Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Clouding the Issue


I mentioned here my preview of the CAMRA AGM and Member's Weekend. It turned out pretty uncontroversial really and even the Great Leader remarked that the number of motions that formed debate this year was small, though he didn't mention the quality, perhaps allowing that to speak for itself.  The standard of debate nonetheless was high, with many talented speakers.  I didn't like Scarborough much the last two times I've been and didn't like it any better this time either. Torrential rain on Friday got us off to a wet start and the pubs were just a bit too ordinary on the whole.  The weather did improve though and I did have a superb curry and a lovely breakfast one day, but on the whole, I won't be looking back on it that fondly.  I can't recommend the Travelodge for the comfort of its beds, but can highly recommend the staff.  There's a tip for you.

My worries about Motion 11 were groundless.  It was misguided in a somewhat obscure way, but was otherwise well meant.  My Motion 9 was at least an interesting debate, despite it being defeated by almost 100 votes.  To say I was misrepresented is an understatement.  Despite making it clear that my concern was, that for cask beer,  lack of information about whether a beer on sale should or should not be cloudy or hazy, could lead to both confusion and malpractice.  I urged that the matter should be investigated to see if it was so and report back with findings and proposals.  I made it clear - no pun intended - that it was entirely up to the brewer if he or she wished to produce beers that were intentionally cloudy or hazy, but that confusion was not in the interest of real ale and could be detrimental.

Opposition came from Brass Castle Brewery who spoke almost entirely about themselves and their preference for unfined beer.  It was an impassioned piece of self advertisement, but nothing to do with the motion at all.   Roger Protz further muddied the waters - pun firmly intended - and gave a rousing speech about innovation being stifled and listed a load of stuff going into beers that make make them cloudy and how British brewing was at the cutting edge with young brewers leading the charge.  What I didn't pick up in my right of reply, but should have, is that almost certainly none of these beers he mentioned would be real ales or affected by what I proposed.  I did refute most of it in my second speech, but did not win out.  If you fail to get your arguments across, you lose.  That's democracy. I'll keep my eye on this subject though.

So what do we make of this?  I take the positive view that  CAMRA diehards attending the conference were convinced that my motion was an attack on innovation and "craft" beer.  They didn't want that.  Those that think CAMRA is stuck in the mud should take heart.  

I understand the Brass Castle only produce vegetarian (or maybe vegan) beers.  I also noted that some of the beers served at the CAMRA AGM were served with the warning "Hazy". Make of both what you will.

34 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

What's needed is a coup to put the Tand in overall control. Democracy has failed. We beery cousins need a dictator and I propose Tand. Only he can save us from murkey soupy cloudy filth.

Tandleman said...

Don't worry Cookie. The price of it will save you!

Phil said...

What's got into Protzie? The last thing I remember he was burbling about how some of these young brewers have even produced a black IPA, well, I ask you, blimey, these youngsters, what will they think of next...

Curmudgeon said...

Is Protzie becoming the Tony Benn of CAMRA – getting progressively more extreme as he grows older?

Tandleman said...

Can't see that Mudgie. After all he was a founding editor of Militant Newspaper.

Just wish I'd shot him down over all that support for non real ale. (In that context Folks).

Ed said...

Shame about your motion, I'm not generally keen on cloudy beer.

Tandleman said...

I only wanted it to be looked at too.

Dave Unpronounceable said...

must admit I was pleasantly surprised to hear Protz speaking in favour of innovation (so long as it doesn't insult history, of course...)

DavidS said...

I've kind of said this before, but rather than "asking for it to be looked at" (which is rather vague - if the Serious Fraud Office is "looking at" something then you assume that they haven't got a pat on the back in mind...) could you actually punt out a few concrete suggestions for discussion? Some stuff that CAMRA could, in principle, actually do that might go some way towards getting the, er, clarification that you're after.

You might find that you actually end up with something that everyone likes, and then next year you can come back with the folks from Brass Castle seconding your motion rather than opposing it. Even if you don't, you'll at least end up with a better defined position than just a sense that cloudy beer is a Problem on some level and that Someone should Do Something.

Tandleman said...

DavidS: Of course I made suggestions, my main one being that IF it was perceived to be a problem, it could be mentioned that the beer may be served hazy or cloudy in the GBG Brewery Section.

My seconder offered more, but I didn't want to pe-empt things by going too far.

