’s taken for granted that pubs can get into the GBG on the strength of their cider” – Err, no it’s not. A pub gets in the GBG based on its beer quality. Nothing to do with cider.

      2. Sorry, mate, you are only partly right.. Pubs are scored for real ale only for the Good Beer Guide. No pub will get in the Guide on cider. Some pubs sell keg beer and real cider: These do not get scored.

  8. Being from the United States, we enjoy beer from all over the world, and have been building a craft beer movement for decades. The method of serving has a great deal to do with different styles, but it has always seemed to me that a great brew can be served anyway you wish and it will still be good, but a bad brew will always be bad and it can’t be made right by serving it a different way.
    I would prefer having a British pale ale served on cask, as the true benefit is from the changes to the flavor, aroma and feel can’t really be replicated by other means. I love the amplification of hop aromas that seem to only show up on a beer just freshly pulled through an engine. It can be a truly wonderful thing. Conversely, it can also be horrible when the cast has sat to long and the beer is flat, sour and cheesy.
    It appears from this side of the pond, that ‘real ale’ has been saved and is no longer feared to becoming extinct, so it may be time to stop bashing all beers that are not cask and reserve disdain for the beers that are just plain bad, regardless of service.

    1. It’s certainly true that “real ale” now has a big enough niche and enough of a devoted following that it isn’t going to become extinct, which did seem like a real possibility in the early years of CAMRA. But for me the ‘campaign’ part of CAMRA is about a bit more than that – it’s about making real ale the norm in British pubs, as it once was. That battle’s a long way from being won.

      Advocating one keg beer rather than another, on quality rather than technical grounds, seems like a distraction – or at any rate seems like something for a beer-spotters’ club rather than a campaigning organisation. If a good fairy magically transformed every John Smith’s Smooth font into a Punk IPA tap overnight, by tomorrow night Britain would be drinking much better beer. But even then I think there would be a job for CAMRA to do. I’ve had some superb beers on cask which, in their keg form, were no more than interesting; I’ve heard it argued that some beers suit kegging better than cask, but I’ve yet to taste one myself.

      You could say that CAMRA should stand up for all good beers, and that lots of beer aficionados don’t care about cask vs keg. To me that argument is a bit like saying (as some people do!) that a folk club should welcome all styles of music, as lots of music-lovers don’t care whether a song is traditional or not. The problem is that there are lots of places you can go to hear music of various styles, but a folk club is the only place you’ll hear traditional music. Similarly, if CAMRA don’t stand up for cask ale it’s not going to get stood up for – and I think that would be a massive loss.

      1. If CamRA ignore perfectly good beer and pubs that don’t fit their strictures, they’ll come to be seen as irrelevant. And I don’t see why including the current, rather small, number of CK specialists would squeeze anything out. It’s not like their promotion of cider was at the expense of RA.

  9. As for this:

    surely it should be up to the person who creates something how they think it’s best to drink it, and for pub-goers to decide if they like it?

    …presumably that’s a statement from the Campaign For Brewers To Make Whatever They Like And People To Drink It, Or Not, As They See Fit.

    1. If they can find it. If Craft Keg pubs aren’t listed in the GBG, peple who are intereseted in good beer may start buying the Good Pub Guide or other rivals.

      1. Well actually I suspect most Craft Keg pubs are listed in the GBG – mainly because they usually do a good line in well kept cask as well (unless you are BrewDog of course). Here in Manchester the two main exponents of craft keg are the Port Street Beer House and Common. Both are in the GBG (well PSBH wil be in the 2013 edition) and PSBH was its local branch’s Pub of the Year runner-up.

        1. John,
          Here in Brighton we have two new CK pubs, one of which has a good selection of DRA, and which has none, and will not appear in the GBG, although it serves dozens of excellent and well priced craft beers.

          1. Given the size restrictions of the GBG (it’s limited to 4,500 entries) there are plenty of pubs serving great cask beer that don’t get in either. The fact that any given pub isn’t get in the GBG doesn’t really prove much one way or the other. All I will say is, if a pub or bar really does want to showcase the best the beer world has to offer then not selling cask means they are seriously missing a trick. Should they be in the GBG anyway on that basis?

          2. John,
            Of course that isn’t the same: no keg-only pub will ever get in under the current regime. (Nor, it seems will a bottle-only pub, even if they sell nothing but a bottle-conditioned beer).
            And why should a pub dedicated to selling the best beer in the world restrict itself to cask?

