Friday, 12 November 2010

No Real Case to Answer


Pete Brown has stirred things up a tad with his piece about CAMRA and dogma. It contains a few assertions that I'd sum up as "CAMRA should change to encompass the new wave of brewers and brewing practice". Pete also says "Because this is the nub of the debate: the Campaign for Real Ale was founded from a genuine belief that cask ale tastes better than other beers". Well, sorry Pete, it wasn't. It was founded as a protest against the poor quality keg beers that had by and large replaced cask beers. A small but significant difference. It also explains the Campaign's long distrust of keg in a way that your assertion doesn't. Now let's examine the issue in two ways: firstly this new wave of brewing sweeping the country and then: CAMRA itself.


The New Keg Revolution

There is a new wave of approximately three keg brewers sweeping the er, well, not country, but two or three selected outlets. Of these only one (Lovibonds) is actually a solely keg brewer, one of the other two (Thornbridge) sometimes kegs the same beer they put in cask or one off specials and seems to do it, not as as you might imagine, for those "hard to put cask in" places, but for the gratification of beer geeks, side by side with the cask version, where lots of other keg beers are sold. The other, BrewDog adopts a policy of saying their beers are better in keg. Go and try that theory out at Wetherspoons. Oh you can't. It's all cask BrewDog there, so somewhat confusing. Now at this point you'll be saying "Hang on Matey" you've just said that there is lots of keg beer being sold in some of these outlets". I did and there is, but it is all imported keg beers. Apart from British brewed smoothflow beers, British keg beer is as rare as hen's teeth. Quality British keg is even rarer. To all intents and purposes, as a nationwide drink, it doesn't actually exist, as you'll never come across it. Hold that thought. It is important when we come to part two.

CAMRA's Aims

What aims does CAMRA have? I'm guessing here that most readers don't have a clue. I'm pretty sure most CAMRA members are unsure, but here they are:
  1. Protect and improve consumer rights
  2. Promote quality, choice and value for money
  3. Support the public house as a focus of community life
  4. Campaign for greater appreciation of traditional beers, ciders and perries as part of our national heritage and culture
  5. Seek improvements in all licensed premises and throughout the brewing industry
The fact is that CAMRA has grown and changed from the organisation that was dreamt up by its founders many years ago. This has been an evolutionary process, democratically decided by its members. An important point, which I'll return to later. Some (mostly outside CAMRA) call for a return to those heady days, where a few fought the many to give us back decent beer from the tide of poor fizzy keg that prevailed and brought about the Campaign in the first place. These are the siren voices that suggest CAMRA needs to widen its base to include all craft beer.

CAMRA's Real Ale Success

You can of course argue that the main problem that CAMRA was founded to tackle has been completed. It has to the extent that we now have more breweries than for centuries, more cask ale availability and more consumer choice. CAMRA has always been about choice and it is still there firmly in aim number two above. Less appreciated is that CAMRA has always agreed with the right of keg beer to exist, while campaigning for wider availability of cask. That has always been policy and conflating the anti keg views of individuals with CAMRA as a whole doesn't alter the official position one bit. The Campaign isn't won though. As Pete Brown pointed out in the Cask Report, 3000 new outlets stocked it in the report period, which presumably means that before then 3000 pubs and bars stocked keg product instead, most likely John Smiths, Tetley or Boddingtons. As an aside, they sure as hell weren't selling quality craft keg. Why? To an overwhelming extent, there isn't any, that's why.

The Cask Breather

So we move on to the arcane arguments that seem to fascinate non CAMRA members and bother most CAMRA members not one little bit. The most contentious of these being the aspirator or cask breather. Now this is a complex argument but the main points run thus:

  • You don't need them
  • You need them sometimes
  • You always need them
  • Nobody can tell the difference anyway
Now if you sell enough cask beer and turn it over quickly, you don't need them is the clear and obvious winner, as otherwise you'll just be wasting your money and indulging in a pointless exercise. This is countered by those that say, "well, it extends the life of the cask and helps slow turnover beers." So does the Race spile which uses the CO2 produced within the cask to do the job. That's how the mild is served in our pub and it works. No argument with CAMRA, job done! In any event CAMRA will not exclude any pub from the Good Beer Guide on the basis of a slow moving mild or strong ale, or whatever being put on an aspirator. It will merely say along the lines of "Note: xxx Mild utilises a cask breather." There is a corollary to this, which goes along the lines of "if you need a breather on all your beers, you probably shouldn't be selling cask". I agree. Even a breather won't keep cask going forever. Quality will suffer.

