Beer bloggers want you to drink keg, says Camra chairman

Excuse my intemperate language, but I’ve just been reading some total lying crap by the chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale about beer bloggers. Apparently we’re the “bloggerati” (eh?), and we’re “only interested in new things”, and for beer bloggers, Camra’s “40 years of achievement means nothing, as the best beer they have ever had is the next.”

Unfunny Valentine

What utter bilge. Colin Valentine’s presumably not a stupid person, but he’s evidently never heard of the Straw Man fallacy– or maybe he has, but he thinks his audience is too stupid to spot it. The Straw Man fallacy involves setting up a totally distorted and easily demolished version of your opponent’s proposition, demolishing the distorted version without tackling any of the points in the real proposition, and finishing with a smug grin and – if your audience has failed to see the deceit – a standing ovation.

What has rattled Colin’s cage so badly that he felt the need at the Camra AGM to attack with lies and distortions a group of people that includes not a few Camra members who have given, over decades, a great deal to the campaign and to the promotion of proper, tasty beer? Apparently it’s because some members of the “bloggerati” (a name chosen, presumably, to make us sound like a shadowy secret organisation up to some Dan Brown-ish plottery) have been “making calls for Camra to embrace craft beer”.

Now, real ale, Colin said, had “a clear definition”, which itself is not totally true, since Camra has been arguing for longer than many of its members have been alive about, eg, the cask breather and whether this involves the dreaded “extraneous carbon dioxide” that the four Founding Fathers decided was one of the biggest problems with too much British beer back in 1971.

Beer bloggers want you to drink this

However, Colin went on, according to the latest edition of What’s Brewing, “those calling for Camra to support craft ale struggle to define what it is.” And your point is, Colin? The difficulty of defining craft beer is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether or not it should be supported as a cause. Colin, though, knows what “craft beer” means – “I have a definition … it changes not a jot between the brewery and getting into the glass and is served using CO2 and/or nitrogen. It is keg beer. It may have hops in it, but it is keg.” There we are! “Craft beer “- it’s all a plot by those evil Illuminati bloggerati to get Camra to support the return of Watney’s Red. (I’m confused – if the “bloggerati” are “only interested in new things”, why do they want to go back to keg, which is surely a bit too 1960s?)

Anyway, having set up the evil craft beer Illuminati as an even greater threat to the future of good British ale than high taxes, pub companies who “screw their tenants into the ground”, an “abolitionist” health lobby and “rapacious” supermarkets eager to steal pubs’ market share, Mr Valentine ended on a stirring declaration of defiance against the three or maybe four British beer bloggers who have ever written anything about how Camra might think, perhaps, of broadening its remit to cover more than cask ale: “We decide what we will campaign for, not the bloggerati, and while I have anything to do with it, we will remain the Campaign for Real Ale.”

Which doubtless delighted the tiny minority of Camra members who go along to the AGM. But it will disappoint the many people who feel Camra should admit that, marvellous though real ale it (and personally almost all my greatest beer moments have been with cask beer), other types of artisanal brewing are available, and ought to be supported as well. In the May edition of What’s Brewing, I wrote a piece on how events might have panned out had Camra never existed. While gathering interviews for the article I spoke to several brewers, and a couple had things to say about Camra as it now is that I had to leave out. Here’s what one of them said:

Like many highly effective campaign movements, Camra started as an opposition movement, and in order to do this, it staked out a clear position and then opposed the enemy … and the enemy were breweries. And today, the enemy are still breweries, even when they’re great. Today, brewers in the UK despise Camra – I haven’t heard a good word about them for years. They saved British beer and then quickly stifled it, as even the Danish and Italians have gone racing past.

It’s a cautionary tale. When a movement wins, that’s its most dangerous moment. It either then re-directs and chooses a new and relevant purpose, or, more often, it turns in on itself. Camra did the latter, as most do. Heretics are purged and a stifling rigidity sets in. So now Camra, who should be hailed as the saviours of British beer (and deservedly so in the early days) are generally referred to by the epithet “the Taliban” by the UK’s best brewers.

And here are the words of another:

‘Real ale’ is a great term for the campaign that Camra ran. It was simple, emotive and a great rallying call. [But it] has caused and continues to cause many issues. Cask conditioned beer is not the only great beer and what really matters is the production of great beer. I love cask beer, at its best it is sublime, but I also love well-crafted bottled and keg products. What we need to do going forward is be as passionate as Camra have been about all great beer. This is a difficult subject, not least of all because it confuses people (including many Camra members) and challenges some stereotypes, but Camra members need to be mature and open-minded enough to embrace ALL great beer.

There is absolutely no doubt that Camra helped create a climate, interest and demand for new small craft brewers. However, I feel that this is part of a much bigger movement, so that breweries like Freedom, and West, which do not produce cask beers, can still thrive as they are local, interesting and producing great products.

Those are both people with enormous passion for good beer, as great or greater than the passion for beer of any member of the “bloggerati”, or Colin Valentine. As a long-standing Camra member myself, I was sorry to see people with their extensive experience in the business backing something I suggested last year – that Camra, especially under the apparently blinkered leadership of people like Mr Valentine, is in serious danger of becoming part of the problem rather than the solution.

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118 thoughts on “Beer bloggers want you to drink keg, says Camra chairman

  1. Pingback: Beer bloggers want you to drink keg, says Camra chairman | Arizona.BeerBlogNews.com

  2. Not sure why you’re getting so upset about the term “bloggerati”. Colin Valentine didn’t invent it as an insult-which your piece seemed to imply-when, as I’m sure you know, it’s been around for quite awhile. I’ve been using it for over two years and it’s been used by the media for at least five years.

    My dictionary simply defines “bloggerati” as “people who write successful and popular blogs”. Is that not you? You can (and you have!) disagree with much in Mr Valentine’s speech, but being described as the “bloggerati” is hardly worth highlighting

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  3. I have long argued that “Real Ale” is much less definable than some would like to to be.

    Much cask beer is not “Real Ale” by the definition that is applied by CAMRA.

    But I am concerned about what seems to be a widening of views on this subject. I’d love CAMRA to see that there is a danger of a loss of relevance over the next 10 years or so. Sure, there is still strong support for retaining a solid focus on just cask beer and those of us who would like to see change will have to wait a little longer. I just hope that the organisation doesn’t implode as current activists get older and new blood fails to engage due to continued alienation.

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  4. Still think it rather odd that people get worked up about CAMRA supporting real ale.

    As for the future, who knows, but there is an awful feeling of the tail trying to wag the dog here.

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  5. I think we can take as a given that we, them, they, us, bloggers, CAMRA, whatever, will support “good” beer. With the understanding, of course, that whatever “good” beer actually is, it’s the beer we enjoy. The trickier thing is to look into what is likely to make a beer enjoyable, and what is likely to make a beer less enjoyable. I think it would be hard for anyone to realisticly put forward a case that processing a food product so that it is no longer fresh and natural is going to aid the taste quality. Yes, filtering a beer will stabilise it and make it more commercially viable, but it doesn’t improve it’s taste quality.

    It does seem sad that though we have come so far in terms of food quality and freshness, and there is significant public awareness of the value of keeping food alive despite the drawbacks of short shelf-life, that in the beer world we should even consider giving in to marketing pressure from certain brewers who find it more convenient and profitable to stabilise their beer rather than offer the consumer the freshest, tastiest and most natural product they can.

    Yes, filtered beer can and does taste tasty. So can and does processed cheese, dried pasta, frozen peas, etc. But all these products taste so much better when fresh. As long as the concept of “craft beer” includes filtering as not only acceptable but desirable, I would stand alongside CAMRA and reject the idea of campaigning for craft beer.