          3. I think John’s point is that not to have any cask will automatically mean you will be left out. It’s the rules. Like a club, if you don’t want to observe the rules, you don’t get in. If you want to change the rules, join CAMRA and lobby for them to be changed.

            No point of beating your head against the wall. You need to get the rules changed if you don’t want to observe them or think they are wrong or unfair.

          4. It’s also my point that not having any cask will mean you are automatically left out. It *is* like
            a club, and it *shouldn’t* be becaue the GBG is sold in WH Smith, it is not a document for
            use by club members only. if CamRA doesn’t make itself useful to the beer drinkers in general, what is going to be .. a self-perpetuating in-group? I am in CamRA and I suppose what I am doing right now is lobbying.

          5. A completely false argument. You don’t have to buy the book. You clearly understand its boundaries and those that don’t will still find good places to drink through it. No-one is being short changed. CAMRA campaigns for cask ale. If you want to get in the book – sell cask ale and keep it good. If you don’t want to do that, then you clearly oppose CAMRA and don’t want to be in the book.

            Can’t have it both ways. CAMRA Campaigns for Real Ale. The GBG has a historical and well know title. Change from within if you don’t like it which is your right.

          6. No one has to buy the book, and it becomes irrelevant. no one will –they will turn to the GPB, BITE, etc. This is about preserving CamRA, not opposing it. The GBG has a huge advantage over its rivals in that is is compiled by a large an well informed base of volunteers and is devoid of commercial interest. It would be a great pity to see that go
            down the drain. Campaigning for RA is an outdated model, since RA is doing fine. Representing the interestests of consumers in a fast changing market is the challenge.

          7. Who says the book is irrelevant? The tiny “excluded” niche to which you refer will, in effect, be come across by almost no-one. It is a tiny but growing metropolitan (mainly) niche. If you want to use other sources (I do) in your pub seeking – great. It’s a broad church is beer drinking. Find the bits you like.

          8. Well, I said “becomes”, not “is”.
            Yes, it is a tiny niche in terms of numbers, but it is also some of very best beer you can find anywhere in the country, and it is absolutely ridiculous to exclude it from the top 5000 when it deserves to be in the top 50. And If I and others use “other sources”, there’s your “becomes irrelevant”. I want CamRA to be relevant so that it can keep going. What do you want? A Wee Free faction who maintain their ideological purity at the expense of any kind of usefulness or popularity?

          9. “Yes, it is a tiny niche in terms of numbers, but it is also some of very best beer you can find anywhere in the country,”

            Debatable at best. That’s just your opinion.

            “and it is absolutely ridiculous to exclude it from the top 5000 when it deserves to be in the top 50.”
            Debatable at best, laughable at worst.

            And If I and others use “other sources”, there’s your “becomes irrelevant”.

            As I already said, I use other sources too. That’s the modern world. These things are complementary and good for cross checking. A bit Stalinist to imply only one source should exist and it should be cast in your image.

            “I want CamRA to be relevant so that it can keep going. What do you want?”

            A decent cohesive argument from you would be a start. I spend plenty time trying to modernise CAMRA, but again, it is unlikely that my vision will coincide with yours.

            “A Wee Free faction who maintain their ideological purity at the expense of any kind of usefulness or popularity?2

            If I did want to do that, I’d be perfectly entitled. But I don’t.

          10. Of course it is debatable how good such-and-such a CK pub is, but under the current
            regime a local branch cannot hold a debate and decide that their local CK pub is excellent and should go into the GBG because it is against The Rules.

            Not everyone is a dedicated beer fan with the budget and inclination to buy multiple guides.
            For many it is an either/or choice. CamRA *must* be relevant to the wider public, if it becomes an in-group it will go the way of the Rosicrucians.

          11. What’s the evidence for that assumption? Most of the alternatives are on line anyway, so cost nothing. As for local branches, there won’t be one in the country so affected. I’ll bet my hat on that.

            You really are tilting at windmills.

          12. “And why should a pub dedicated to selling the best beer in the world restrict itself to cask?”

            Err, I didn’t actually say that. What I said was that if a pub really wants to showcase the best that beer has to offer than it can’t really do that (at least here in the UK) without including cask in the line up. As Pete Brown (who I assume you have heard of) says in this week’s Morning Adveriser “”I’d argue that any new pub opening without a decent, well-kept selection of cask ales simply doesn’t understand the business it’s in”.

