Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Not Such Dinosaurs After All?


Well that was a more interesting weekend than I thought.  The recent CAMRA Members Weekend was much more far reaching than I predicted it might be, with a decided nod to the future and a much more forward look for CAMRA's involvement in the beer world.

First of all we can say with certainty that the backward facing motions were defeated, while progressive motions were passed, but underneath it all and underpinning it, was a noticeable mood change. CAMRA is looking to the future again and that can only be good. Let's look at some detail.  Motions to remove our involvement from generic beer campaigns and concentrate solely on real ale and to leave the Cyclops scheme were roundly defeated. Cyclops is an easy-to-use set of descriptors to explain what a beer will look, smell and taste like.  The motion specifically was unhappy of its extension to non real ales and frankly, that's what doomed it, despite the speaker identifying many faults with it. As for generic beer campaigns, it is pretty fair to say the antis got quite a kicking. The conference wasn't at all in the mood to go along with isolating CAMRA from the wider beer movement.

Our new Chief Executive Tim Page also spoke well and gave us a "heads up" that as an outsider so to speak, he was looking at what CAMRA does a lot more neutrally and had a few ideas so far. He didn't expand too much, pointing out rightly, that he was still learning, but one thing that interested me and will likely interest many readers, is that he was particularly keen to look at CAMRA Democracy. That can only be good. On the last day we also passed a motion to allow the addition of fruits, vegetables and spices to cider and that is among the cider drinkers quite a fundamental change. So fundamental in fact that I wonder if we might see a call for a separate organisation to continue the purist line on this one. I spoke on a number of motions, particularly on motions 11 and 12 (against) and like to think I played my part in putting the positive case for the future. 

Lastly and not leastly, we agreed that where it meets CAMRA criteria for real ale, that keykegs are an acceptable container for cask beer. This might not be as far reaching as some may think, as there is a long way to go in identifying and labelling beers that will be acceptable, but the onus is now on firmly brewers to meet this challenge and rely less on gassing the beers up on filling.

I'll talk more about the meeting and Nottingham pubs in subsequent posts, but I reckon that's enough to go on for now.   What do you reckon?

I did also have a couple of chats about beer with the Festival Cellarman I fell out with. We settled our differences amicably though I think I possibly have a more progressive view of cask dispense than him.  He did all right though in a difficult venue.

I should add that the National Chairman rightly pointed out that the application of external gas that is in contact with the beer is still a no-no as far as dispense is concerned.

30 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

So breathers will have to wait until next year, then? Slowly slowly...

Tandleman said...

Ah. Breathers. I think they have their place, but many don't. We'll have to wait and see.

Oblivious said...

I was not aware that fruit, vegetable and spices where ruled out under former guidelines.

I presume this is not the case for real ale?

Tandleman said...

It indeed is not, but there are (apparently) historical reasons for this.

It is complicated. You really had to be there to get it all.

Erlangernick said...

Curious about exactly how your view of cask dispense is more progressive than your colleague's. (Happy to hear neither of you ended up in the A&E!)

Joe said...

I'm looking forward to hearing more about the acceptability of keykegs. I would guess that has bearing on the export of cask ale, as well as simplifying "cellarmanship" for those abroad who would like to serve it. In short, could be great news for those who want to see more/better cask in the US and abroad.

Tandleman said...

I like it colder and with more condition likely as not. I like it sparkled etc. The usual stuff really, but I suppose I call that progressive as it is what I think.

And we got on fine.

John H said...

Interesting times - very informative blog.

DaveS said...

So what (roughly) were the arguments for and against the keykeg thing? I'm still slightly confused by what problem it was meant to solve.

Tandleman said...

Largely confined to whether or not they could be classified as valid containers for real ale.

Swung by CAMRAs Tech Committee agreeing they could be.

Usual arguments about good for low turnover outlets (such as craft beer bars with - my joke)

DaveS said...

Okay, so it was more of a "we really ought to be consistent on this" argument (which is entirely reasonable, of course) than "this will vastly improve things for drinkers, brewers and pubs"?

Tandleman said...

Quite wide ranging Dave but I didn't take notes you know.

RedNev said...

The change in the rules concerning cider is really very significant. It now gives an incentive to real cider makers to try to rival the non-real fruit-flavoured ciders that are proving increasingly popular. I've always thought our stance there was excessively purist.

DaveS said...

Fair enough. I guess I was wondering whether I'd missed some mass movement of real-ale-in-a-keykeg producers who are outraged that they aren't being accepted by CAMRA or something.

Will wait and see what if any difference it makes on the ground. (Festivals?)

Phil said...

It could be big for festivals - a chance to replay that stupid contretemps with BD a few years back but do it properly (and with a brewery that actually wants to 'play nicely').

A couple of years ago on my blog I asked (out of genuine curiosity) what you would get if you took beer that was ready to go in cask and put it inna bag inna box instead. Would that actually be keg? Looking at it the other way round, would it have ceased to be real ale? The gas (outside the bag) would be giving the beer more of a shove, but apart from that would it actually be any different from sticking beer in a pin and serving it on gravity? I didn't get many answers - we all got a bit bogged down defining the C-word - but I think it's a question worth asking, and CAMRA now seems to agree. Which is nice.