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    • Where on earth did you get the idea that craft beer considers filtering as “desirable”? I still have to hear the first REAL craft brewer to utter such nonsense.

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      • “REAL” craft brewer Joris?

        The term “craft brewer” was devised by the Brewers Association in America as a marketing term to differentiate their members from the established brewers. Here is the BA’s definition – http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/craft-brewing-statistics/craft-brewer-defined . Do you feel there are brewers who claim to be craft who do not fall within BA’s definition?

        As regards the filtering – it is standard among American brewers to regard filtering as a benefit – example:

        http://www.backyardbeer.com/2010/10/how-to-filter-home-brewed-beer/

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        • But that is again one of these idées fixes of the hard core purists, that there would be something wrong with filtering a beer, and then reseeding it with new yeast. This is done in several countries, and not all of them these grubby johnny-come-latelies as the USA, Italy or Denmark…
          Let me put this straight: there is no dispute in my mind that a WELL kept British cask ale, will be superior in almost any case to its kegged counterpart. I’m absolutely convinced that – usually! – cask or bottleconditioning will lend a beer an extra – given that both the bottler and the pubowner know their job. But I will prefer a good quality kegged craft beer to a poor cask job anytime. And I have had plenty of those in the UK over the years.
          As to the other question – craft beer is regarded in the USA more or less as “artisanal” beer over here. And the BA definition is a definition established by a body that had interest in doing so. Just as CAMRA did with the term ‘real ale’.
          But it would seem most of you, deliberately or not, miss the main point of Martyns’ writing: that our esteemed chairman blindly struck out to something he sees as a threat to the well-established axiomas CAMRA chooses to live with, and prefers ignoring evolutions that take place even in the UK. What is wrong with wanting to try new things? What is wrong with recognizing traditions aren’t the same in the UK compared to elsewhere? That is what I mean with the hardcore: if it doesn’t fit, reject it. Oldest recipe in the book, and it’s tiring.
          Cask breather, anyone?

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          • I am one of those purists who likes a beer to remain unfiltered. Filtering and reseeding is now fairly common in British bottled beer by the large breweries, resulting in beer tasting no better than cold filtered.

            I am one of those who likes character in a beer. I don’t like closed fermenters because it reduces yeast character. And I don’t like the current trend of substituting genuine character and sophisticated flavour with extreme flavour through intense malt and/or hops. I don’t like the “innovation” of “craft brewers” which is looking for ways of disguising the interaction of yeast with barley malt which is the heart and soul of beer. Adding new flavours through “aging” in whiskey barrels seems to me to completely miss the point. I sometimes wonder if the people who are pursuing this trend actually like beer as I understand it.

            Belgian brewers fully understand the interaction of yeast and malt, and bring out the best of that in the bottle. Belgian brewers are the world masters of bottle conditioned beer. I would hate to see them go down the route of the American “craft brewers” and mask the intricate malt flavours with too much hop, or reduce its character by filtering.

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          • This is actually a reply to the comment of Steve below, as there was given no possibility for replying directly on that.
            And you think I don’t like character in beer? You think that innovation is only maimed at circumventing the traditional ways and replacing it by something different?
            I’ll tell you another thing Belgian brewers excell in: in combining new techniques and old ways. Plenty of examples; just as you could find ample examples of traditional Be beers that might not be conceived in the way you think them to be. Even in the BSF stands, there was always Rodenbach Grand Cru, for an excellent example. It’s completely filtered. De Koninck “amber”, at least until fairly recently, was fine-filtered, if unpasteurized, and I’ve never heard British complaining about that – only on the fact that it is CO² dispensed. I remember a try of air-driven De Koninck on GBBF, and it turned out a horror.
            In short. I can’t give sh*t (pardon my French) about how a beer is conceived. I only care about the result. Is the result satisfying – and that indeed includes character – then I’m satisfied. If not, the way of fermenting and dispensing be damned, I won’t drink it again. And I will never stop to look for something different: that might be barrel-aging (something we do in Be since times immemorial), making an IPA American style, or do as Ron Pattison did when he helped the London brewer (IIRC) to recreate an age-old recipe for new release.

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        • To me, ‘Craft Brewer’ simply sits outside the mass producers. They vary in size and some are definitely on the large side of Small Medium Enterprise. The edges of the definition can be slightly fluffy, but the same applies to craft producers of all types. Filtering is widespread amongst craft brewers the world over, as is pasteurisation and carbonation, but most UK craft brewers steer clear, largely because of the cost of investment in equipment and the need for much greater commercial activity, not to mention their ideals, many of which are borne of CAMRA membership and affiliation. I’m a CAMRA member, former brewery sales manager, and realist. I love many craft brewed products but many are so niche I wonder how the brewers find customers for them. Back to filtering (and re-seeding), I wonder how many CAMRA members realise that many commercial cask beers are racked, filtered and re-seeded in cask with bottom-fermenting yeast to assist rapid settling. Does little for the flavour other than a mild secondary fermentation. Only partially ‘Real’ Ale in my opinion.

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        • Steve said, “As regards the filtering – it is standard among American brewers to regard filtering as a benefit”

          …as an American brewer living in Oregon, which is widely considered the craft brewery capitol of the world, I can say that that is not true. Filtration is something that is widely considered, like corn and rice, to be associated with AB InBev or multinational breweries. A lot of breweries centrifuge (which leaves behind a fair amount of solids that filtering would not) to increase turnaround and get fresh ale out faster, but a very small number actually filter. My local brewery doesn’t filter or centrifuge, they simply wait for a beer to fall bright and then serve it, however long that might take.

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    • I’m sorry, but that thing that “unfiltered beer tastes better than filtered beer” or that unfiltered is “more craft” than filtered is utter nonsense. It’s a matter of personal taste. Generally speaking, I will prefer an unfiltered pale lager to a filtered one, but there are cases where I prefer the filtered version simply because it tastes better to me.

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      • What do you feel is adding to the flavour when the beer is filtered? You do understand that when a beer is filtered that flavour compounds are being removed? The argument for filtering is not that it improves the flavour, but that it stabilises the product so that it is less likely that unpleasant flavour compounds are introduced. You may be comparing an unfiltered beer which has been handled badly or is old with a filtered beer. I am not talking about comparing a mouldy fish with a tinned fish, I’m talking about comparing a fresh fish with a tinned fish.

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        • You are right in the stabilizing thing (and I don’t see anything wrong with that, to begin with). Anyway, I understand very well that the filtering process removes flavour compounds, and that is precisely the point, some people do not find those compounds pleasant or, in some cases, they don’t go well with the other flavours of the beer.

          Besides, filtering isn’t something of recent invention, it’s been around for ages, it’s practiced by many micro breweries around the world (specially in Germany and the Czech Rep.) and many a Brew Master (and Master in every sense of the word) will tell you that his beers taste better when they are filtered.

          Just like different methods of malting, mashing, fermentation and maturing, filtering is another option a brewer has to give the right character to their beers.

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          • And pasteurising? Those brewers who pasteurise do so for the benefits it brings to the beer, and will tell you that it’s a good thing to do.

            It seems odd to me that with every other food stuff, it is accepted that fresh and unprocessed is the better option. But when it comes to beer, people are arguing that it is better to filter because sometimes fresh beer goes bad.

            ALL fresh foodstuffs go bad. That’s an argument for better storage and handling, not for sterilising!

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          • Steve, You are confusing things, filtering isn’t the same as pasteurising.