  10. For carsmilesteve – I’m the Press Officer involved, and my comments were toeing the Party Line, and not my own personal views. I’m much more of the opinion voiced in this blog, so much so that I have sent an article entitled “CAMRA – Evolution or Extinction?” to Tom Stainer, the editor of What’s Brewing, in the hope that it will be published, and generate a much-needed debate within CAMRA. Who knows – it might even lead to an AGM motion?!?!?

  11. As a former (committee) member of the Tyneside & Northumberland branch of CAMRA I can say that internal politics, disputes, divisions and resignations are nothing new to the branch. The problem certainly used to be that some members were clearly of the opinion that the internal politics and their own views and standings came before beer and campaigning. It was their ‘hour of power’.

    I used to be firmly of the opinion that the definition of good beer meant cask, to the absolute exclusion of anything else. Now, I’m not so sure and as CAMRA has moved into other campaigning areas such as pub closures, perhaps it’s time to start defining what makes an acceptable alternative to cask. As one recent example, I discovered bottled Oakham Brewery Citra. An extremely tasty single-hop beer that’s probably not to most tastes but having since tried the cask version, I actually prefer the bottle – lightly chilled.

    Finally, some of the cask beer many breweries offer are very unlike the cask beers of my youth: Little sediment, no secondary fermentation worth mentioning and dropping bright in a couple of hours. Not to mention several national cask brands that are filtered and re-seeded with bottom-fermenting yeast in the container. It’s real, Jim, but not as we know it.

  12. Firstly just to correct a couple of misunderstandings I attended my CAMRA branch meeting that has now been so widely discussed and “Craft Beer’, “Craft Keg”, “Key Keg”, “Live Keg” etc. etc. were never mentioned. The motions resulting in card votes being taken (a real rarity for us) concerned a couple of different local issues.

    By the way not all the so-called ‘revisionals’ I’ve met anyway are under (say) 50 years old.

    I was also at the National CAMRA AGM in Sheffield when the National Chairman said: “You drink what you like. We campaign for real ale”. An approach I follow and believe that until a major change in ‘what we campaign for’ occurs other members should simply do the same. Those drinkers who are not interested in real ale or want to promote others beers can always join one of the ‘good beer’ groups.

    Of course those CAMRA members who want to see a change in the definition of the beer we campaign for have the remedy in their own hands. Get an appropriate policy changing motion passed at a National AGM……………simples!

    1. Ah, but it’s not “simples”, is it, John? The complete set of policies of an organisation like Camra never reflects what the majority of members think, only what the majority of activists think. If those two sets of views are the same, no problem. If, however, there is a mismatch, the minority of activists trying to alter policy to reflect the views of the majority of members is going to have a huge struggle. I have no idea if the latter is the case in Camra, but if it WERE true that the majority of actual members would be happy to see a change in Camra policy over craft keg, and Camra needed a “Clause Four moment”, then it wouldn’t be “simples” at all to get the majority of activists to accept that. It took the Labour Party 45 years to amend Clause Four …

      The proof of whether current Camra policy chimes with those younger people the organisation needs to encourage into active involvement in order for the essential grass-roots campaigning to continue will be seen over the next few years: either enough new young recruits will continue to take up active roles at branch and higher levels to enable it to maintain its position as a campaigning force, or they won’t. As a Camra member for 35 years myself, I very much want to see the campaign thrive.

      However, the proof of the popularity of craft keg won’t be found in whether or not Camra accepts or rejects it: that will be seen in the marketplace. Either craft keg will sell, and spread, or it won’t.

      1. While there was obviously a touch of irony in my “simples!” comment and I understand your point about activists and the majority (even though, of course, these labels will apply to different individual members depending on the issue).. The fact that a motion was passed setting out the position of CAMRA on ‘Craft Beer’ at the last AGM whether you or I agree with it or not shows quite clearly that it can be done and CAMRA’s democratic processes work.

        Finally I think that as there is no generally accepted definition of ‘Craft Keg’ (and unlikely to be one soon?) supporters will quite reasonably be able to show that its sales are rocketing. Whereas its detractors will just as easily show the opposite.
        However the vast majority of beer drinkers in the UK as elsewhere will not be bothered by the ‘Craft Keg’ debate at all.

  13. Having read everything above and numerous other posts about this (with numerous contrasting accounts of the same meeting), the answer to your opening question is “no”.