The Hated Keg

CAMRA hates keg we are told. Well as I explained earlier, there is/was a good reason for this. That reason still applies in the main, though the beer sold as keg these days, tends to be nitrogen pushed and smooth. It is still, usually, pretty grim stuff though and apart from excess fizz, fits why CAMRA was founded "CAMRA was founded in the most Westerly pub in Europe - Kruger's Bar in Dunquin, Co Kerry, when four young men from the north west of England, Michael Hardman, Graham Lees, Bill Mellor and Jim Makin were on holiday. Fed up the increasing bad quality of beer in Britain that was too fizzy, no character and no taste they decided to form a Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale."

In any event CAMRA supports choice. The National Inventory of Heritage Pubs includes keg pubs; CAMRA recognises that certain non real ale types of beer such as bottled barley wines have particular value and should be supported; we recognise different foreign brewing traditions and support non cask brewers such as Budvar; we sell foreign non real beer at our festivals to promote diversity, awareness and choice; we campaign to retain threatened pubs even where no real ale is sold; we campaigned against closure of breweries even where no cask ale or very little was produced. I could go on, but you get my drift I'm sure.

The Need for Change

But modern keg isn't like that smooth stuff we are told. How does anyone at large know this? It is virtually unobtainable. CAMRA should embrace it all though and change its stance say some. Now why would we want to include a miniscule set of keg brewers and muddy our message? Who would that help? A strong message from CAMRA about what it believes in, is as needed today as it was when CAMRA was founded. If these new keg beers are that good - and I look forward to trying some - then they must stand or fall by their own merit. If they gain widespread acceptance, who knows? CAMRA can change its stance any time the members want it to. Those that aren't members have no legitimate say in what we believe in. Join and change it if you care so much about these things I say. That's democracy. (At least the Trots did join the Labour Party to steal it from its members - some want CAMRA to fall on someone else's sword? Why on earth should it? Its the members that decide.)

What Pete Brown Said

"Some CAMRA people argue that things like cask breathers, and FastCask from Marston's, are "the thin end of the wedge" - that if we accept this, we'll see a gradual erosion of real ale until it doesn't exist any more and, by stealth, CAMRA will have been defeated. "

The thin end of the wedge argument is perfectly valid. One thing can lead to another. That's not to say that every CAMRA members agrees with it, but keeping your definitions tight gives a reasonably straightforward message. Real Ale was slowly but surely being lost when CAMRA was founded. Who is to say it can't happen again?

Pubs that start using cask breathers are promptly dropped from the Good Beer Guide.

Not true Pete, but see above

I believe craft beer bars like the Euston Tap demonstrate that the definition of quality craft beer has changed an awful lot since 1971. I don't think your hardline attitude does anything to help beer drinkers, CAMRA's image and credibility, or even cask ale itself. While I'm a champion of cask ale, I obviously love other beers as well - as I think do most drinkers. But this is an issue that won't go away, and the Tap has thrown it, for me, into sharp relief.

But let's focus on the hardliners, the people who propose motions at AGMs, who campaign most actively, who write stuff like this on Cambridge CAMRA's official website:

Hmm. Who are these hardline people that I never seem to meet and Pete does? (The fact that this was a personal opinion from 12 years ago seemingly is neither here nor there to him) And why is the Euston Tap so important that it redefines things? Well it isn't of course and it doesn't do much more than sell the sort of beers, mostly foreign that CAMRA has quietly supported for years and that are mostly available elsewhere if you know where to look. (Look at the GBG again and you'll see frequently entries such as " Also sells a solid range of imported draught and bottled beers". We are already doing it Pete.

Have a look too at the latest Opening Times magazine, here in Manchester. An editorial supporting foreign non cask beers and a front page headline about them. CAMRA is a broad church, but it actually the moderates that prevail. These are the guys you bump into in Bamberg, Brussels and Prague, or at the Great American Beer Festival, or wherever. They seek out beers to enjoy whatever the provenance and are comfortable with being CAMRA members and the odd dichotomy. Why should they vote to change? You'd need a more persuasive argument than Pete puts forward I'd venture.

Others agree that cask is (almost) unique to this island and praise us for it and copy us. So, if you want a campaign for new keg, found your own, or join us and change us democratically. Don't carp from the outside.

Anyway, I'm running out of steam now. I hope Dear Reader that you will see that there is another side to the story and that CAMRA is about other things apart from cask beer and arcane definitions. The CAMRA focus on pubs is particularly important when there are so many closing. If there is one thing that Pete and I can agree on I'm sure, it is that pubs are important and beer matters enough to write about it. I still don't agree with his views on CAMRA though, for the reasons I have outlined. But if you do want us to change, join us and argue your case. I'll look forward to the debate.