            But let’s see if you can wrap your mind about this. There are many people out there who DO NOT like unfiltered beers, or like filtered better. Since breweries are first and foremost a business, some of them will filter some of their beers to satisfy that demand. Pure and simple and I don’t understand why you, Mr. Oliver or anyone out there can see anything wrong with that. But then again, I’m speaking from a Central European perspective.

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  6. CAMRA’s existence is based on a fallacies.

    The big one is the false dichotomy – “all real ale is good beer; all keg beer is bad beer.” This may have been close to the truth in Britain in the seventies but is otherwise empirically false. CAMRA must address this or the noisomeness is set to continue and escalate.

    There are other fallacies lurking in the background of CAMRA’s perspective e.g.–

    Real is good because it is traditional (argumentum ad antiquitatem).

    Real ale would have disappeared if CAMRA hadn’t existed. (This not strictly a fallacy, but an untestable hypothesis.)

    If you are not a member of CAMRA you must dislike or oppose real ale. I’ve had this one directed at me a number of times over the years.

    There are others. I feel a blogpost coming on.

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  7. Hear! Hear!! HEAR!!!
    Excellently put, Martyn.
    From a non-blogging, long-standing CAMRA stalwart, always interested in new things. As a new craft beer.
    Joris

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  8. “If you are not a member of CAMRA you must dislike or oppose real ale. I’ve had this one directed at me a number of times over the years. ”

    For consistency I’m sure you’ll agree on reflection, as someone just said, “This not strictly a fallacy, but an untestable hypothesis.”

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  9. Tandleman, I don’t think anyone, not even my friend Jeff, gets worked up about CAMRA supporting Real Ale. I feel that saying so misses the point.

    ““all real ale is good beer; all keg beer is bad beer.”
    Anyone that thinks that is daft. But I don’t think CAMRA actually says that.”

    I know you don’t think that, but there are plenty that do.

    Still, it’s all a little bit academic. Someone recently wrote ” The Craft movement must find it’s own way in the world” And that’s fine, because there is evidence to show that it is doing.

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  10. I agree that the speech is unnecessarily confrontional and has some weak points but having said that, why do enthusiasts of “craft keg” (whatever that means – unfiltered, unpasteurised, made by a micro?) set such store by being endorsed by CAMRA? It’s the Campaign for Real Ale. It’s like being shocked that the Vegetarian Society doesn’t endorse your sausages. No one – let alone CAMRA – is standing in the way of them setting up a Campaign for Craft Keg.

    Jeff, you yourself are setting up a straw man when you say “CAMRA’s existence is based on a fallacies. The big one is the false dichotomy
    ‘all real ale is good beer; all keg beer is bad beer.’” Who in CAMRA has ever said that? I would argue that well-kept cask beer will always taste better than “craft keg”. For that reason, there isn’t any need for “craft keg” in England where the former is widely available, unlike in the US where the latter originates. You might be right that, in the absence of a parallel universe, “Real ale would have disappeared if CAMRA hadn’t existed [is] an untestable hypothesis.” but I still think it’s true: who else was campaigning to save cask beer?

    The unnamed brewers are – to use Martyn’s phrase – talking utter bilge. So in CAMRA’s early days “the enemy were breweries” rather than keg beer? I wasn’t a CAMRA member then (having only been born in 1970) but from what I’ve read the Campaign not only tried to stop breweries closing but supported those like Youngs producing cask beer.

    “And today, the enemy are still breweries, even when they’re great.” Any examples/evidence?

    “Today, brewers in the UK despise Camra – I haven’t heard a good word about them for years.”

    Hmm, is that why breweries refuse to let CAMRA representives and branches through their doors or take part in CAMRA beer festivals?

    “They saved British beer and then quickly stifled it, as even the Danish and Italians have gone racing past.”

    Don’t make me laugh: when decent cask-conditioned beer is widely available in Denmark and Italy, I’ll concede that they’ve drawn level. To equate them producing small amounts of “craft keg” with “racing past” is ridiculous.

    “[In] Camra…Heretics are purged and a stifling rigidity sets in.”
    Any examples/evidence for this? Anyone faced a show trial and then expulsion after admitting to liking Guinness?

    “Cask conditioned beer is not the only great beer and what really matters is the production of great beer.”
    Anyone disagree with that? Looks like that straw man again.

    “I love cask beer, at its best it is sublime, but I also love well-crafted bottled and keg products.”

    If you love cask beer and think that it is best it is sublime, you are always going to chose it over keg where it is available, as it is widely in England. The only reason to drink “craft keg” is in the US, Italy etc. where it is not.

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    • Support all of this.

      The matter can be simplified if we change cask to unfiltered and keg to filtered, as this makes it easier to understand the issue. For me it’s not just a case of cask, it’s a question also of bottle conditioned beer.

      If a “craft brewer” wishes to get the support of CAMRA, they simply need to ensure their product is served live, fresh and unfiltered, either from the bottle or from the barrel.

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      • “If a “craft brewer” wishes to get the support of CAMRA, they simply need to ensure their product is served live, fresh and unfiltered, either from the bottle or from the barrel.”

        ..Whether that form is best suited to the beer or not…

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    • when decent cask-conditioned beer is widely available in Denmark and Italy, I’ll concede that they’ve drawn level.

      Matt, that’s exactly the sort of comment that gets Camra Calvinists a bad name. I’ll tell you what – we’ll put you in a ring with a Ratebeer extremophile, you can fight it out, and we’ll call the person with the most rigid and inflexible view of what good beer ought to be the winner.

      “[In] Camra…Heretics are purged and a stifling rigidity sets in.” Any examples/evidence for this?

      Why, yes – Colin Valentine’s recent speech to the Camra AGM, actually.

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      • “I’ll tell you what – we’ll put you in a ring with a Ratebeer extremophile, you can fight it out, and we’ll call the person with the most rigid and inflexible view of what good beer ought to be the winner.”

        But Martyn, if all those “extremophiles” are wrong, and CAMRA is clearly wrong, would you be so kind as to tell us the correct and proper way to enjoy beer is? Apparently most of us are doing it wrong! I jest, but to suggest that someone else’s inflexible view is wrong and then substitute it with your own is a bit cheeky! “Beer can be delicious in any format! As long as its not too bold or out of my comfort zone!”

        Hello pot, this is the kettle – you’re black!

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        • I’ve never said I don’t like extreme beers – it’s a total misunderstanding of my position to claim I ever attacked extreme beers themselves. I greatly enjoy many double IPAs and imperials stouts, ditto strong barley wines, and I like (deliberately) sour beers, too. My beef with the extremophiles is that they give the impression that the only beers worth drinking are extreme ones. Similarly – in fact, not merely similarly, in an identical fashion – too many Camra Calvinists behave as if the only way to beery heaven is via the straight and narrow path of cask ale. The extremophile pot and the Camra Calvinist kettle are as black as each other – me, I’m a nice catholic (with a small c) shiny pewter colour. The correct and proper way to enjoy beer is to discover whatever variety floats your boat.

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    • Matt
      ‘”‘all real ale is good beer; all keg beer is bad beer.’” Who in CAMRA has ever said that?’

      Who in CamRA ever included a Craft Keg pub, however good, in the
      Good Beer (not Real Ale, Beer!) Guide.

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  11. What Matt said. Mostly. And Dave that was a wise, wise man, him what is talked about here:
    “Someone recently wrote ” The Craft movement must find it’s own way in the world”

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  12. And it’s always unnamed brewers. I suspect if their identities were revealed it would be the usual suspects with an anti-CAMRA axe to grind.

