Friday, 22 September 2017

Playing the Man and Other Stuff


It's been a funny old week on t'internet beerwise.  The old cask versus keg argument was set alight once more by some offensive ad hominem attacks on someone who simply professed in no uncertain terms - on his own blog - that a murky beer he'd been served was not remotely to his liking and in the opinion of him and his wife, tasted vile. He called it "overpriced rubbish." That's his opinion and on his blog, he clearly stated that and his mild reaction to such viciousness was a credit to him.  While it wasn't quite "Nothing to see here. Move on", though clearly it could have.

Sadly it wasn't that simple. A number of astonishing personal attacks then took place in the comments section, many of them complaining that the author wasn't erudite enough and didn't string his points together in a more appealing manner, though he seemed to have no problem in making himself and his meaning understood beyond reasonable doubt by his critics. (Surely the point of language and the written word, when all is said and done. The first comment and the second by the same person set the tone of what was to come. First of all was a pop at the author's writing ability and then at CAMRA and its members, which as far as I could see was nothing to do with the article.  (As an aside here, it is time people realised that the vast majority of cask ale drinkers have nothing whatever to do with CAMRA and aren't members - so pack that in please.)  In fact the writer of the piece concerned has a dig at CAMRA members later in his article, so who knows if he is a member or not? Whatever, but when you read on its gets worse. And worse. Since when did beer become so important that such nasty personal attacks made on a person are justified because of beery preferences and grammar?

Needing a bit of light relief from that I turned to Beer and Whine.  Given the title of the piece - "CAMRA - The Campaign for Rudeness & Arrested development" I was hoping for something a little more gentle and nuanced. A tongue in cheek look at the Venerable Society for Beer from the Wickets complete with a little leg pulling perhaps? Nope. This statement sets the tone for a bitter piece of CAMRA bashing "The first and most infuriating characteristic of your stereotypical CAMRA member is the outright arrogance and rudeness that is on display every time that they step foot in a bar/pub."  Goodness. What has happened to this poor writer at the hands of these cask conditioned cretins that has affected him so deeply? The rest of it continues in the same bilious tone, complete with misleading and incorrect statements. If you haven't read it do. Meantime I return to my point above. Most real ale drinkers aren't CAMRA members and I'll add a couple. Most members will visit your bar and you will never know they are members, hardly any will "demand" discount, though some may politely enquire and the question of pricing isn't as simple as jacking up the price, more of which later.

At least, despite what I read above, the cask versus keg war is over according to this article by Fourpure Brewery from the Morning Advertiser. No-one in their right drinking mind disputes the statement by Sean Knight of Fourpure that the focus should be on quality, but of course things are far more nuanced than that. Sadly it isn't that simple but this polite article was kind in tone and was refreshing for that alone.

This brings me neatly to comments, again in the Morning Advertiser by Sophie Atherton about cask beer pricing and so called "cut-price cask beer" and customer resistance to higher prices. As I hinted before this is complex problem and as I'd expect Sophie makes a good fist of examining the arguments, though I'm not sure that the sort of cask most of us real ale drinkers sup can truly be described as "premium".  The idea too that you can call a beer premium when it is so often already sold at top dollar in poor nick could be troublesome to sustain in a reasoned argument. Nonetheless I agree with the conclusion that a perfectly served pint can command a decent and fair price and that quality at the point of dispense is imperative.  Having said that, as Karl Marx said - and he was a real ale man - "the problem isn't identifying what is wrong, the problem is how to change it." Frankly there is no a consensus on that and the issue of too many breweries chasing too few accounts and publicans helping to drive down brewers' margins, isn't even discussed. Fair prices for sellers don't easily happen in a buyer's market.

So where does this leave us? Well we can deduce that the meatheads aren't all in CAMRA, the craft beer scene is far from gentle and benevolent and can show a snobby and arrogant side. Beer costs, too much/too little, is too warm too flat/too cold and too gassy and the answers to known problems aren't that obvious.

Think I'll go for a pint now. It will be from JW Lees, will be just under £3 and Lees make plenty of money.

I had a pint of keg beer the other day. The brewer admitted that it had around 3 volumes of CO2 in it. Too much for me. We will be having yer actual keg at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival as a matter of interest.

While answers aren't obvious, you should, in the meantime adopt my mantra "It's the offer Stupid."  If you don't get that right these days you are in trouble.

Nicked "Playing the Man" from Mudgie, though I doubt if it is copyright

38 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

Beer people are good people, Tand.

retiredmartin.com said...

Well said.
On the market, "a pint from JW Lees, will be just under £3 and Lees make plenty of money" - and not alone. A pint of MPA in peak condition as good as anything about.

ABrewHaHa said...

All to true, I regularly have to stop myself from replying in equally obnoxious terms to those whose narrow points of view do so much to drive a wedge between CAMRA and Contemporary Beer drinkers. Get over it, good beer is good beer and if you haven't grasped that simple truth you're missing out.

Paul Bailey said...