Tyson said...

DaveS

Keykegs are already in use at CAMRA festivals as the Technical Committee gave them the nod some time ago. From that perspective, the motion was simple in-house cleaning. Anyone with a knowledge of CANRA's upper echelon workings will see it a sign of progress though as the Technical Committee have traditionally been conservative. It's certainly shook up the Facebook commentators who have been refusing for months to believe that you can serve real ale from them.

Ironically the biggest policy change; the cider additions is probably the least important for ordinary members. It's definitely a seismic change, though, as the ultra-conservatives have dominated policy for years. I see it's already being described as a "betrayal" and "stupid beyond crazy" on the web.

Bailey said...

I wonder if this would have been so fraught if they'd been branded as key *casks* -- that specific word, keg, whatever the technicalities, carries 40-odd-years' worth of baggage.

Tandleman said...

Bailey: Yes this point was made largely because there is confusion among many about keykeg and keycask (they are the same) but keykeg has stuck.

Tommy Onions said...

If Key-keg conditioned beer can be classed as real ale would brewery-conditioned (without extraneous gas) beer also be ok if served in Keykeg? Does it matter that the CO2 is produced in the dispense vessel rather than a conditioning tank?

Paul Bailey said...

Sounds like “win-win” all round, which is good news. Sorry I was unable to make Nottingham; looking forward to your write-ups of the city’s pubs.

Phil said...

There has to be a certain amount of live yeast present in the beer for it to qualify as 'real', so brewery-conditioned beer is still out. (Unless reseeded, but we don't talk about that.)

Ben Viveur said...

I see the Sturgeonesque use of 'progressive' to mean 'stuff I happen to agree with' has caught on quickly...

Sounds like a sensible AGM on the whole, though I do wish people would differentiate between 'keykeg' and 'keycask' depending on what it's been filled with and how it's dispensed. Would make things a whole lot easier for 'normals' to understand.

Stono said...

just before everyone gets overly excited all motion 15 simply asked for was...to investigate (and presumably come up with) a labelling scheme akin to the real ale in a bottle logo,so as to identify when real ale is actually appearing through a keg font (as that might not be expected) and not just the traditional hand pump/gravity dispense methods,and as was noted in the debate CAMRA already does that with real ale in a bottle, so its a not a contradiction or house cleaning thing to really ask for.

the debate might well of headed off towards the historical technicalities of what key keg/key casks are and whether CAMRA approves of them, no doubt prompted by the Brass Castle brewer waving a key keg/key cask around, but those technicalities werent up for debate or part of that motion as far as I was concerned :)

and yes awkward venue to fix a bar, in terms of space & temps,reminded me alot of a previous local to me beer festival venue I knew well, where you were always chasing the impossible to keep ontop of it.

geordiemanc said...

Nice summing up.

The cider motion is certainly upsetting the purists in a big way. Would be good if they realised that it's time they wandered into their own organisation, but I suspect they will come back and argue.

As Stono has said, by the detail of the wording, the key keg motion isn't as ground breaking as it could be. However, it is very cleverly worded to get key keg dispense out into the open in CAMRA terms while giving little ground for opposition. From here there is scope for much better understanding, and also possibility to persuade more brewers to go for keg conditioning and natural carbonation.

The most ground breaking part was that not only was the motion carried, it was carried by a large majority.

Rob Nicholson said...

>The cider motion is certainly upsetting the purists in a big way: that's an understatement. Have you *seen* the Facebook thread???? I must be missing something with the cask breather debate because from what I can tell, nobody can tell if they are fitted which kinda suggests to me they aren't effecting quality. It's been suggested their use is far wider than CAMRA wants to admit.

Jeffrey Bell said...

An issue with naturally conditioned beer in key keg is the method of dispense will invariably involve beer passing through the same remote cooler as the rest of the keg beer - meaning it'll be served at a much lower temperature than cask beer. Of course it's possible to use a line that goes through a remote cooler set for cask ale temperatures, but in almost all bar set-ups this just isn't going to be the case. Your keg lines go through the lager cooler, you cask lines through the cask cooler.

Just a thought.

Tandleman said...

And a very valid one Jeffers. There are quite a few technical issues to overcome.

py said...

Hold it in your hand for a minute. Or put it in the sun.

Maybe this new colder more refreshing keg beer that doesn't go to vinegar quite so quickly will take off in a big way!

We can dream.

ABrewHaHa said...

doubtful whether the KeyKeg issue will have any impact on beer selection at GBBF where it is essential that the UK beers are in containers (i.e. casks) of uniform size. We've already had KeyKegs on BSF bars and, no doubt, this will increase.

Nick Boley said...

I was really pleased by the progressive thrust of the motions and their outcomes.
As for Technical stuff in CAMRA, watch this space. Things might just about to become interesting, with a new Committee chairman taking over who shares many (if not all) of your views on things beer, Tandleman.