    I also like the generality with which Martyn signs off – - CAMRA being part of the problem rather than the solution. What exactly is “the problem” ?

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    • Well, no, John, they’re not at all “the usual suspects”, one is not actually from this country but is a hugely respected brewer, and the other is a brewer with decades of experience who brews only cask ale. And the problem is – too much crap beer still on sale, a problem which Camra, in my opinion, is failing to address.

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      • Fair enough but I am still do not accept these “brewers despise CAMRA” claims because in my view, and more to the point from my experience over many years, it’s simply not true. Having said that there are plenty of CAMRA people out there who annoy me with their attitudes so I can imagine them really getting on the tits of any brewers they may have to deal with.

        Where I think we can agree is that there is far too much bad beer about. One of the side effects of PBD has been to encourage into the industry people who should not be allowed within a million miles of a mash tun. Similary there are still too mnay publicans for whom “quality” is a hypothetical concept which doesn’t apply to them. But I don’t see how any of this can really be laid at the feet of CAMRA. So while I don’t for one minute agree that CAMRA is part of this problem, I do think it can and should be part of the solution. For one thing it needs to be far more critical of bad pubs and bad beer .

        Not that any of this naturally leads to CAMRA embracing “keg” in any of its forms . This simply is not going to happen any time soon. No matter how much noise is generated in the blogosphere it simply won’t happen. That needs to be firmly understood by those advocating “craft keg” or whatever you want to call it. They need to both understand this and move on. Why do people find this such a difficult concept to grasp?

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  13. ‘If you love cask beer and think that it is best it is sublime, you are always going to chose it over keg where it is available, as it is widely in England.’

    This statement pretty much sums up the problem. What a total non-sequitur. Once more for the hard of thinking: Loving cask does not preclude loving other forms of dispense. All methods have their peculiarities, pros and cons.

    ‘The only reason to drink “craft keg” is in the US, Italy etc. where it is not.’

    Crass, parochial, blinkered. As if these countries are incapable of aspiring to our ‘dizzy heights’. Newsflash: both the countries you mention have growing beer scenes that embrace cask alongside keg. ‘Craft’ keg is nothing new. To carelessly sweep it aside is to slate more excellent breweries than could easily be named here.

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    • It’s not a non-sequitur: I have drunk and enjoyed keg beer in Germany, Ireland and the US. I just think – as does CAMRA – that the fresh taste and mouthfeel of well-kept cask beer is better. That does not mean that all keg beer is bad beer.

      “All methods [of dispense] have their pros and cons”. Can you tell us what the “cons” of cask beer per se are, as opposed to pubs and brewers who manufacture and serve poor beer?

      “[Italy and the US] have growing beer scenes that embrace cask alongside keg. ”

      You’ve missed the point here. I didn’t say that cask beer doesn’t exist in these places but that it isn’t widely available – i.e. in every town and city – as it is in England. Cask beer is a niche product in the US rather than part of the mainstream beer market, a bit like “craft keg” here.

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      • >>Can you tell us what the “cons” of cask beer per se are<<
        It oxydizes in a pretty short time, and will keep less long.
        An unlucky manipulation will loose the yeast, eventually with the finings inside the cask again, so that all the cask connoisseurs will immediately reject it as "muddy beer", whilst in fact, they're looking at their revered yeast they insist upon.
        It takes a lot of skill from the barpersons (not that I wouldn't like to see they had all that kind of skills and care, before they start serving customers), and works towards a higher loss on the beer served – which will induce in the worst case things as re-injecting spilled beer in the cask, underserving exact measures, etc…

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        • I’m surprised Joris has had to explain this! Moving over to keg required a major capital investment on the part of brewers (incidentally, quite likely one of the reasons why British brewing concentrated so rapidly in the postwar period in the way that it did). They didn’t make this investment simply to annoy cask drinkers, but in pursuit of a more stable and consistent product, in the knowledge that, even if a bad pint at the point of service is the fault of the distributor or pub, it will get blamed on the brewer and reflect badly on their brand.

          Of course I’m delighted that cask was saved, thanks in no small part to CAMRA in its early days, but anyone commenting intelligently on this issue really needs to understand the logic of keg and recognise that getting great cask beer to the lips of the consumer is a huge challenge all the way down the chain. I wish those CAMRA members who demand it should be cheaper than keg lager would reflect on this, but that’s another argument.

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          • Yes. It has to be understood that the rationale for filtering is to ensure stability and shelf-life, rather than quality of taste. It’s simply a commercial decision, which flies in the face of the definition of “craft brewer” who apparently should be making decisions based on the quality of his product rather than the profit margin.

            That serving any live food product as fresh as possible is difficult is widely understood, and is not restricted to beer. But somehow it is only beer where the consumer has been convinced by the producer that it is better not to have it fresh because – well, it’s a bit difficult isn’t it?

            The choice should not be about choosing between mouldy food and sterilised food.

            The education that needs to take place is in how to keep and serve beer as fresh as possible. I think Cask Marque have done excellent work in this regard.

            The cons of cask beer are the same as the cons of any fresh food. It will go bad. But I don’t see any consumer campaigns to sterilise cucumbers or pasteurise eggs, despite the very real health risks involved in those products.

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      • “I just think – as does CAMRA – that the fresh taste and mouthfeel of well-kept cask beer is better.”

        Which is fine. A personal peference and therefore something I cannot argue with. However:

        “If you LOVE cask beer and think that it is best it is sublime, you are ALWAYS going to chose it over keg where it is available, as it is widely in England. The ONLY REASON to drink “craft keg” is in the US, Italy etc. where it is not.”

        You are treating your (perfectly reasonable) preference as a natural and universal fact. It ain’t.

        “Can you tell us what the “cons” of cask beer per se are, as opposed to pubs and brewers who manufacture and serve poor beer?”

        Why stop there? We could exclude the drinkers as well and turn ‘cask’ into a completely abstract philosophical theory. EXCELLENT beer from EXCEPTIONAL breweries is easily spoiled by indifferent cellarmanship. If you can’t see that as a drawback of cask you are living in an ivory tower. And that doesn’t even get into the list of continental and new world styles with legitimate and intended higher co2 that cask is ill adept to serve. You say you enjoy the ‘fresh’ flavour of cask, I love cask but I hate the ‘fresh’ taste of acetic acid and diaceytl.
        Now. Off to the pub. To drink cask.

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        • How can you follow:

          “If you LOVE cask beer and think that it is best it is sublime, you are ALWAYS going to chose it over keg where it is available, as it is widely in England. The ONLY REASON to drink “craft keg” is in the US, Italy etc. where it is not.”

          with:

          You are treating your (perfectly reasonable) preference as a natural and universal fact. It ain’t.

          The paragraph quoted clearly begins with an “if”. The conclusions thereafter are directly predicated upon the condition in that if. They are not presented as universal in any way at all. Please read for comprehension.

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          • Well, no, Phil, “If A then B” is an argument that insists B must follow A. You think it must. Others can and do differ. Stale, vinegary cask is not even as good as draught Guinness (and I only drink THAT when I’m desperate).

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      • More importantly, there are cons to cask beer/real ale that go beyond badly trained bar personnel, and low turnovers. And goes back to embracing the full richness of the world of beer:

        A well brewed American IPA (type, not geographic origin) served on cask would lose its bright hop nose and clean character. I had Stone IPA on cask at the GBBF next to their filtered(?) bottle version. It doesn’t work. I don’t want any yeast character in my IPA.

        A strong Belgian trappist would be a sweet mess without its sharp carbonation. Luckily, I don’t have examples.