DavidS said...

Sorry, I've only got your blog posts to go on.

To be honest, I'd have thought that the "more information" thing would be in everyone's best interests - maybe I'm being naive, but if I was a brewer trying to sell a beer with a quality that some people might perceive as a fault, I'd want to make it as clear as possible that it's that way on purpose because I think it's better that way. (Like if I'm trying to convert someone to they joys of lambics, I normally start off with a preamble about "think of it as somewhere between very dry cider and very dry champagne..."). I wouldn't want pubs to avoid stocking my beers because they keep getting into arguments about whether they're off or not, for instance, or for punters to just think I was crap at brewing. And - from my limited experience - brewers like Moor seem to be doing this off their own bat. Is that part of the solution?

Cooking Lager said...

I'd go to one of these AGM's if Protzy and Tand settled the argument with an arm wrestle. Make it interesting and more people will turn up.

paul said...

I'd be quite happy for CAMRA to push for a clue to the style on ALL pumps clips. There certainly seem to be more than a few brewers who can come up with a clever name & some clip art, but no clue as to even what colour the beer might be.

Paul Bailey said...

Sorry your motion got hijacked, Tandleman. I thought Protzie used to edit that other looney left rag, Socialist Worker; hence the nickname "Protz the trotz"!

I can't say I've heard of Brass Castle Brewery, but the likes of them and Herr Protz seem like strange bed-fellows.

Your description of a desolate and rain-swept Scarborough reinforces my preconceptions of the place, and I certainly don't regret my decision not to attend.

Nottingham though sounds a lot more interesting, and I've got some good memories of the city. So, maybe see you next year, if I don't run into you at GBBF?

Anonymous said...

@ Cooking Lager - arm wrestle? Surely yard of ale drink-off?

Stono said...

but brewers like Moor were also upset with motion 9 based on some of the twitter feeds I saw before the weekend started.

I think the problem was that it was too easy to misread the motion as saying that hazy cask ales were a bad thing and CAMRA should do something about it, it didnt emphasise in the motion text enough this was just a matter of providing people with more information from which to make their choices on because its increasingly a source of confusion, hence the passionate speeches that were just in favour of hazy beer instead of any specifically against the points that were made during debate.

and yes the point that at any CAMRA beer festival you will see usually at least one barrel marked cloudy/hazy, that genuinely isnt supposed to be like that, and the very point we mark it cloudy/hazy isnt to tell people its bad at all, far from it, its to give them bit of information, ought to have resonated with everyone in the hall.


my only issue with using pump clips would be that increasingly pubs display beers via chalk boards or lists and struggle to transfer the names/abvs correctly, adding extra bits Im not sure that kind of information would get across.

Tandleman said...

Paul. Yes Cities are better, though Nottingham is a bit spread out. See you there and GBBF.

Sono: Can't argue with much of what you say. I was only vaguely aware of twitter moans as of course there was no signal in the conference and the complainers didn't include me in the feed. Good tactics.

Moor are I think completely open about what they do. Don't see what they had to worry about. I don't really think pump clips are the answer though. More that in the GBG they should be indicated there. At least then you could dispute with the staff.

My point was about confusion. Never been served green beer or just plain old badly brewed beer? More and more you will be is my forecast. It is the inevitable corollary of unfined beer.

Cooking Lager said...

I thought you guys liked the cask gamble? Go in a pub with 12 cask beers. All obscure breweries and bad pun beer names. The only information is ABV and price. Pick the best bang per buck. Find out after it's poured whether it's light or dark, sweet or bitter, hazy or clear. Throw it down your neck and say something about malt or hops to appear discerning. Get pissed in a more refined way than the rest of us louts ensuring at every swig you make it clear that you are discerning knowledgeable types that can intellectualize getting pissed up. It's what I love about beer geekery.

Don't turn it into a known quantity. If everyone knew what to expect from the mysterious pub clip everyone would be on it and it would be as common a muck and the game of intellectualized pissery would be up.

Keep is a mystery! Maintain the gamble!

py said...

If anyone wants suggestions for pubs crawls round Notts, I have organised several in my time.

I'll make sure to send you in all the rough-as-fuck keg-only places, of which Nottingham has more than its fair share.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Lets be honest. Most of these hazy beers are no where near as good as they would be cleared out.

DaveS said...