Love us or hate us, its our Campaign and I somehow doubt if we'll be changing on account of a few emerging brewers, whose beer, by and large, nobody has heard of or tasted. But if the arguments are strong enough, I have outlined how to do it. That's democracy.

Hopefully this is better than my pissed comments last night!



52 comments:

Gavin said...

Race spiles! Hear! hear! cask breathers are so old hat. I don't quite understand how we get from cask breathers to CAMRA embracing keg beers and top pressure anyway. You are right most CAMRA members I know are varying degrees of moderate but what if they are not, don't they have the right to believe a product is inferior if that's what they think. I would be quite exited to try these keg beers especially the Keykeg used by Thornbridge. However on the whole I don't think my opinion would be changed on tasting them. I think cask is better, it's part of our heritage, why not continue to campaign to preserve it's eminent position. I am afraid recent rhetoric is turning this moderate, who is quite happy to enjoy a glass or two of keg mild down his local keg only pub, toward a hard line position.

Velky Al said...

An excellent read.

I am not a member of CAMRA, but I generally prefer cask ale when I can get it - a tricky business in this part of Virginia at times.

However, I also know that good quality keg exists - most of the beer I drink here is excellent and kegged, just as the lagers I drank in the Czech Republic are kegged for the most part, though I preferred tankove.

We have a brewer near us that uses the German method of spunding in order to naturally carbonate his beers, and while lacking the secondary fermentation of cask, it doesn't have that prickly fizziness you sometimes get with over-enthusiastic keg beer.

RedNev said...

TM: an interesting post, with a lot of good points raised. Your reminder that CAMRA's policies are democratically decided is timely.

I'm sick of reading "CAMRA should do this or that", usually from non-members, or self-styled disillusioned members who take no part in CAMRA's democracy. If you want CAMRA to change, you need to take part in the organisation, otherwise you're just whingeing. But, free speech and all that - people are entitled to whinge - but don't expect it to make any difference.

I've had many arguments within CAMRA, locally and at the national AGM. Some I've won and some I've lost, but democracy means you don't always get your own way. Sniping from the sidelines rarely changes anything.

RedNev said...

Meer For Beer raised the point about crafted keg beers on her own blog recently - see it here.

One of several points I made was: why not invent a new term and call it "craft keg"? It's accurate, snappy enough to remember, and keeps the meaning of the term "real ale" intact.

Whorst said...

I am the visionary behind Proper Real Keg. More and more people are understanding the delights of extraneous co2 and its wonderful effect it has on beer.
I don't expect CAMRA to recognize Proper Real Keg, as most members still live like primitives that inhabited the island before the Romans got there.

Ed said...

Excellent work Tandleman, turely you are the Defender of the Faith!

The Beer Nut said...

I'm quite stunned that in all your years writing about beer on the Internet you've never encountered Richard English. What's your secret?

Curmudgeon said...

Yes, I was going to say that if you go on the CAMRA forum (which surely is part of the organisation's public face) you will find that the most prolific poster is someone who is always banging on about the evils of "chemical fizz".

And only last night I heard a prominent local CAMRA official express the opinion that "99% of foreign beer is fizzy crap". Those unreconstructed attitudes are much more alive and well than you suggest.

Tandleman said...

Whorst -You are indeed the King of Keg. In my book anyway.

RedNev - Good points

Beer Nut - Ah yes. Never met the fellow but I know what you mean. I stand corrected in his case. He used to plague the Oxford Bottle Beer Database and now he has the CAMRA forum, which I admit I rarely read. And of course there are others. That's life.

Mudgie - Don't doubt it, but you get the unreconstructed in any organisation, but that doesn't make it policy. In a democracy, anyone can expound any view, but in the case of the type you are concerned about, there aren't really that many.

Tandleman said...

Ed. No I'm not. As as daft as the next man at times, but like to think I have that good old British sense of fair play. Usually. I see pointless pops at CAMRA and Sometimes feel the need to respond. Best not when I've been out with Tyson though. Blush.

coxy said...

Can I just say that The Euston Tap is crappy little place with one bog for male and female, it will never be a destination pub people stay for the evening at.
Also as not a real beer expert like some of you guys , all I can say is i have never had a beer I have enjoyed more than a well conditioned Cask beer, I have been to many excellent craft places in europe but there is nothing like our beer, although the image of euro craft beer house is much preferred in the diversity of people who frequent them.

Cooking Lager said...

A very reasoned argument, Tand. I pose this question not to criticise CAMRA, but to enlighten myself.

If a CAMRA beer festival stocks an authentic foreign Keg Lager, why not an authentic domestic Keg Lager like Freedom?