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        • “A strong Belgian trappist would be a sweet mess without its sharp carbonation.”

          I totally disagree. I drink St. Bernardus Abt every day. But only after knocking out 75% of the carbonation. Much better, to my taste, with low carbonation.

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          • A Ron, but that’s exactly the point that Mr. Valentine refuses to acknowledge. It’s a matter of taste – individually. I like my Belgian ales well-carbonated – as a rule of thumb. If I got overcarbonated cask in the UK, I’d probably pull a face. I go along with Christian here, rather than with you. BUT: that is not saying you are wrong. You just differ in taste. Perfect. As long as we are both looking for quality.
            The Valentine line (though I concede that is a failure that both sides will exhibit at turns) is: if ^your taste is different, it’s bad taste. I’m exaggerating a bit, but that is the bottom line, concious or unconciously so.

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  14. I’d say any positive publicity garnered for craft brewing — either by bloggers or CAMRA educational efforts — is a good thing. Mr Valentine might want to rethink his “don’t play in my sandbox” approach to beer diplomacy.

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  15. The debate about whether or not CAMRA should embrace craft beers other than “real ale” is one thing. The quite correct way in which Martyn has challenged this rather peculiar outburst by Colin Valentine is another.

    Technically it’s specious. For example, Colin says what he calls “craft ale” (as if cask isn’t also brewed with craft!) “changes not a jot between the brewery and getting into the glass.” In fact it’s perfectly possible for unfiltered, unpasteurised beer to continue to condition in the keg as well as the cask. But the fact that Colin fails to understand (or chooses to ignore) this is typical of the oversimplifications and distortions CAMRA literature has long made about the technicalities of service and dispense. The same confusions are reflected in some of the comments above. Steve compares keg beer to processed cheese. What about cask beer that’s been fine filtered, pasteurised, then reseeded? There’s quite a lot of that around too. Then there’s the whole issue of cask conditioned lager, made with “bottom fermenting” yeast (just like, as it happens, many ales these days if they’re brewed in conical fermenters).

    The reason why CAMRA ties itself in knots around all these technicalities is to me the most important thing about this whole debate. Rather than actually talking about difficult things like quality, fine ingredients, distinctiveness, complexity of flavour and all the other things that really make a beer good, CAMRA (in typical British fashion I would suggest) places its face in a series of technical tickboxes to tell it what to approve and campaign for. It’s perverse and unhelpful.

    It gives rise to the sort of daftness that you can read about in WB immediately after Colin’s “bloggerati” remarks when he goes on to instruct CAMRA festivals how to serve imported beer “correctly” — without gas pressure. This, it seems, will help out those festival organisers who have been foolish enough to listen to breweries’ and distributors’ advice on how to serve their beers, the poor fools.

    Tandleman will disagree: he says he doesn’t think CAMRA says all cask ale is good, everything else is bad. But the fact that it does is no doubt staring at him from his own bookshelf — CAMRA’s flagship publication is entitled The Good Beer Guide, yet only admits cask beer (with a few footnotes about bottle conditioned). That certainly sends out the message that all cask is good, with a very strong implication that anything else is less good.

    Finally this notion that if you don’t like it lump it, and the arrogance with which Colin expresses it. CAMRA is a mass organisation that doesn’t only have a responsibility to what are now a tiny minority of members who participate in its AGM. It’s the only organisation that anyone who cares about beer in Britain is able to join. Actually most of the bloggerati are CAMRA members. And I suspect that the bulk of the other hundreds of thousands join because they enjoy beer, benefit from cheap festival admission and Wetherspoon vouchers, and appreciate the fine writing on offer in BEER magazine, but are rather less concerned about the fine points of conditioning and dispense.

    It might well be time to exercise those democratic rights…

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  16. “It might well be time to exercise those democratic rights”

    Absolutely Des. Want change? Put up or shut up. The matter is entirely in the members hands.

    And your paragraph about what I think and fail to understand is a load of tenuous old toffee.

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  17. “CAMRA’s flagship publication is entitled The Good Beer Guide, yet only admits cask beer (with a few footnotes about bottle conditioned). That certainly sends out the message that all cask is good, with a very strong implication that anything else is less good.”

    Really? If that was the case, every pub that serves cask beer would be in the GBG. And yes, CAMRA – brace yourself – thinks well-kept cask beer tastes better than keg.

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    • Matt — setting aside whether we can meaningfully talk about an 120,000 strong broad church like CAMRA “thinking” something collective (and I speak as a longstanding member), it’s a bit of a blanket statement. In my experience good cask beer, at its best, is something completely unique, achieving something special that can’t be replicated any other way. But EVERY cask beer, well-kept, better then EVERY keg beer? It would be an interesting blind taste test wouldn’t it? And rather a long one if we had to be exhuastive.

      Nearly all my top rated beers are either cask or bottle conditioned — but, blimey, are there some indifferent cask beers around, and that’s my point — just being cask doesn’t in my view make something a good beer. And don’t even get me started on all the badly made, infected and exploding bottle conditioned beers I’ve considered for review, each proudly bearing the logo ‘CAMRA says this is real ale.’

      I don’t think it’s a consequence of my argument that every cask pub would have to be in the GBG. But being a cask pub is a precondition of being in it, and the Breweries section aims to list every regularly brewed cask beer. That seems pretty much an equation of cask=good to me.

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      • “But being a cask pub is a precondition of being in it, and the Breweries section aims to list every regularly brewed cask beer”

        Well, considering it’s a pub guide produced by the Campaign for Real Ale (I know it’s been said before but the clue is in the name) what else do you realisically expect? I think you are being very disingenuous here.

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        • So why call it the Good Beer Guide, John? Fine if it was called the Good Cask Guide, but the title perpetuates the specious notion, held by quite a good few CAMRA activists in my experience, the the only good beer is cask beer, all cask beer is inherently better than all other beer, and part of the mission is to oppose any other forms of beer. Oh yes, unless they’re bottle conditioned or foreign. Or Old Tom. Or Manns Brown. Or Traquair….

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          • Well it started life as the Good Beer Guide at a time when it was quite reasonable to claim that all good beer and cask beer were more or less synonymous. Over the years it has developed a very strong brand value as “The Good Beer Guide” and to suggest that should be changed for no good reason is quite specious in my view. I think you are (perhaps deliberately) reading far more into this than is warranted. Of course you are quite free to exercise your democratic right to get this changed via a motion at a CAMRA AGM. Time to walk the walk perhaps?

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          • What about cask beer that’s been fine filtered, pasteurised, then reseeded? There’s quite a lot of that around too.
            Hmmm. Is there really “quite a lot of it” around? We’re always being told this, but always as an aside. I’ve yet to hear any specifics. Let’s have names, quantities etc. Why is everyone so reticent in dishing the facts? Let’s have some naming and shaming. Anyone who knows anything, feel free to email me and I will blog and tweet details until I get confirmation. Or get sued.
            So why call it the Good Beer Guide, John?
            I think JC has got your number on this one. But seriously, what would you call it now? The Good Pub Guide? Oh, that one’s gone. The Guide to Well Made Beer Irrespective of the Method of dispense?
            But EVERY cask beer, well-kept, better then EVERY keg beer?
            Matt didn’t say “every”. I think he was merely reiterating the widely held CAMRA maxim that, like for like, cask is better than keg. You can’t compare a keg Jaipur with a cask Mild, can you? Nobody is saying all keg is rubbish. If they were, they would never drink it. And yet, in my experience, the majority do at some time or other.
            The real test is putting the keg version up against its cask equivalent. And the feedback CAMRA consistently gets from its members is that it may be good, but the cask version is better. I can only see that changing on two accounts: Either “craft” keg becomes readily available so that many more can try it. And that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Or keg needs to improve and impress the doubters more.