    1. One of the writers above has said for those born 20 years after CAMRA was founded real ale is a niche product. This is true. However, when CAMRA was founded, real ale was also a niche product or was fast becoming so. Brewery-conditioned beer was fast becoming the norm, as did, later, the not dissimilar (in essential terms) lager. So the environment was basically the same as today with one exception: high quality brewery-conditioned beer exists today which follows the American craft model of serving force-carbonated, filtered (usually) but unpasteurized (usually) beer made of high quality ingredients which often are all-malt and generously hopped.

      Does this suggest CAMRA’s remit should be extended to cover this kind of beer?

      I don’t think so.

      Between the start of the English-centered beer tradition hundreds of years ago and the time CAMRA was founded, that form of brewery conditioned beer didn’t exist. It has no pedigree in English brewing history, it’s just getting its legs. Real ale, on the other hand, as defined by CAMRA, has existed (in its essentials) for a very long time. And while it’s true real ale can use adjuncts and yes even some lager can qualify as real ale, it so happens except for brewing sugars – and not all English breweries have always used them – heavy use of adjuncts was avoided and pale ale certainly was well-hopped. Real ale meant historically and still does withal a high class article of top-fermented beer served in a way to maximize its digestibility and flavour potential. That is what CAMRA set out to save and protect.

      I don’t see why a national beer group dedicated to preserving the best and oldest of the English brewing tradition should also campaign to protect high quality top-fermented (or other) brewery-conditioned beer, the new kid on the block. It would be difficult too to define the latter in a way easily to allow it to stand alongside real ale as the raison d’etre of CAMRA. And it would not help a campaigning group to overly complicate its mission, IMO.

      By all means, let another group be founded to promote such beers, if the interest is there.


      It seems logical to me that a national beer lobby seeking to preserve a national form of beer should anchor itself on the one with a long pedigree, tradition.

      1. Gary.
        Who said CamRA should *campaign* for CK? I’ts doing well all by itself. As is RA: in my area, breweries are springing up so fast the local branch is having trouble keeping count.
        It isn’t the 70s any more, and there isn’t a need to fight a rearguard action on any front.
        A lot of what the CamRA does, particualrly as far as the general public and less active
        members are concerned, is not so much campaigning as promotional and informative. It’s a consumer organisation, like PINT and Zythos. If it starts ignoring Good Beer that isn’t the right kind of Good Beer, it will make itself irrelevant. (And then there’s BITE.) Equally, since there is no issue of preserving CK from extinction, there is no need to define it. The definition of good beer and good pubs can remain subjective, as it largely is when deciding on GBG inclusion. The objective criterion for RA is only used for exclusion.

        1. On the point of campaigning: I took that term from the title of the organisation’s name: Campaign For Real Ale. So anything it promotes it campaigns for.

          There is poor cask beer, and excellent keg beer; still, I feel keg beer even at its best does not have the distinctive qualities of good real ale, and CAMRA evidently feels the same. Maybe in time the membership will see it differently, let’s say top-fermented, high-quality, non-RA craft beer is brought within the kind of beer that is CAMRA’s remit to protect: what if such beer (still a relatively small category) withers in the market in 5 years time? Fashions change in the beer world: real ale made in the way most of it was understood in the 1970”s has stood the test of time.

          At the end of the day, I agree that if its membership and revenue base falls, they should take a look at enlarging their raison d’etre – even if they remain stable in numbers but don’t grow to whatever would be reasonable for such a group, they may want to consider that. I wouldn’t go there personally though, I’d redouble efforts to put the focus on the beer type that is most traditional and which at its best gets plaudits from most fans of the English brewing tradition even those who (as I) enjoy well-made keg beer.


  14. Apologies, the last sentence in my post above is surplusage, but it ends up being a not-so-bad summary of my view on the matter.


  15. Just to reiterate what others have said. I am still well under 40 and don’t have a beard (!) but joined CAMRA several years ago because I like real ale. Good keg can be really good, and sometimes even better than badly-kept cask, but it’s not CAMRA’s remit to campaign for it and I don’t think it should be either. That’s a separate campaign, if one is needed, which shouldn’t distract from the (currently very successful) campaign to promote cask beer.

    For what it’s worth, round my way (East London) handpumps are springing up right left and centre, and cask beer seems to be the fashionable thing for young people, more than keg beer. Most of the new micros seem to be brewing mainly for bottles and casks, not kegs, so not sure where the “generation war” aspect in this comes from.

    We should be building on that if we believe that the very best form of beer is well-kept cask-conditioned real ale. And if you don’t believe that, frankly, why are you in CAMRA or bothered about what CAMRA does or doesn’t say?