Tandleman said...

I can't see why it couldn't be though it would have to be served via an air compressor under its own internal CO2. Of course it doesn't fit with either cask ale or foreign beer. Maybe that's why? Or it isn't any good? Never had it on draft as far as I can recall.

Cooking Lager said...

Ta for the answer but much the CO2 debate goes over my head Tand. My basic question was is the same criteria use for foreign keg than domestic keg? The example of lager was simply that I like the lout.

RedNev said...

Curmudgeon: while I don't doubt that you heard a bigot say "99% of foreign beer is fizzy crap" - idiots get everywhere - that isn't typical of CAMRA members. Locally we have the Inn Beer Shop on Lord Street, Southport, that sells hundreds of bottled (and a few draught) beers, mostly foreign. You can drink them on the premises if you want, and most active CAMRA members I know are happy go in and drink foreign beers quite regularly. Our Branch has welcomed this shop as an asset, not a blight, on the local beer scene.

Insulting other people's drinking preferences is simply bad manners. I blame the parents myself.

Barm said...

The German and Czech beers at CAMRA festivals are generally served by gravity or air pressure, as they should be. So yes, the same criteria is used. Freedom just weren't prepared to have their beer served like that. Mahr’s, Bernard, Augustiner, Schlenkerla, Uerige, etc. don't have a problem with gravity dispense, so I don't see why Freedom got all huffy about it.

Flagon of Ale said...

Thanks for writing this up. It seems like I've been reading lots of anti-cask opinions, and not many pro-cask ones. And obviously beer drinkers are free to drink or prefer keg if they want, but why would CAMRA? Keg beer (quality or not) isn't their stock and trade.

I also agree that keg beer could easily and "stealthily" replace cask. From an economic standpoint, kegs must be much more appealing than casks to brewers and pub-owners.

ZakAvery said...

Nice response.

To further muddy the waters, keg isn't a bulletproof form of dispense - I recently had some very badly kept Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, as stale and cardboardy as any beer I've ever drunk

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Very well said Tandleman. It seems to become fashionable every few years to have a crack at CAMRA, almost always on grounds that CAMRA are not doing things they have never set out to do.

John Clarke said...

A good post Tandleman. As you point out the so-called "keg revolution" or whatever is really nothing of the sort. To me it seems to exist solely in the fevered minds of a small coterie of beer bloggers and an even smaller number of brewers.

If "craft keg" or whatever you want to call it is about to take the country by storm then it will do so on its own merits without the need for CAMRA to get behind it (perhaps its proponents realise that it won't succeed on its own merits and that it why they are so keen for CAMRA to embrace it. Who knows). What I will say though, is that the keg boys may have one thing right - I think that lager-style beers and also takes on Belgian or German wheat beer styles are probably better served chilled, through a font and with a bit of gas.

I think I should just comemnts on Curmudgeon's reference to the "99% of foreign beer is fizzy crap" talk - I was present at the same event and it was made clear to me that this was very much tongue in cheek grandtanding (you had to be there really). I happen to know that the individual in question is quite partial to some foreign bers and in particular is s great lambic fan.

Finally thanks got the menation of Opening Times - we aim to please!

Tyson said...

I knew I would get the blame. And it was double G&T actually:)

Tandleman said...

Well I suppose I'm the internet version of Don Ricardo. Like him in pubs, I visit websites twice. Once to make a tit of myself and the second time to apologise.

Did we have any keg? (-;

Tandleman said...

John - I intentionally didn't get into taste and what might or could be done and agree with a lot of people that it doesn't suit everything. That's another discussion though.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to rain on your backslapping 'well, we've successfully seen off those horrid Camra critics' party, but by concentrating your ire on the straw man suggestion that Camra's critics want it to embrace the same keg beer it rejected in 1971, you've ignored the real case against Camra: that it's not doing what it was supposed to do, support tasty beer. No, not just save cask ale: defeat bad beer.

Old-fashioned keg beer died because it was horrible - and as Zak points out, modern container beer can still be not just "not as good as cask" but undrinkably vile. However, if brewers such as Lovibond can make a keg beer that causes cask beer brewers, and retailers, to raise their game and improve the standards of cask beer as served in the UK, then fantastic. The biggest threat to cask ale is poor cask ale, not "new keg", and that's one problem Camra isn't doing enough about.