When commenting on blogs one should always follow the principle of "playing the ball, not the man". Unfortunately Alan’s piece brought to the fore all that is wrong with the internet today. It is totally unacceptable for so-called “keyboard warriors”, hiding behind their computer screens, to be launching a tirade of abuse against anyone whose views are even slightly different from their own, often narrow-minded opinions.

Nuff said on that; so what about beer prices? A tricky subject, as I found out earlier in the year, when I questioned the argument that cask is often “too cheap.” I think your point TM, that there are “too many breweries chasing too few accounts and publicans helping to drive down brewers' margins,” hits the nail on the head.

As for what to do about it, well that will take better brains than mine; and whilst some might argue that market forces will eventually solve the problem (one way or another), I’m not so sure.

ps. “Nicked "Playing the Man" from Mudgie.” So did I, and seeing as I had the pleasure of meeting him in person last Monday, I’m sure he won’t mind.

Curmudgeon said...

"Play the ball, not the man" is a phrase in common parlance and I don't claim any ownership of it.

No side is free from nastiness, and it's a pity we have to see things in terms of "sides" anyway, but there certainly does seem to be a strong streak of unpleasantness emanating from the "craft" camp :-(

Cooking Lager said...

A common feature of the internet or even modern life is to fail to consider the world looks different from anothers standpoint and whilst you may disagree with someone that doesn't make them stupid or wrong.

Alan appears to be an amiable sort of older fella in retirement enjoying what he enjoys and speaking with his own distinct voice, that of a retired working class bloke. It's a voice that ought to be heard and one he's certainly entitled to express.

The voice of whiny middle class people protecting their own privilege when they are unhappy that others have decided the status quo isn't working for them and voted to change it seems to be a loud one currently. One declaring voices they disagree with to be stupid and illegitimate. It's a sad state of affairs and one history suggests we should be careful with.

Tandleman said...

Blatant snobbery. Increasingly it seems that there is a nastiness presented to those that just want a decent pint in a place that they can afford.

I know from some of my retired friends that price has to be important for them, otherwise they'll be joining you on the cans of lout in front of the telly. That's not bottom feeding, it is reality for many.

Malcolm Nicholls said...

Price will always be important, and not just the price of the beer.
Property prices are crucial; one fundamental reason that Lees and other vertically integrated regionals make decent money is their freehold property ownership.
Those of us paying commercial rents must adopt a rather different pricing model, mitigated hopefully by a degree of commercial nous in terms of product selection and buying.
As for business rates......

Cooking Lager said...

Beer & Whine hasn't allowed comments nor revealed the name of his bar so I guess he's still happy to take the beardy quid & continue to despise them.

Tandleman said...

Yes. Very unimpressed by that. Which beards by the way? Both, like as not.

Tandleman said...

Malcolm. No argument there. All stems back to the failed Beer Orders.

stymaster said...

There's always been arseholes on the 'net, since well before the www, and what you have to remember is that people who resort to personal insults like that are proably just arseholes, and not just online.

Richard Coldwell said...

I'm totally against prejudice of any kind. Tolerance is a virtue and often enlightening!

Sadly the comments on the 'Beer & Whine' blog did resonate and I've recently had first hand evidence of apparent CAMRA members who have represented our organisation in a very poor light. When contacting a bar in Leeds (prior to GBG launch) confidentially informing them they were in GBG2018 and inviting them to our LeedsCAMRA GBG launch party I was told they had already been informed of their inclusion in the new guide several days prior by 'a CAMRA member' who had then become irate because he couldn't have a pint as the cafe bar premises opening hours are not the same as their permitted hours and GBG showed the full opening hours - a failing of the organisation and not the bar owner. There were quite a few horror stories came out at a recent discussion around women in the beer industry at LeedsBeerWeek.

I am 100% satisfied that the majority of CAMRA members do not act in this way, certainly not any active members in our Leeds branch which is both diverse and inclusive. Sadly there is always a minority, in any group, whose words and actions are not representative, but become perceived as such by the wider public.

The only solution to this is to actively promote plurality and inclusivity and to embrace other groups, styles and ideas.

Remember, 'Different isn't wrong!'

Curmudgeon said...

It's worth pointing out that Alan Winfield is still working and is actually younger than me (let alone Tandleman) ;-)

Malcolm Nicholls said...

And me....

Stono said...

if it cheers you up, dont forget 99.9% of the people happily drinking cask or keg or lager or whatever their favourite tipple in the pub was last week, did so blissfully unaware of any twitter or blogist spat going on in the interweb :) one swallow doesnt make a summer, to use another idiom, I do think we lose sight of that sometimes.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

I'm the Norman Hunter of posters.
I like to play the ball and the man.
I thang you.

Alan Winfield said...

Firstly thank you Tandleman for posting about all the abuse i got for what was an honest opinion from both the Wife and me on what we thought about the beer we had in what was at best a basic pub.