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      • Fresh food goes off, and some producers make a better product than others, but that doesn’t negate the general principle that fresh is better than frozen, dried, filtered, processed, etc.

        If a beer is good filtered, then it will be better fresh.

        So the idea, which seems to be difficult to absorb, is not that every fresh beer is better than every filtered beer, but that a process which reduces flavour and character is not to be supported.

        CAMRA is not about supporting bad examples of keeping beer. That, in theory, is the reason for the GBG. Of course, in reality, plenty of pubs serving beer in poor condition get listed. But the idea is one worth supporting.

        Fresh beer is lovely, and a process which reduces the joy of fresh beer is not one CAMRA should support.

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        • Just a quick one, Steve, why do you keep referring to keg beer as ‘filtered’? Many keg beers are unfiltered, and un-pasteurised.

          I manage the cellar of a pub that taps 250+ kegged beers a year, and 90% of them are unfiltered, 100% are un-pasteurised.

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      • Totally agreed – there is far too much utter shite in bottles with the CAMRA logo on the side. In my view CAMRA has made a shibboleth of bottle-conditioning, which leads to it endorsing many products that are rubbish, and dismissing many excellent brewery-conditioned bottles as inherently second-rate. This is a far less defensible policy than championing cask for draught beer.

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  18. Valentine is clearly talking bollocks. But then anyone who is surprised that the Campaign for Real Ale is promoting cask ale over any other style is taking a similarly blinkered view.

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  19. Exactly, Zak. CAMRA is hardly objective having made their bed around the definition of “real ale” and then having to defend it. “Real” conveys nothing other than an arbitrary preference for a technique. It in no way described a superior quality.

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    • I think you are missing the point. If you substitute “Real” for fresh ground coffee, and imagined that somebody was suggesting that producers of “craft coffee” who sell instant coffee powder should be regarded on the same level as producers of fresh ground coffee, would that help you understand the situation? For example, change your statement to -

      “Fresh ground coffee” conveys nothing other than an arbitrary preference for a technique. It in no way described a superior quality.

      Would you still support what you saying?

      There are, I am sure, individual examples of instant coffee that are better than some individual examples of fresh ground coffee. And I am sure there are drinkers who can’t tell the difference between fresh and instant. But the general principle that instant coffee is on the same level as fresh is not one that would get widespread support.

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      • Well, if you say “hand made craft hot dog” that will convey a different meaning as well. Which is the point.

        And besides, “fresh ground coffee” can still be made of crap ingredients as it often is. And it is a false comparison to cite instant coffee.

        So, no.

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  20. The day I see CAMRA officially telling me not to drink any keg beer or non-bottle-conditioned bottled beer – even if it’s Lovibond’s keg or Robinson’s Old Tom – is the day I take this “CAMRA hates everything that’s not cask” rhetoric seriously. (It’s also the day I leave CAMRA.) Till then, I think all we’ve got is “Campaign For Real Ale Campaigns For Real Ale Shock”. And, like other commenters, I would love to know who those unnamed brewers are – and what the ‘problem’ is that CAMRA is supposed to be ‘part of’.

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    • I think you can rest easy – while CAMRA is there to promote and campaing for cask, it is also about choice. I think it is often overlooked that CAMRA doesn’t say that everyone should drink cask or bottle conditioned beer. Rather that choice should be available to them if they wish to do so. It should also follow that if people exercise that choice then the beer they are presented with should be a quality product served in good condition. I think we can all agree that there is still too much substandard stuff around (and on the bottle front I think CAMRA needs to be much more careful who it allows to use the “CAMRA says this is real ale” logo. It should be an indicator of quality and not just a sign that the bottle of brown murk you have bought happens to have a sediment)

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  21. I haven’t lived in the UK for a decade or so and didn’t have much of an opinion on CAMRA either way, until the last time I went home and was nauseated to see some unfortunate bottle conditioned beer plastered with that sickening “CAMRA says this is real ale”. What sort of organisation could possibly be so smug, self important and pompous as to think that would make anyone want to buy it?… could anyone not be put off by anything so revolting?

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  22. This is the way someone who’s only drunk one cask ale (that happened to be really bad) sees things from a village near Prague:

    I understand to a certain extent CAMRA’s position vis à vis anything that they don’t consider “Real Ale” (it doesn’t mean I agree with it, I simply don’t give much of a toss about it). What I don’t understand, though, is the animosity of the organisation’s chairman towards bloggers, it really makes no sense to me.

    Let’s say that there are some, perhaps influential, bloggers who want people to drink keg. So what? Couldn’t it simply be because, after having drunk enough of each, some of them decided that they like keg better, and not because they have anything against CAMRA or cask ale? Would that be such a tragedy for British brewing? From this distance I get the impression that cask ale is a well established phenomenon and that the opinion of a few bloggers isn’t and can never beer a threat to it.

    Or perhaps, as Alan has said in his blog, this is all because CAMRA has suddenly realised that they are loosing the monopoly on the discourse and this reaction is not too different from some of the stuff you can read against bloggers on the “traditional” media.

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    • Apart from pausing to observe that the phrase “influential (beer) bloggers” is perhaps a bit of an oxymoron**, I don’t think this has anything to do with the monopoly of discourse. Colin’s comments were a robust rejoinder to the background hum from parts of the beer blogosphere that CAMRA should embrace/promote/campaign for* “craft keg” if it is to retain any influence/continue to be relevant/survive* (delete as appropriate). His message and one that needs repeating until it finally gets home is that this Is Not Going To Happen. No amount of threats/warnings/moaning/cheap shots (perm any according to blog of your choice) is going to change that.

      Those who seek change and are members of CAMRA have a well established democratic mechanism for achieving that. Time to walk the walk instead of talk the talk (or should that be blog the blog?).

      ** yes, I know that’s a bit of a cheap shot but I couldn’t resist it

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      • I don’t think beer bloggers, myself included, are that influential. I was just following the rhetoric of Mr Valentine, who seems to believe they are.
        At the same time, I don’t think CAMRA should embrace anything that does not reflect the views of the majority of its members. But then again, as I’ve already said, I don’t really care, it’s really none of my business.

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      • It wasn’t a “robust rejoinder”, John, it was a sneering diatribe, utterly misrepresenting the beer blogging community. And there’s no “background hum” – a very small number of beer bloggers have suggested that Britain’s only effective beer consumers’ organisation might perhaps like to admit that there are good beers about that aren’t cask ale, and it would be doing the world of beer generally a great favour if Camra wasn’t quite so rigidly Calvinist. The screaming hysteria this frtiendly suggestion – no “threats”, no “warnings” – brings on in the Hatfield Road is, I am amused to note, effectively identical to the hysteria that ensued when I suggested a while back that a “best beers in the world” list shouldn’t be completely dominated by Imperial Stouts and Doubles IPAs.

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    • Yes, I think “losing the monopoly on the discourse” sums it up rather well. For many years, CAMRA and “British beer enthusiasm” were well-nigh synonymous, but that is becoming less and less so and I get the impression that some in the hierarchy like Colin Valentine feel uneasy and defensive about that. If they felt more confident about their position they wouldn’t feel the need to respond in such a confrontational way. And I don’t see much emanating from CAMRA giving off the vibe of “we’re about real ale, but there’s plenty of other good beer in the world and we’re perfectly relaxed about that”.