The other problem is Camra's failure to support tasty beer of all sorts, as epitomised by the Freedom Lager issue. This "we're only interested in cask ale" line is in danger of condemning it to irrelevancy, as beer drinkers under 30 ignore it for failing to encompass all the beers they like to enjoy: see here for an admission that Camra is finding it difficult to attract active younger members. Possibly because of ludicrous suggestions such as the idea that Freedom could have its lager served up at a Camra beer festival "via an air compressor under its own internal CO2". Do you think the average drinker in search of decent beer cares about how artisanal lager is dispensed? What they want to know is: does Freedom lager taste any good? If yes, it deserves promoting as an alternative to dire mass-produced lagers – regardless of how it is dispensed, which ought, anyway, to be the way the brewer intended it to be dispensed.

Martyn Cornell said...

Sorry, don't know why I appeared as Anonymous there, I filled "name/url" in properly …

jodonnell1970 said...

Well there's a few points here.

Point 1:
Pete Brown tries to make a point about pubs using cask breathers being "excluded" from the Good Beer Guide - others have corrected the technicalities but not mentioned one fundamental point.

The entries for the GBG are surveyed by the rank and file CAMRA members. As most people seem to acknowledge, the average CAMRA member doesn't care about (and many don't understand) the technicalities. Therefore no matter how big a deal the survey form makes of the "dispense" question, most GBG surveyors will either automatically tick the box or take the licencees word for it. So the only pubs that will get the "cask breather" warning are those surveyed by a fundamentalist.

Point 2:
Tandleman's suggestion that the "keg revolution" is limited to a small number of pubs is of course true, but it's not limited to Lovibonds, Thornbridge and BrewDog.

There are even two cask brewers producing keg in TM's home area (Outstanding & Phoenix). Have certainly seen their keg beers in a few local pubs (and GBG listed ones at that). Can't say I think much of Outstanding's efforts in the field, but the Phoenix ones can be very palatable.

Point 3:
The question of why CAMRA festivals don't stock keg lagers from "craft" brewers is fairly easily answered - because at this stage it would simply be too confusing to explain the difference between these and a keg of Fosters.

However, I can see the time coming when there will be "craft keg" bars at some CAMRA festivals. It will take some time for the concept to germinate, but eventually there will be a point where it is seen as an extension of CAMRA's aims. There are always beer festival punters who as "got any lager mate" so what better than to be able to say "yeah mate - over there" and watch their faces when instead of Stella and Becks they are presented with Freedom, Morloka, Brooklyn and Meantime. The confusion would be enough to drive them to ale!

Erlangernick said...

An interesting post to read from the outside. Er...inside -- I'm a brand new, young member! (Mid forties though, how young *is* that?)

The only time I've had either Thornbridge or BrewDog, they've been cask or bottled. The former most recently a few days ago in Nuremberg, of all places, at the beverages convention, in the modern kegs with the line-that-floats-inside-the-cask-that-leads-to-the-handpump thingy. (Did I mention that Jaipur is really, really, really good?)

http://i51.tinypic.com/1zx9id1.jpg is a crappy Foto of the keg in question--that's some sort of spile hanging off the end of that red bit. Pity the jackets didn't keep the beers properly cool though!

AFA Real Lager being served under compressed air, I can say this is the way one of Germany's absolute BEST beers is served, the Kellerbier at the Roppelt Keller in the village of Stiebarlimbach near Bamberg. The regular keg version at the Gasthaus is disappointing in comparison.

Tandleman said...

jodonnnell: Point 1 - It was and will be ever thus. No-one can demand to see the cellar

Point 2 - I know of other breweries though these are the noisiest, apart from Meantime which I just forgot about. Phoenix only kegs pilsner and specialist fruit beer though. I've written about this in my blog and the beers are good.

Point 3 - Things may well change and as I said, no problem if that's what the members want.

Tandleman said...

Due to restrictions on the amount of characters, my response to Martyn Cornell is in two comment posts.

"Sorry to rain on your backslapping 'well, we've successfully seen off those horrid Camra critics' party"

Nice one Martyn, but hardly so. My objection isn't to change, but I am concerned about why and how change might be brought about. Pressure from a very small minority of drinkers and keg brewers isn't that persuasive to me on its own.

"but by concentrating your ire on the straw man suggestion that Camra's critics want it to embrace the same keg beer it rejected in 1971, you've ignored the real case against Camra: that it's not doing what it was supposed to do, support tasty beer. No, not just save cask ale: defeat bad beer."

Well not me. I gave some background perspective as to why CAMRA members might be suspicious about keg beer and pointed out that there isn't enough of the "new wave" of keg beers for anyone much to know anything about them.

"Old-fashioned keg beer died because it was horrible - and as Zak points out, modern container beer can still be not just "not as good as cask" but undrinkably vile."

