So, it would seem that it is time for me to nail my colours to the mast as far as CAMRA is concerned.
I love real ale. I love drinking it and I love the fact that it is an important part of my business. The longer I am in the trade the more I feel this way and the more I am convinced that it is going to be a significant part of the future of the licenced trade. I also believe there are other beers that can compliment real ale and help promote a better beer culture, which in turn will help real ale.
I support the main aims of CAMRA. I am a member and try to be involved where I can. But CAMRA is a consumer pressure group and its policies conflict often with my attempts to make a measly living out of my pub. Therefore I am also a sceptic.
The CAMpaign for Real Ale does, as it's core purpose, exactly what it says on the tin. The organisation does also campaign about other issues such as pubs closing. It organises the Good Beer Guide and publishes various other beer titles. I don't have a problem with these things generally.
CAMRA is the only beer and pub orientated consumer group in the UK. Perhaps there should be another one, but there isn't. It has always been, in my mind, a significant pub campaigning organisation. Very often the combination of the "fizzy chemical rubbish" type talk, "the war against lager" slogan and the very definition of real ale can be at odds with the wider issues of the licenced trade. Pressures on pub owners come from all sides and CAMRA is one side of this.
Full pints, beer price, pubs closing and many other side issues makes CAMRA the voice of the generic beer drinker as well as that of real ale. But its determination to give the message that real ale is the only thing that counts makes the organisation seem schizophrenic to me. Real ale is not the only thing that counts in a pub, so if CAMRA cares about pubs it needs to accept that we can discuss these things.
The mass media is not taking beer seriously as a quality product. I think this is partly as a result of narrowness of real ale. Do we really have to form a new beer consumer group to cover wider issues? One that will inevitably fight against CAMRA? Would that really be a good thing? I think we all need to do more to help protect the image of quality beer in a more holistic way.
I really enjoy the active and constructive commenting that occurs in the beer blogging world. I try to engage in it constructively and intelligently. I don't know if I manage that, but I really try. Yes, I also watch my words sometimes in the hope of avoiding damage to my business unfortunately, sometimes, I get the bit between my teeth and go for it.
Sometimes comments from others make me think and change my own opinions. Perhaps that also makes me seem uncertain about what I think. Perhaps it shows I am not sure exactly what to think on many issues. I'm not going to blindly stick to my principles when somebody has convinced me I'm wrong. This, surely, is one of the great things about blogging.
Avoiding discussion on issues and not being "sidelined by siren calls luring us onto the rocks" feels a little like believing the king has all his clothes on, just because somebody told you so. Of course these discussions are occurring, all over the place in the blogosphire. It's upsetting some people, perhaps that is a shame, but also it's probably inevitable.
Is this ducking and weaving? I don't know, I'm just trying to be honest, that's all.