      Having said that, on the other side of the debate I suspect much of the enthusiasm for “craft keg” comes from people who take an élitist view of beer and don’t want to be put in a position where they feel they have to defend “boring brown beer” like Greene King IPA and Shepherd Neame Master Brew just because it is “real ale”.

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      • Actually Mudgie, I think that CAMRA is very confident about its position and that is “the problem” with those who perhaps wish is wasn’t (and hence be rather more susceptible to their blandishments)

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        • Hmmm – Mr Valentine’s ranting attack on a tiny number of people that probably 98 per cent of Camra members have never read doesn’t sound “very confident” to me. Camra has hugely more important issues to address than what a few bloggers say or think, from cask beer quality through to greater access to the pub market for small brewers, not forgetting fending off the neo-prohibitionist “health” lobby – and bloggers such as Pete Brown do far, far more on THAT front than Camra ever does.

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        • If Colin Valentine felt confident about his position he wouldn’t feel the need to indulge in an extended ranting attack on “the opposition”. The vehemence of his diatribe underlines his fear that his sandcastle is starting to be washed away.

          Why did he devote far more of his address to attacking the “bloggerati” than the true enemies of good beer and good pubs – government tax policies and the anti-drink lobby?

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      • Well, it would seem to me that IF (and it’s a huge if) beer bloggers are so influential that the Camra chairman has to devote time at the Camra AGM to rant about them, Camra might have wanted to get to know these dangerous and threatening beasts better, and try to persuade them of the wrongness of their supposed ideas.

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        • Of course it’s ludicrous to suppose that beer bloggers on their own are influential, Martin. But, as I discovered researching my book, there are a significant number of brewers and pubs starting to support craft keg — and not just well known cask dissidents like Meantime and BrewDog but some names revered for their cask. When researching my London guide earlier this year I encountered a number of pubs — regular GBG listed real ale stalwarts all — getting excited about their new craft keg taps. I suspect this explains some of the anxiety behind this outburst, and bloggers are a softer target than the industry. As someone else above wisely said, it’s about losing control of the discourse.

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  23. CAMRA continually encourage the preservation of beer styles by a huge and expanding number of brewers and support the availability of these in as many pubs as possible. At last count there were nearly 125,000 members who supported their positive outlook (and a growing number). I don’t really see that CAMRA are part of any perceived problem or are enemies of anyone in particular. If “craft keg” can establish a growing market and provide more choice in beer drinking then all well and good. If they are being innovative and influencing diversity in cask ales then that’s great for CAMRA. Nearly all the “craft keg” I have seen is served in pubs and bars alongside quality cask ale so discerning beer drinkers have ample opportunity to make a choice for themselves about what to drink. If it is a quality product and tastes good then it will surely be successful. I don’t see your average outlet currently serving keg “lager” and smoothflow bitter suddenly taking on craft keg anymore than cask. So I don’t see what benefit it would be to beer drinkers for CAMRA to suddenly take up the mantle of “better-tasting keg beer”.

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    • “I don’t see your average outlet currently serving keg “lager” and smoothflow bitter suddenly taking on craft keg anymore than cask. So I don’t see what benefit it would be to beer drinkers for CAMRA to suddenly take up the mantle of “better-tasting keg beer”.”

      maybe not in the average outlet, but in London decent keg and bottled beers are starting to appear in places like bars and music venues where cask beer is not really possible (lack of cellar, etc). as a beer fan it’s great to be able to drink one of the Meantime beers, or something like Sierra Nevada or Brooklyn Lager in a place where the choice used to be just standard lagers (or ‘trendy’ standard lagers like Peroni) and possibly Guinness.

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  24. Hmmm if Beer Bloggers are only interested in new things, and only kegged beer at that…. Why do I and my fellow Irish beer lovers get excited when a new cask is available in Irish pubs?

    Their ignorance was shown when they refused to send an official representative or speaker to the Beer Bloggers conference. We had CAMRA members of course but no one official.

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    • The “conference” was not representative of bloggers and had no mandate from them, so I don’t see why attendance or non-attendance at it should be taken as a snub.

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  25. Pingback: You Like Beer

  26. There was a similar ‘debate’ tabled in Beer magazine.

    More comedically, the same issue recommended Randy Mosher’s book, which from memory twists the knife very hard into CAMRA over the damage that the very narrow pursuit of what it it defines as real ale might do.

    I’m afraid that CAMRA have revealed themselves to be a bunch of fascists when it comes to beer, and cling to an old fight in a war that has changed. No longer does keg beer=bad beer. They need to wake up, not least as I’ve drunk better keg beers in the last 12 months than much of what is available in my CAMRA endorsed local pub on cask. That they have a large membership is one thing, but most people are members because they like good beer, and the organization gives them benefits (such as privileged access to festivals), not because they care about the way in which it is packaged.

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  27. I’m sure I commented yesterday but it seems to have disappeared. Mine was just an aside anyway…If someone does set up a campaign to include othe rmethods of dispense, just make sure its not campaign of craft keg, might leave a bad taste in the mouth…

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  28. I completly agree with you here. I just dont understand this need for definitions. I dont for one second believe that beer drinkers cant understand the different between a multinational lager brewery and a local “craft” brewery.

    Whats more is I find most CAMRA members love going to the new wave if you like, of beer bars throughout Britian, the likes of The Grove, Cask and Kitchen and The Rake are highlights on any beer enthusiasts radar and all show how good cask and keg beer can be.

    Acht well, the way i see it is, most of us fully understand this petty petty argument and dismiss it, for as you say there are far far more important issues facing the industry.

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  29. As an unaffected, outside observer, I find it a bit ironic that CAMRA was originally started as an opposition movement and now bristles at criticism from a small group that differs from CAMRAs ideals.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

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  30. One of the reasons I think Valentine’s speech was unwise is the undue publicity it gives “craft keg” given its tiny sales compared to cask beer, never mind mainstream keg.

    I’m reminded of what the Australian rugby league official said when a journalist asked him what his attitude was to rugby union after they had split from it:

    “League’s position is now so strong that we do not want to say anything of the other fellow. We will simply go along quietly and mind our own business.”

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  31. Where to begin? Such a lot of bollocks being spouted over Colin’s ‘rant’. Let’s start with the ‘bloggerati’, far from being a new term of abuse, as Martyn seems to take it, it’s a term I’ve heard bloggers use to describe themselves. Maybe they don’t take themselves too seriously? But then why should they provoke Colin’s AGM speach? Well it’s because, perversely, some appear to be taking themselves too seriously and thinking that they have the real skinny on the beer scene. After all some of them boast ‘followers’ in three figures, and not all of them fellow bloggers! And what influence!
    Nowhere, that I know of, does CAMRA campaign for anything other than Real Ale, and yes it does have a definition, at it’s simples it is just cask-conditioned beer that is served traditionally, without additional gas pressure. Not to difficult. And oddly enough I’ve just worked out that CAMRA stands for the CAMpaign for Real Ale… I admit it’s a bit of a shock to realise they don’t campaign for Alcopops as well but maybe one day.
    I know that some bloggers/brewers deliberately try to antagonise in their ‘CAMRA are a bunch of losers’ stance and that is probably what has got up Colin’s nose. Odd then that at least one anti CAMRA blogger so wants to have his beer at GBBF, maybe it’s just a hypocrite thing?
    Rather than go on I’ll just agree that Peter is dead on the money, “Put up or shut up. The matter is entirely in the members hands”. The challenge to those who want to extend CAMRA’s campaigning role, and please note ‘campaigning’ not supporters club, is to put a motion to next years AGM. I was there this year, and I know Peter was. How many more bloggers with their finger on the pulse of the UK pub scene were?