I wish i was retired,but am only 55 and get very dirty five days a week working in a factory.
And we are very working class and never been members of Camra but we like their beer festivals and Camra pub guides.

Tandleman said...

Richard

I can see that you have very carefully tried to walk a tightrope of fairness, though perhaps nor=t succeeding as much as you hoped.

The actions of one CAMRA member in the GBG siuation you describe are deplorable, but publicans see bad behaviour all of the time and this while annoying is hardly representative. I think it likey, as you hint you do, that these actions, when they occur are usually done by non active CAMRA members and are thus hard to deal with.

I too read the anecdotal "evidence" from Leeds and while I don't doubt there are bad eggs around, as you say, most don't behave that way and if they do, this should be confronted at the time when it can be dealt with.

Too often it is hearsay and not often enough is there proof.

I am sure we've all met high handed and unreasonable bar staff or publicans or whastever from time to time, but it would be wrong to say there is a core of such people and that it is representative. Certainly CAMRA, as you are well aware, discourage such behaviour, but generalisms are very difficult.

That tightrope can be a hard walk for all of us.

Tandleman said...

PTP.When I played football, it was considered neccessary to play both ball and man.

If you didn't you got walked on. It was all blood and snotters then of course in the West of Scotland.

Now in these more enlightened times you are expected to play neither most of the time.

Tandleman said...

Cheers Alan. I note too that my spell check has failed me and I'm in rush to get to the pub, so - tough.

Cooking Lager said...

Though CAMRA members may think the Real Ale Twat stereotype is unjustified, unkind and doesn’t reflect the majority of members or activists it manages to persist and crops up from multiple sources. How so?

If you attend 1 CAMRA meeting of about 20 or so members & all but one are average indistinct typical middle aged blokes, who stays in the mind? Who do you remember?

You remember the 1 guy who is a tad rude, thinks all keg is vile, it’s drinkers stupid and is not averse to berating people he barely knows if they try one of the keg beers. The behaviour is out of the ordinary and the person is memorable.

You can say all you like about most CAMRA members being normal everyday people that just so happen to like a pint of cask. But every branch has one or two RATs, and those are the most keen, active & memorable so the stereotype is going nowhere anytime soon.

Curmudgeon said...

@Cookie - yes, it's only the RAT who announces his presence as a CAMRA member and thus forms people's opinions of the organisation.

Tandleman said...

Cookie and Mudgie. Yes indeed. If I find any of my lot doing it.........

py said...

New campaign slogan idea: "CAMRA - not all of us are twats"

Tandleman said...

Or Only some of us are twats?

Ben Viveur said...

CAMRA could neatly differentiate itself from the crafterati by using the slogan "we may be twats, but at least we're not cunts".

Cooking Lager said...

This the point of difference, Tand. You & Mudge like to think it's none active retail members going about acting the twat giving you a bad name.

What I'd say is it is the most active. Those that live & breathe your esteemed campaign, attend everything, volunteer for everything. They have done so for 40 years & your campaign means more to them than anything. Those for whom it's not "only a pint in a pub". The people you've become dependant on. These can be decent well meaning people and when you get to know them you can find yourself liking them. Enjoying their company, even. You end up excusing them as being "traditionalists" smug in the knowledge that you are among a greater number of progressives.

But those unfamiliar with your beery clique find him far more memorable than any of you when a group of you are out and about and he really does think it's a campaign against things.

Tandleman said...

You may be right Cookie. Real Ale twats are lurking in open view among us. Still their worth may be in annoying some of the people who like to be annoyed and who deserve to be annoyed by them.

kevin webster said...

One problem is that nowadays, many people define themselves as consumers & if you slag of a product they like, it's as though you're insulting their mother or something - The level of spite & vitriol in some of the replies to Alan's (perfectly reasonable) blogpost were farcically OTT.

Curmudgeon said...

I have to say I get the impression that most of the *real* nastiness in this divide comes from the "craft" side. From the point of view of real ale traditionalists, it's often just a case of "I really don't understand all this weird stuff the young folk are drinking", but from crafties at times there can be genuine venom.

PY said...

Rubbish mudgie. Camra have been sledging people off and generally putting young people off cask ale as long as I have been alive. All the bitterness and divisiveness comes from one side. Craft beer fans just love all beer and want everyone to be happy.

Tandleman said...

Now I know you are taking the piss py.

Tandleman said...

Now I know you are taking the piss py.

Curmudgeon said...

Did you read all the delightful comments on Alan's blog, py?

py said...

I did. Very few of them actually seemed to be by real people though - most of them were probably just Cookie using a different pseudonym trying to wind you lot up.

and to be fair, some of the points about not slagging off people's livelihoods even if you're not a fan of the style of beer they serve, were fair, even if a bit over-defensive.

Alan Winfield said...

You are contradicting yourself in that comment PY,about what i said about the pub and beer,i did not slag off the pub,just said it was basic at best and how can comments be fair but over defensive.

PY said...

It's a good job that you're not naturally argumentative Alan, otherwise that thread could have really flaired up.