Changes at CAMRA?

Real ale fans won't represent all drinkers

This is being reported in widely varying emphasis around the papers, with the Beeb taking a strangely negative stance! I think CAMRA should be congratulated for even asking the question.

Real Ale is the pinnacle of the beer world when it's on form imo, but the idea of pooh-poohing other drinks and other drinkers is naff. Beer-wise I drink probably 75% (carefully-chosen!) European lager but wouldn't touch anything else but Real Ale in a pub if I know it's going to be well-kept.

It needs to be protected and consumers educated. The whole nature of Real Ale, though, is that you can only really drink it in pubs, so the Campaign should perhaps be for Real Pubs - pubs with a range of quality drinks rather than mainly hawking stuff knocked up in a factory laboratory and marketed to the high heavens.

Tom Cannavan

I've always had the impression CAMRA is massively political - it was founded as a campaigning organisation after all - and that whilst membership is obviously diverse, there is some truth to the image of the 'big beards and sandals', more fundamentalist opinions holding sway. The explosion of bottled craft beers, including more interesting lager styles, has reached a whole new audience and so CAMRA would, IMO, be wise to continuously review what beer styles it supports and who its target membership might be.
The current stance, on face value, promotes apple and pear ciders over any other (spit) type of beer.

I agree Tom that CAMRA has always seemed to me primarily political in focus, and then traditional/historical, so more akin to a luddite reawakening with beer as a touchstone rather than a primary interest! Just my impression though - if the organisation's done anything at all to protect and promote real ale, it gets my thanks.

I'd say there's a space for a campaign, but it'd be a similar one I'd raise for wine - education of the consumer towards products made with love and care not with a test tube and an advertising budget.
A high hurdle (75%) for change, and very nearly reached (72%).

This is a very difficult question for them, and I think with the vote so close, it would make sense to
a) Continue with the core real ale focus as the reason for their existence
b) Continue to recognise other products that aren't real ale, but do represent tradition / artisan production, for they've been prepared to set a stall or two aside for Ciders, Perrys and continental beers (including blonde style) at the GBBF and local events for decades. No reason why they can't include 2-3 interesting hand-picked craft keg beers at such events.

i.e. don't fight for or against other interesting drinks, but do fight against the industrial, including industrial real ale.

If they get it right, the need for future votes will drop, because it won't feel like an 'us vs. them' over more technical matters, but they'll recgonise they have a voice that can stretch wider.
HI Ian - good to see you back (if you've actually been away and I haven't just missed your posts!).

I hadn't thought of industrial real ale, which presumably CAMRA supports, despite its loom-smashing tendencies. I probably drink a fair bit of it, so hark at me with my championing of the humble artisan!

So Harvest Pale, Landlord, Pale Rider... Still relying heavily on the quality of the product though unlike eg Fosters, Bud, Tsingtao, where the more inoffensive the better and mucho sleight-of-hand to convince you you're drinking a lifestyle.
I posted a long reply on my opinions on this some years ago and they haven't changes - CAMRA should stick to its name. However Tom is correct and CAMRA, having succeeded in defense of real ale is looking to expand its political influence. I remain uneasy about pro-alcohol lobbying groups.
I voted against the proposal. A few years ago this would have been a very simple decision(Its all in the name) and I would have most likely cancelled my membership if the proposal had gone through. It is not so straightforward now, with the profusion of interesting beers that are not real ale. I did consider that it might be better to campaign for people to drink better beer rather than just real ale. On the other hand I don't want to be reading articles in future editions of "Whats Brewing" extolling the virtues of one brand of fizzy, filtered and pasteurised lager over another that does not taste quite as good. It is, after all, The Campaign for Real ale, and, surely we would have to change the name if we campaign for beers that do not meet this definition. There is also, plenty of information out there, these days, about all kinds of beer, so it does not need CAMRA to inform people about this.

As for political influence, CAMRA campaigns against pub closures, brewery take-overs, short measures and high prices. I am in favour of this. I was not particularly in favour of a recent campaign against sexism regarding beer names, which was over the top and made me wonder if I was reading the Guardian. I am also not entirely comfortable with recent campaigns against the Government's anti-alcohol stance. I can see the reasoning behind this, but l do not want Camra to be seen us advocating that people drink more alcohol.

With a vote of 72% in favour of the proposal, I would think that, as more of the older CAMRA members, like me, die off and more younger people join, the remit is likely to extend beyond real ale in the future.

It is also worth remembering that, as you can see from the photograph with the link, that CAMRA is the only organisation that is preserving the ancient tradition of drinking beer through the nose.
Excellent points Alan - I left CAMRA about four-years ago when the frenzy by their management against keg beer had pretty much reached its pinnacle.

I remember Colin Valentine stating that he’d tasted some interesting keg beers that could taste so much better had they been cask. That seemed totally daft to me as in the U.S, keg beer had been taken to new heights flavour-wise and to this day, American breweries are turning out amazing flavourful beers on keg.

Furthermore, cask beer is not lost over here. I posted on this site some time back that I could drink cask beer in San Diego every day if I wanted to as almost all craft beer pubs and tap rooms have one (if not two) cask ales on tap. Cask beer is just not promoted here, but the massive craft beer fan base in the U.S. recognizes the value of cask, which is why breweries produce cask beers.

I remember reading a letter in What’s Brewing from someone whose attack on keg beers bordered on hysterical (both meanings of the word). I wrote a retort which actually got published, but by then I’d decided to call it a day with CAMRA.

The CAMRA management needs to recognize that there’s plenty of room for keg and cask on this planet and let them exist side-by-side without the childish high-brow comments against keg. We all know why CAMRA was formed and I think protecting pubs and promoting Real Ale is what they do best and should continue to do so. It IS the Campaign for Real Ale, after all.

As you said, keg beer isn’t going anywhere and it doesn’t need CAMRA to promote it. There’s stacks of other outlets that folks can turn to in order to pick up knowledge on keg beers (and that doesn’t mean tasteless fizzy lager either).

That’s my take on it.