Well of course it hasn't died out as such, just mutated into smoothflow - which isn't all bad actually, though some can be bloody awful. (I quite like some smoothflow milds and stouts)

"However, if brewers such as Lovibond can make a keg beer that causes cask beer brewers, and retailers, to raise their game and improve the standards of cask beer as served in the UK, then fantastic."

Not sure that people are brewing keg beer for that reason and that cask producers are scared of its quality. As I said before almost nobody has tasted it, so that point would seem moot at best.

Tandleman said...

Reply to Martyn, continued

"The biggest threat to cask ale is poor cask ale, not "new keg", and that's one problem Camra isn't doing enough about."

Now we're talking. I couldn't agree more. That's why I bang on about quality in my blog and tweets ad nauseum. CAMRA does need to do much more in this area. Bang that drum as much as you can and I'll join in with enthusiasm.

"The other problem is Camra's failure to support tasty beer of all sorts, as epitomised by the Freedom Lager issue."

There is no Freedom Lager issue per se and where is all this British brewed beer that CAMRA doesn't support? Name it and where we'll find it. I have also pointed out where CAMRA does take a wider view and support non real ales.

"This "we're only interested in cask ale" line is in danger of condemning it to irrelevancy, as beer drinkers under 30 ignore it for failing to encompass all the beers they like to enjoy:"
I think drinkers under 30 that join CAMRA are quite intelligent enough to pick the bones out of that conundrum for themselves. They certainly can't be that worried about quality British keg, as like as not, they haven't ever had any. And a growing membership may point to many things, but irrelevancy wouldn't appear to be foremost.

"see here for an admission that Camra is finding it difficult to attract active younger members. Possibly because of ludicrous suggestions such as the idea that Freedom could have its lager served up at a Camra beer festival "via an air compressor under its own internal CO2". Do you think the average drinker in search of decent beer cares about how artisanal lager is dispensed?

Bit contradictory there Martyn. They are worried about "ludicrous suggestions" about air pressure and "they (sic) don't care how artisanal lager is dispensed". Which is it?

"What they want to know is: does Freedom lager taste any good? If yes, it deserves promoting as an alternative to dire mass-produced lagers – regardless of how it is dispensed, which ought, anyway, to be the way the brewer intended it to be dispensed."

I do understand this point and have in fact showed the shining path to change. It is called persuasion and democracy. And Nick has already pointed out that air pressure is by no means anathema to quality lager. It seems then that the dogma here is from Freedom, not CAMRA.

Lastly, you will find that motivating CAMRA members to be active is difficult across all age groups, not just for CAMRA, but almost every voluntary organisation

Incidentally one of the main reasons young people join CAMRA is to receive membership benefits. Also I am sure that there is far better things for most young people to do than to sit in pubs talking about beer. If I was young again I'd be out chasing women, not yakking about beer in upstairs rooms of pubs. Sometimes the reason “why” is actually rather obvious. (-;

Lastly, I have raised the issue of "craft" beer at the CAMRA Review Forum and will do so again, but there is no change to the way that CAMRA works that can be imposed on its members. That's that bloody democracy nuisance again. Its a bugger! Want change? Join, argue and persuade.

John Clarke said...

I think the idea that there are hordes of under-30s poised to join CAMRA the moment we embrace "craft keg" is I think as valid an argument as the one that there were hordes of non-smokers about to use pubs again following the smoking ban.

Similarly I really do not believe at all that CAMRA's failure to embrace "craft keg" is preventing virtually any under-30s from joining. Most thinking drinkers are well aware of what CAMRA is for and join it for what it is for and not what it is against. I would also suggest that most people are intelligent enough to "live with the dichotomy" (should they perceive there to be one) as Tandleman says.

In any event, and this really does seem to need saying time and time again, there is but the tiniest handful of brewers making "craft keg" in any meaningful way (locally Phoenix and Outstanding restrict this to their lager and Belgian/German-style wheat beers). Most people have never encountered it or heard of its producers (apart from Brew Dog). It is at the moment a complete irrelvance in the bigger picture of the UK craft beer scene. The suggestion that "brewers such as Lovibond can make a keg beer that causes cask beer brewers, and retailers, to raise their game and improve the standards of cask beer as served in the UK" is unfounded assertion at best and frankly just bizarre. It might, just might, have some grounds if "craft keg" was a remotely serious competitor to cask. But it is not. CAMRA's message to Martyn and others should be - "come back when it is, and then we'll think about it". My guess is we will be in for a long wait.

Anonymous said...