One more annoying question, and then I'll leave you in peace - have you discussed any of this with brewers - particularly the ones who sell unfined beer? As per my extended blathering a few posts back, I think that giving customers more information is something that would benefit them as well, and if you came back next year with a similar but more specific motion but with explicit support from the likes of Moor then it'd remove any suspicion that it's a "ban cloudy beer" motion in disguise...

Tandleman said...

DaveS: If folks are so defensive about hazy/cloudy beer then maybe there is a point about it not being that good.

If I came back next year with something similar, it may not make the agenda.

Maybe I should adopt the cloudy, murky, soupy filth attitude or as Kieran says in a more moderate tone, murky, soupy filth?

No. I tried the voice of reason and lost. I will let them all repent for a bit.

StringersBeer said...

I dunno, ask the bar staff "what's this one like?" or something?

Rob Nicholson said...

>If I came back next year with something similar, it may not make the agenda.

And thus my belief that CAMRA organisationally is stuck in the past and doomed to glacial decision making. Two years before this topic can be debated again? Madness...

I watched from afar via Twitter and even on there, it was clear people weren't listening.

If conference can't be trusted to understand what was basically a very simply motion and debate at tangents, what hope is there for more complex issues?

Tandleman said...

Stringers: That isn't always a great success.

Rob: I think Roger persuaded them and frankly, as I said, I missed a trick.

Dave Unpronounceable said...

"I dunno, ask the bar staff "what's this one like?" or something?"

unfortunately, this often elicits a response along the lines of 'i dunno, i don't drink beer', or 'i think it's brown'...

or alternatively, where staff are better trained in the world of beer but also heavily indoctrinated (mentioning no portman-baiting scottish brewers...), then every beer is 'awesome'...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like sour grapes because you were soundly beaten.

Tandleman said...

Fuck off you Twerp. The reason I was beaten was, as I clearly said, that I failed to convince.

"If you fail to get your arguments across, you lose. That's democracy".

Back to your hidey hole.

Phil said...

What about this scenario (which for some reason nobody ever seems to consider until it happens to them). Pump clip says: hazy. Is that beer hazy? I say to the friendly barperson. Yes, (s)he confirms, that's a hazy beer. If you order a pint of that beer, you won't get a clear pint. It's not meant to be clear. It's a hazy beer, you see.

Righty-ho, I reply, and order a pint. My pint is hazy. It's also awash with yeast and doesn't taste of much except wholemeal bread. What do I do then - take it back and complain that it's hazy?

If bars are going to take on cloudy beers, they need to devote a lot more attention to cellaring. I don't think there's much awareness of this as yet.

Curmudgeon said...

I recently had some Hornbeam Kaffir Wheat Beer in the Crown in Stockport which was described as cloudy on the pumpclip but in fact was crystal clear. Should I have complained?

I'd say if any beer is described as "cloudy" then caveat emptor and you have no redress if it's like liquid diarrhoea.

Phil said...

Which brings us back round to the original reason for our host's motion to the AGM, I think. Is "caveat emptor and you have no redress if it's like liquid diarrhoea" really where we want to be in 2014? It seems like a massive step backwards to me. (I can just imagine an early-70s Sunday magazine article about seeking out "real ale" saying the same thing, perhaps without mentioning diarrhoea.)

Phil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

"Fuck off you Twerp"

To be fair, if that's the level of your debating skills, it's no wonder you didn't get your point across.

Andy Platt said...

It looks to me like your motion was designed to encourage paranoia about a rising and interesting trend in ale. The most interesting beers like Brass Castle, Anarchy, Bexar County and others are going unfined. Also, Magpie always have at least one unfined beer on the bar at its brewery tap, often more and they've seen no problems.

I'm glad that your rather silly motion was voted down. If you actually had any evidence that selling unfined beers was a problem then you might have had an argument, the fact that you didn't shines through. You can't run in in, waving your arms in the air saying "I think this should be a problem, I have no evidence it is but let's spend a lot of time looking for some"'

Have you ever considered that vegetarians don't want the fish guts that so many 'real' ales have added to them? Also what's 'real' about using fish guts? As for complaining that beer tastes of yeast...

To be honest if you don't like unfined ales you are a small 'c' conservative who demands a cosmetically sanitised dring that's no more real than Popeye. The least important thing about a beer is what it looks like.

Please stop trying to spoil the party for the rest of us.