  16. I am a British expat, with Canadian citizenship and joined CAMRA in Canada (which really means CAMRA British Columbia).
    I co-founded a branch in the Fraser Valley and although we are connected with CAMRA UK we are not governed by them. I now like to think we represent what a future CAMRA UK might look like.

    This is what we do: We support and encourage the production and sale of cask ale in a country that is almost 100% keg. We do not have an issue if pubs want to use cask breathers, as this ensures cask ale in places that have no other option is available. It is better than no cask ale! We hold cask events, from a single cask in a keg only pub, to cask festivals, featuring many.
    We also support pubs, restaurants and stores that sell craft beer, whatever the format (including Keg) and whatever the style (This includes craft brewed lager in all its many styles). Although the term “craft beer” is not used widely in the UK it is in Canada and in the US, and most consumers understand what it means. There is no dogma that could alienate, we just want people to drink and be open to a better product the industrial domestic lager.

  17. Actually, I’ll add to my previous comment. When I said “If you want to get in the book – sell cask ale and keep it good. If you don’t want to do that, then you clearly oppose CAMRA and don’t want to be in the book.” I should have added – or you aren’t that bothered about being in it and happy enough with what you are doing.

    1. Dear oh dear! It is not for businesses to go cap in hand to CamRA. That is just the sort
      of attitude that makes some perfectly good (cask!) pubs absolutely hate CamRa and want
      nothing to do with it. CamRA is already fairly broken when it is pissing off the very people it is supposed to be helping.

      1. Another false argument. I seem to recall the allegation is that really good pubs can’t get in the beer guide. That’s true within cask only as John Clarke says. No-one (other than you) is suggesting anyone goes cap in hand to CAMRA. Quite the reverse. But if you do want to be in it, you have to go along with the rules. It really doesn’t help your argument by making things up.

        This hating CAMRA stuff is often alleged, but rarely proved.

        1. “But if you do want to be in it, you have to go along with the rules” is *exactly* what I mean by going cap in hand. Why does’t camRA adapt itself to the needs of producers, retailers and cocsumers, instead of requiring them to adapt to its blessed rules?

          Re hating CamRA: Lazy Toad in Shoreham-by-Sea, W Sussex. Concrete example.

          1. “Why does’t camRA adapt itself to the needs of producers, retailers and cocsumers, instead of requiring them to adapt to its blessed rules?”

            Presumably because there is no actual need. to do so.

          2. If you mean there is no need in the sense that all the problems have been solved: nope, pubs are still disappearing at an alarming rate.

            If you mean there is no need in the sense that people can go elsewhere: you are signing CamRA’s death warrant.

          3. What I mean is that I assume sales and feedback are such that to change the formula to accommodate a tiny minority isn’t considered necessary. Not to mention that it would need that change of policy by the members that has been pointed out already.

            Your other two points are non sequitors, but in the first case, how would including this tiny niche save pubs and in the second, rising membership would seem to indicate that isn’t the case either.

          4. Minority? Who did you surveyy to find that out? The Newcastle branch seems 50/50. This blog seems to have a Revisionist majority. Most CamRA types I know have enjoyed the odd CK.

            I dare say CamRA will change it ways when sales or membeship slide, but putting off
            change till the eleventh hour is itself the best indication of being out of touch.

          5. I don’t see why I have to, and I don’t the details, and I don’t want to ask in case they shout “you must be one of the buggers too” and bar me. Nonetheless, I have established that it is a real phenomenon. I’m suprised that you’re surprised, I’ve several camRA type whot fit
            the Real Ale C*nt stereotype to a tee.

  18. When CAMRA began, ale from several big breweries was getting blander, and the worst offenders were keg bitters. So I sympathise.

    But blame not kegs, but marketing, a desire to establish brand identity among novice drinkers, for the watering down. I interviewed several brewers and general managers of breweries in 1970-71, and in their minds the brewing of beer for young tasters and kegging were separate issues. The reality is that a lot of excellent beer worldwide comes in kegs, and not just American craft brews. The one unavoidable effect of kegging may be a higher level of carbonation than in casks.

    The brewers liked kegs mainly for quality control. They had a point. I sampled beer from hundreds of pubs in 1971 and 72, and I kept notes. About five percent of the cask beers had off-flavours traceable to infection. In small pubs the beers were often not just low-carbonated, they were flat, a result of low turnover. The locals usually thought their beer superior to the same brand elsewhere, but it doesn’t make a good recruitment tool..

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