I have friends who enjoy real ale and will seek out new brews but have no depth of interest in brewing processes. I don't think they would have any particular interest in craft keg and they certainly have no knowledge of who Brewdog are, the hype doesn't really travel beyond enthusiasts. The whole craft keg thing seems a bit like a mid life crises, a desperate attempt for relevance.I think CAMRA's commitment to a rigid definition for real ale has created an environment where a good quality keg beer could be produced, because anything mediocre would just not get support. The real ale market has helped a lot of interesting continental style beers thrive. The one place I can get Freedom lager on draught? my local real ale pub.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Sorry Tandy but I have to stop you from spreading more disinformation.

A race spile doesn't do anything to stop air from entering a cask. You will still get rancid pong using a race spile.

Jason Stevenson said...

I would just like to point out that Lovibonds have not asked for or are not asking for the support of CAMRA, equally we are not "Anti CAMRA"

Both Jeff and I were members of CAMRA when we opened the brewery we invited all of the local branches to attend which they happily did.

As you suggest we did try and change things from within but were quickly rounded upon so decided to concentrate our efforts where we were welcome.

The issue we have is that since that day certain members of CAMRA have campaigned against us and rubbished our business.

Is it because we make bad beer? Our sales figures and year on year growth of over 60% would suggest not.

So why do people feel that they can rubbish our beers and way of production without even trying them?

Because CAMRA and others tell them that all kegged beer is rubbish pasteurised and/or filtered with added chemicals and represents everything that CAMRA campaigns against. People take this on board, and then use this to rubbish our business without even trying our beers.

I know that CAMRA do some great work and we fully support their campaign on ending the pub tie, which Jeff gave evidence to the commons select committee in support of their campaign. I also believe that it would not be their intention to campaign against a brewery.

But the fact remains that passionate people often take things too far, and whilst CAMRA continue to make statements about "ALL" kegged beer being "fizzy muck" these more radical people will continue to actively campaign against us.

We do not expect that we will take over the world or craft beer in keg will replace cask in fact I would think that would be a sad day for UK brewing if that happened and are happy for our beers to speak for themselves.

Forcing compressed air from a dirty non filtered compressor into beer does one thing, spoils it very quickly, and it is for this reason that Lovibonds would not let our beer be served in this way. We are a young brewery and don't want peoples first impression of our product to be a bad one.

Why do you not see more great kegged beer in lots more pubs? well that is simple, whilst the beer tie exists 90% of pubs in the UK are only allowed to sell kegs supplied by their PubCo or brewery, the PubCo has an exclusive agreement with a "fizzy muck" supplier for all their keg beers, but may be able to supply cask through either DDS or have 1 pump free of tie.

Our customers are mainly more boutique type pubs and restaurants that are in the 10% of un-tied outlets, however we are also in some "real ale" pubs where our beer goes down equally as well.

We are currently trying key kegs with the intention of widening our distribution network, as these get around the problem of kegs getting returned.

If you know of a free of tie pub near you that would be interested in taking our beer drop me an e-mail and and we will try and sort it out.

Jason Stevenson
Lovibonds Brewery
jason@lovibonds.com

Tandleman said...

Jeff - PLease explain your understanding of a Race spile then. I said that the Race spile "extends the life of the cask and helps slow turnover beers".

You clearly disagree with that. I did not claim it stopped air entering the cask. So what disinformation did I spread?

I do hope you aren't still vexed about the injudicious remarks I made and for which I apologised. I do not spread disinformation and unlike many in this game, if I am wrong, I'll readily say so and take the rap. You've had your pop too, so let's call it a draw eh? I'm not your enemy. Trust me on that one.


Jason - I don't rubbish your beers and am sorry that some people, some CAMRA people do, but you have an uphill struggle. I do agree that perhaps there should be a rewording of some of the text on CAMRA's webite and have said so publicly, but you are caught in the bind that has been created by poor keg beer. That's why you face an uphill task.

Anyway, as I said, I look forward to trying them sometime.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Well you are wrong regarding the race spile. It will in no way extend the life of a cask, as in order to pump 40 litres of beer to the bar you need to bring 40 litres of cellar air into the cask.

A race spile is effectively a non return (1 way) valve which doesn't allow a cask to vent. It really just stops the publican from having to hard spile after a session.

Jason Stevenson said...

Tandleman, just to be clear I am not saying that you have said anything bad about our brewery or beer, nothing that you have not apologised for that is.

And yes as a small growing business we do face challenges but I don't think the challenge is as big as you think. In our experience most people don't care if their beer is in a keg/cask or if it comes from a hand pump or a lager tap.

What people do care about is how the beer tastes, and if it suits their tastes, and this is why there is a place in the market for breweries like Lovibonds.

Tandleman said...

