Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Vote, Vote, Vote for Bradley Cummings?

In what might be seen as a major intervention in CAMRA's Revitalisation Project, Bradley Cummings, co-founder and co-owner  of Tiny Rebel Brewing has thrown his hat into the ring and will stand as a CAMRA National Executive member.  What might this mean if he is successful in his attempt? Is it a good or a bad thing? Let's have a look.

Well we don't need to guess at his intentions as he lays out his plans in a short and succinct 23 page manifesto. Let's have a look at it.

On the (perhaps) positive side Brad :
  • points out the lack of member involvement in the Campaign
  • puts forward a number of ideas to increase that involvement
  • wants to "drive shit and get things done"
  • wishes to get the best out of the potential of nearly 200,000 members
  • agrees CAMRA should widen its remit to include the wider beer community
  • recognises that unprofitable pubs must close
  • thinks that pubs must adapt or die
  • agrees that CAMRA should establish an Industry Committee or suchlike
  • thinks we should have a focus on membership education though disagrees with proposed methodology
  • points out CAMRA isn't very cool
  • reminds us that a 300% increase in members has brought little by way of increased involvement
  • suggests a much better use of technology and direct membership involvement
  • reminds us that better choice not real ale was the CAMRA founding principle
  • states that poor quality cask ale is the biggest risk to the future of cask ale
  • urges us to vote with our feet when encountering poor real ale
I could go on but have picked these out for you. I'd urge you to read the whole thing here and make your own list.

On the (perhaps) less positive side Brad:
  • seems to disregard cider and perry as irrelevant
  • thinks brewers, not the beer drinking public know best about beer quality
  • supports the on trade as a way into pubs for drinkers
  • poo-poos cask conditioned ale as the pinnacle of the brewer's art
  • wants members to be distanced from breweries by allowing brewers to represent themselves, rather than though liaison officers 
  • wants industry representation at all levels of CAMRA including direction and policy
  • postulates that quality comes at a cost
Now really with all this, you pays your money and you takes your choice. You can pick and choose the elements you like and dislike and while there isn't an awful lot that is entirely new, except perhaps that one of the brightest stars of brewing, in one of the most enterprising companies, actually wants to get involved with CAMRA and sees CAMRA still has potential. He wants to motivate members and get them directly involved in CAMRA's democracy and is willing to stand for election to rummle things up a bit, which many (including me) will see as a positive.

On the other hand, personally, I am very wary and can't really concur with (possibly inadvertently) repositioning  CAMRA as a kind of offshoot of industry, though some closer involvement would be sensible. CAMRA must continue to be an independent consumer champion and the very idea that brewers know best about everything beer-wise certainly causes me to raise my eyebrows somewhat. After all brewers rarely speak with a common voice. Just look at hazy versus clear, not to mention many other subjective arguments about hopping rates, carbonation, pricing, packaging and like as not, a million things more.

So vote for Brad? Up to you really, but having chaired the Great Manchester Beer Debate at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, where Brad was a panel member, I was impressed with many of his points of view. Revitalisation is something very different and maybe it is time for someone new to the Campaign, with an unconventional and non traditional background, to become a member of the Executive that will steer the changes through. There's lots you can add on the plus side and I for one reckon it might just be a good thing - assuming if elected - he sees his term to its end.

After all, cometh the hour, cometh the man.

The Great Manchester Beer Debate was interesting. Subject was loosely "The Price of Beer". I'll try and deal with this in a later post. Yes, on the whole, most brewers, despite the fact they say little comes their way, favour higher prices.

Brad would also knock the JDW tokens on the head. He isn't alone in this.

Remember, all members will have a vote for both the National Executive and for Revitalisation. Use it.


Pete said...

Given that CAMRA is, nominally, a *beer* organisation, I would shift that "cider and perry are irrelevant" into the list of positives. The near-obsession with cider in (almost exclusively) the upper echelons of CAMRA has always baffled me.

Curmudgeon said...

Hmm, I've got reservations about this. For a start, it creates a potential conflict of interest. CAMRA is a consumer body, not an industry body, and while it should aim for a constructive relationship with brewers, it is not there to represent their interests, however small or worthy.

In setting out an overtly "political" manifesto, which NE candidates have traditionally not tended to do, there is a risk of factionalising the NE rather than everyone pulling together.

And is someone who is already busy running a successful and expanding brewery going to have the time to take on the very considerable workload associated with being on the NE?

Tandleman said...

I recognise your issues. I do agree about CAMRA remaining consumer focused and say so.

I also worry about him not seeing it through - as well as other things. Still reckon though,even short term, he might be worth a punt.

Jon Benger said...

If elected, Brad would still only one of a dozen on the NE, so it's likely that many of his ideas wouldn't reach fruition. I do, however, see some benefit in "rummling" things up a bit, and encouraging some new ways of thinking about CAMRA's relationship with the outside world.

Paul Bailey said...

I have to agree with Pete. We are the Campaign for Real Ale, not the Campaign for Real Ale plus cider and perry.

Nothing at all against these fine traditional drinks, but they've nothing in common with beer, apart from sometimes being available in pubs.

Many ordinary CAMRA members have been saying this for years, but we're told that cider and perry would not survive without CAMRA's backing; which plainly is nonsense.

Anonymous said...

2018 - Bradley fails to be voted on to the National Executive.

2019 - Tiny Rebel announce their cask beers will only be available in their bars....and times when "last Tiny Rebel cask" are of great marketing importance

Rob Nicholson said...

>seems to disregard cider and perry as irrelevant
I'm on the fence on this one. If it doesn't distract too much, then let them ride the coat tails of the more popular beer.

>thinks brewers, not the beer drinking public know best about beer quality
In terms of the manufacture of, I'm sure he's right. From the "down mouth" end, not so sure.

>poo-poos cask conditioned ale as the pinnacle of the brewer's art
This was the one line in the revitalisation recommendations from the NE that I wish wasn't there. It's pandering to the traditionalists too much and isn't true. It can be a pinnacle but often isn't and other beers can exceed.

>wants members to be distanced from breweries by allowing brewers to represent themselves, rather than though liaison officers
Not sure I blame him. I've often said that the brewery liaison role (BLO) should be one of most fun roles in CAMRA but for some reason, just doesn't work. The relationship between CAMRA and breweries is often strained. Considering they are the ones that took up the call to actually save real ale, the fact that one of our key campaigns doesn't involve breweries has always perplexed me. I don't see having a better relationship with breweries as undermining our independance. Unlike JDW vouchers!

>wants industry representation at all levels of CAMRA including direction and policy
I think this would be a good idea as consumers, pubs and breweries are all involved.

>postulates that quality comes at a cost
I would agree...

Cooking Lager said...

Which candidate is gonna increase member benefits? I reckon £30 of Timbo tokens are in order. As return to free beer festival entry. Free ale to entice people to meetings. Where's the radical ideas that'll save this dying beer club of old codgers?

John Lamb said...

CAMRA claims to be a consumer body,however,paragraph f of its Appendix to the revitalisation proposals,reproduced in Bradley's manifesto,states that CAMRA seeks no involvement in the off trade,despite over 50% of beer sales taking place by off sales.The interests of the majority of consumers are therefore ignored by this 'consumer body' which seems to be undertaking the role of a tenanted publicans' protection society. Bradley,at least, recognises this and I wish him every success.

Oblivious said...

"wants industry representation at all levels of CAMRA including direction and policy "

Would this not be an issue for the EBCU as consumer organization