I drink a reasonable amount of cask beer. There are various reasons for this; partly because the pubs I like to go in serve good cask beer, partly because I want to improve my brewing abilities so I try the competition. I even drink my own sometimes so that I know when I get it right or wrong. I suspect that alone my cask beer drinking exceeds some government limit or other but unfortunately for my liver I also drink some keg beers and some bottled beers too. Some of this is pasteurised fizzy muck and a subset of that last group I actually enjoy, shock horror.
The biggest reason I drink cask beer is because I like it.
CAMRA has had a large influence on the beer and pub market in this country. Our craft beer market is dominated by cask beer. Small brewers like myself have been helped significantly by the small brewers discount on beer duty and CAMRA almost certainly helped this advance. There remains the question of what the craft beer scene would be like today if the infant beer consumer group had decided to simply campaign for flavoursome beer made by smaller producers. I think that one has already been argued out elsewhere and remains a rhetorical discussion until we discover time travel or a way to switch between alternative present day scenarios based on alternative past events.
What we do know is that CAMRA has over 100,000 members, is a voluntary organisation and has both vehement supporters and harsh critics. The organisation does have an effective PR machine that is able to get stories into the press and certainly has connections with members of Parliament enabling them to influence government, even if the magnitude of that influence is open for debate.
It still remains that amongst the beer loving world, contrary to the assertion of Roger Protz, there are a number of critics of CAMRA. The statement that CAMRA " .. is listened to with respect by all serious beer lovers" is certainly overconfident, and I hope regretted, as there are certainly people I know who are beer lovers who disagree with that. Again, the significance of this group of people might well be open to debate, but that group of people exist and some are CAMRA members.
This post is not written to explore the detail of what is wrong with CAMRA. I am writing this to explore the fact that there is this group of people who have various misgivings about the organisation. More importantly, this group of people are largely beer lovers who are also important to the overall beer industry.
There have been many posts in the blogosphere about what is wrong with CAMRA. There have been many counter comments that claim there is nothing wrong with it and anyway, bloggers aren't important, the rest of the world loves CAMRA, so there.
Recently Pete Brown has written about a couple of specific experiences. I want to support that particular article because I too have experienced similar annoyances from CAMRA activists. It's not exclusive and I know many CAMRA branch members who work very hard to support cask beer and pubs rather than having a narrow objective of finding the most economical way of buying a gallon of bland session beer in a pub somewhere.
Pub Curmudgeon has also written about his concerns over CAMRA policy. A piece that raises interesting concerns and appears to have some support from various bloggers. I too feel that there is a divergence away from CAMRA by a growing number of beer lovers. Perhaps this is inevitable due to the fact that CAMRA is all about cask beer so should not be concerned about anything else.
I've lost track a little bit of what's going on in the wider beer world over the last few weeks. CAMRA do not know my new address1 so I do not receive What's Brewing, for instance. I did, for a while, receive press releases direct by email, but as the URL I was using was sold on with the pub, I no longer receive these. I should check the CAMRA web site, I know, and I will....just as soon as I have completed this post, promise.
I understand from comments made on blogs by Tandleman that CAMRA, at their AGM, have agreed some sort of review. I dare say this won't include embracing cask breathers or proper real keg, that would be asking too much. I do hope that it looks at its image, as this is the real problem. It is the growing perception that something is wrong and that it no longer " listened to with respect by all serious beer lovers"
1Entirely my own fault, as I've not told them.