Jeff - though what you say is true (a non return valve) that isn't the whole story. I suggest that you take the matter up with the manufacturers. They are clearly deluded. I'm not going to try and convince you of anything. You are clearly a man that regards an olive branch as a sign of weakness.

I'll leave you with a quote though,

"Wastage of real ales can be virtually eliminated by using ‘race spiles’ to prolong the life of beer in cask."

Tony Brookes
The Head Of Steam Ltd

http://southportbooze.wordpress.com/about/stuff-the-supermarkets-manifesto/

He runs real ale pubs and has done so for years, so what does he know?

Tandleman said...

Jason

Nothing to disaagre with there. I wish you and your company luck.

John Clarke said...

I recall Jeff Rosenmeier commenting on a blog that CAMRA was an irrelevance as far as he and his company were concerned. If that is so, I cannot see why they are remotely bothered what our views are one way or another.

I have tried a Lovibonds beer (at a Thornbridge thrash last year). As you might expect it was on keg and it was an adequate wheat beer (as I recall). Not bad but nothing special. In fairness, though, they do sound as though some of their more recent offerings may be of interest.

Graeme said...

It's the oxygen that gets drawn into the keg that causes oxidation and spoilage of the beer - you must let air in to be able to draw beer out.

The race spile simply lets the cask vent CO2 after inserting the spile without the possibility of air getting in. While it extends the life of the cask before it starts to get emptied, it won't do much after you have drawn half the beer out, and have had to let in air to replace the beer. This is where the cask breather does extend the life of the cask (in theory) by reducing the CO2 let into the cask.

From your link provided:
"Wastage of real ales can be virtually eliminated by using ‘race spiles’ to prolong the life of beer in cask." - I find this somewhat misleading - yes it prolongs the life of an opened cask, but it doesn't prevent oxidation of the beer once you start serving it.

Graeme said...

"The race spile simply lets the cask vent CO2" - dammit - should read "The race spile simply stops the cask venting CO2" (thus preventing air from getting in).

Either way the result is as soon as you let the air in by using the beer, it starts to spoil.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Tandleman,

I'm just trying to keep you honest, that is all, nothing to do with your other outburst as I forgive you on that one.

You did state that cask breathers are unnecessary because, "So does the Race spile which uses the CO2 produced within the cask to do the job" which is nonsense, sorry.

I'll contact Tony and see if he can set me straight on the benefits of the race spile. Remember manufacturers are in business to sell kit. Have a Red Bull, it gives you wings, apparently.

Erlangernick said...

"And Nick has already pointed out that air pressure is by no means anathema to quality lager."

Well now, I was referring to Br. Roppelt in Stiebarlimbach, who serve Kellerbier from a 1000 litre plastic bag stuck in a tank. A compressor pumps air into the tank, squishing the bag and forcing the naturally carbonated Bier out to the tap.

In other cases though, the best Kellerbier(s) round here are served "bayerisch Anstich", or under gravity. I know of no places where an air pump is used in place of forced CO2, if this is what we're talking about.

Tandleman said...

Graeme - Agreed

Jeff - Context is all. My conext was that you probably shouldn't be selling cask beer at all if you need an aspirator.

And yes. Oxygen will spoil beer. It will eventually spoil beer in your kegs. It is a question of duration. As I said "There is a corollary to this, which goes along the lines of "if you need a breather on all your beers, you probably shouldn't be selling cask".

You can step in in these cases. Now. I'm done on this.

Tandleman said...

Oh and Jeff, do pack in the snide comments. You really are starting to push it a bit. I've had my humble pie.

Keep me honest indeed.

Rob Nicholson said...

Excellent blog article - ever thought of running for CAMRA chairman?

As the one who possibly kickstarted / walked into the whole debate, it's been an interesting discussion.

Graeme said...

"you probably shouldn't be selling cask beer at all if you need an aspirator."

Possibly, though there is the 4.5G pin which may be suitable (only half as much beer to shift). I have seen stainless pins very recently at a festival - it's not like they don't exist, though they are rarely seen.

Though I suspect it does little for the economics of having the beer in house as it'll almost certainly be more expensive per pint to buy in.

Tandleman said...

Pins are good too. If you can come across them.

Gazza Prescott said...

Pins have several major disadvantages in that:

1) They get nicked frequently, often by homebrewers.
2) They cost almost the same to buy as a 9.
3) You get proportionally more "bottoms" in 2 pins than a 9 which means you make less return on the beer.
4) A lot of pubs use self-tilting stillage which usually can't accommodate them.

They are great things, pins, but there are many reasons - such as the above - why pubs and fests don't like them.

Gazza Prescott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alina brate said...

I had visited your website which was really good Plastic Manufacturer