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    • Come on, Ian, you’re being disingenuous. You know Colin V meant “bloggerati” as an insult – he certainly meant “their best beer is the next one” as an insult. And as a CAMRA member for 34 years and an ex-branch chairman I think I’ve a right to feel offended if I’m told that as a beer blogger I’m a shallow neophile with no appreciation of what Camra has achieved.

      You’re perfectly correct in saying that beer bloggers in the UK have tiny followings and little influence – so why did Colin spend so much time attacking us as a group? Because a few beer bloggers, with a total readership less than a tenth of Camra’s membership, dared to suggest that after 40 years Camra should officially recognise that there are other types of good beer than cask? If Camra is so secure in its belief that its policy is and should always remain unalterable, surely it’s better to ignore us? Or perhaps it should encourage a host of “party line” Camra bloggers to start up and drown the other voices out … (get blogging, chaps, Tandleman, Ed and StringersBeer can’t stem the tide of evil pro-keg bloggerati on their own …)

      And btw, Nowhere, that I know of, does CAMRA campaign for anything other than Real Ale … – oh rilly? What would the international bar at the GBBF be all about, then? And the claim that Camra acts as the “consumer’s champion”? I have no objection at all to Camra acting as the beer consumers’ chamion, but I’d like it to recognise that educated beer consumers don’t all drink only cask ale all the time.

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      • No, I don’t know that he meant it as an insult. If it is/was then bloggers must have pretty shallow skin to take such offence. Bloggers (not all) seem happy to describe CAMRA members as beardy sock & sandal wearers and we laugh it off (apart from the obvious fashion faux pas of socks with sandals which is inexcusable).
        I have to declare that some blogs that I’ve come across are pretty dire, appearing to be a variation of the great BeerAdvocate threads of ‘what’s in my fridge’ as a list of the latest beers each better than the last. And heaven help us if we get to the stage where beer releases become the next holy grail as beer geeks queue up to drink at the shrines of this months favourite blessed brewer. But I digress.
        I think you’ll find that the amount of time Colin spent on bloggers was pretty insignificant compared to the time spend discussing other things at the AGM. And yes, I do think it was a case of being fed up of the constant sniping by some bloggers about Keg beer. They have the remedy in their own hands, they can join CAMMRA and change policy, it was done for Cider & Perry so as peter sais ‘put up or shut up.
        Finally BSF, I’ve long been associated with it and have previously been the manager. We were there to showcase the best of the International beer scene given our limited resources and entirely voluntary efforts I think we’ve done a fantastic job. We have brought over more Cask Conditioned beers from overseas than many festival manage to get of UK beers. We like to think we’ve been instrumental in the increasing interest in cask beers in the USA, we get contacted all the time by brewers asking if they can supply cask beer to us. But at no time have we campaigned for anything other than cask conditioned beer. The External & Internal Policy documents of CAMRA say what we can do. We have never, ever, used CO2 or Nitro for dispense, and we are absolutely forbidden to do so. Many of our beers are dispensed with air pressure, with the knowledge and approval of the brewers. Hopefully KeyKegs will allow us to move decisively away from that practice.
        And we know that educated beer drinkers, and CAMRA members, don’t just drink cask ale all the time, I’m particularly partial to unfiltered Bernard or a Meantime Pale Ale, but it doesn’t get away from the fact that CAMRA is about Real Ale (& Cider & Perry).
        CAMRA has many faults, but snapping back at those annoying bloggers isn’t one, we have to be allowed to answer back. And if it’s fighting insults with insults (perceived) then tough.

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        • Well, I don’t think “some of you insulted us, so we’ll insult you back” is a fantastic tactic. Though I fear the number of blogs that are dire is rather greater than “some”. But if Camra wants to defeat its image of being a crowd of elderly beardies (and as a late-50s bearded Camra member myself I can see where that idea might come from) it should be getting closer to the beer blogging crowd, not alienating it. If you think Camra is right about being totally rejectionist over anything that’s not cask ale, why not go out and explain your reasoning, rather than shouting: “We’re the Campaign for Real Ale – what part don’t you understand?” Camra has a great opportunity to REALLY be the champion of beer in Britain – by insisting that it MUST stick to championing cask ale only, it’s doing an incomplete job for beer drinkers, the pub trade and the brewing trade.

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  35. I like how John Clarke expresses the matter in his May 29, 7:17 a.m. note. I would add that CAMRA is not a government or industry body, but a consumer one campaigning – lobbying – to ensure the survival of the classic form of English beer. This job was and is still necessary since real ale has not grown much in market share since the 1970′s. Many CAMRA members surely drink different forms of beer, being a member does not require that they drink only one kind or pubs sell only one kind, as far as I know.

    It is true that real ale sometimes is not served in good condition, but this just underlines its fragility and the need to campaign ever further for its service standards.

    The question is not what to drink on every occasion, but what form of English beer a voluntary consumer lobby should work to protect and promote. I think CAMRA is right to continue to campaign for real ale as currently defined. But as some have pointed out, the membership can decide to change that and if it does so at some point, so be it, that is democracy. Still, the gulf that exists between the best keg beer and best real ale suggests to me this is not likely to happen soon.

    On the issue of communications between CAMRA and the beer-bloggers, certainly I think good relations should be strived for. The more CAMRA explains its mission to this important group, the better off it will be. But there is too a natural divide between them as I see it: one group wishes and properly so to cover the full range of beer developments, the other focuses on its mission to protect and promote (English, mainly) real beer. It is a lobby after all. If each does this, consumers at the point of retail will have the greatest choice possible and this is all to the good.

    Gary

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  36. “But as some have pointed out, the membership can decide to change that and if it does so at some point, so be it, that is democracy.”

    Why the recourse to internal change only? CAMRA should not be immune from external criticism and even, such as with this incident, ridicule. After all, if, as Gary says, market share has not improved for cask and, as others have noted, it also has not earned a premium price point and is met too often in poor condition, well, what then is there not to criticize? Do they actually do their job well? One thing is for sure – don’t wait for internal forces in any organization to tell you that.

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  37. But the point is often made that but for CAMRA, there would be no real ale today. CAMRA’s work was critical to maintaining the status quo ante, which is victory enough.

    Condition is sometimes a problem but the advised drinker can usually find his way around it and the Good Beer Guide, a CAMRA initiative, is very helpful to that end.

    Perhaps another beer lobby should be created to promote beer in general, but CAMRA should retain its raison d’etre in my opinion.

    Gary

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  38. [You do know about having to pay for things, right? ;-) ]

    There is a theme in US craft brewing circles that consumers have to be trained to pay more so that the importance of the product will be confirmed in the marketplace and the brewers will have as much to spend on production as possible. I am quite sure I do not agree, as a consumer, but I am always stunned, conversely, that real ale costs less than macro-crap in the UK. Lobbying effectively for higher standards for craft ale would seem to require asking for a sufficient but honest price to ensure those standards are met.

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  39. Always an interesting theme of discussion is price. It seems to be the new wave of keg brewers that seek to have a price advantage. The problem is of course, that most of the price advantage goes to the supplier (the retail outlet) not the brewer.

    It is much wider than that too, but I’m off to the pub.

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  46. Colin Valentine (civil servant) has been given too much credit for other peoples work. He needs a kick and be told to do an hour or so for the money you and me pay him. Downright ignorant man who is stuck so far up his own he must believe that the sun never shines in scotland.

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