Despite the relatively tiny size of the interactive beer information system languishing on the web, I cannot manage to absorb all the fact and opinion. Just to complicate matters, CAMRA have kicked off a forum, which provides further trains of thought to consider. This forum has found critique in some quarters, but personally I think it is a good idea. CAMRA has an image problem, some are unable to accept it has, but it is there. I'm not saying the image problem is fair, and there is indications that it is improving, but it is still there. I believe the forum will show why there is an image problem and the vast majority of members who read the discussions are going to work this out and act.
There are some discussions that clearly show entrenched positions that are as futile as the WWI front line tactics over 90 years ago. However, one of the threads was a very interesting discussion on cask breathers, a subject I also discussed previously. I discovered the CAMRA forums as a result of a link from this thread to my post. That's nice, I put my pennies worth on the forum a couple of times and also noted that there was a motion put forward to challenge the CAMRA view at the AGM. All progress I thought, probably as a result of the discussions causing realisation that the CAMRA position was more than just a little bit silly and entrenched.
A little while later I was reading Tims interesting anti CAMRA views and noted that he claimed the forum to be "full of ignorance and the usual CAMRA brainwashing drivel". Now this puzzled me slightly as I had posted on the forum, although I now realise in fact, not in the particular thread Tim was referring to. I commented to Tim that the forum can't be completely full of drivel because I'd posted there, make your own mind up if that's true. In any case, Tim responded with the facts as he saw them:
"I did notice that the thread regarding cask aspirators started with a whole lot of rubbish, but has resulted in an interesting discussion and put the issue back on the agenda for review at a CAMRA weekend away. A positive outcome which is a direct result of your blog post. You should be proud."Now I read that just before evening food service "I know all that" I thought, and disappeared into the kitchen to cook some food. But then the significance started to niggle at my brain. Did my post really have that effect? Personally I think a whole lot of other peoples views, including for instance The Beer Nut, has had a dramatic effect on this positive outcome. Indeed, a realisation by the majority that one or two individuals are probably talking out of the top of their head helps. Even if it was my post that caused this result, I can't take all the credit as there were others feeding me relevant technical information.
Still, it's quite a humbling experience to slowly realise that I might have played a part in CAMRA reconsidering their stance on cask breathers. It's one of a number of dogmas that are on my tick list to challenge. A list that is one of the reasons for starting this blog in the first place. I should surely be proud, as Tim suggests, to have had this sort of result. Alas there is something bothering me about the potential for such a major change of CAMRA rulings.
But don't worry, I'm not going back on my original quest to change this view. I really do hope that the view is softened a little. Many people realise there is more to good beer than real ale. It is possible for great beer to come from a keg. I know, I've had some. Rarely do we get good keg beer in this country. What we need right now, in the industry, is some very strong innovation. We need pubs and beer brewers to be ever more innovative and to be able to think outside the box. Most dedicated breweries and pub owners are scared to be progressive because of CAMRA. Abolishing the demonetisation of both cask breathers and keg beer is essential.
But what if the "thin end of the wedge" argument shows some sign of realizing the worst fear? I don't want to be remembered as the man who killed cask ale. In fact I don't want to see Real Ale as a style of beer diminish even slightly. I don't think it will, even if we see a growth of craft keg beer, but I want to make sure.
So, if you are a CAMRA member, just have a think about the full picture. Cask breathers will improve the reliability of quality beer. Making quality beer more available through appropriate use of good technology can help the industry. Help me work towards supporting the cask breather as a solution in the right circumstance and I promise I'll show you that it can build the future of cask beer and the pub industry.
And I'll always fight for Real Ale.