Thursday, 28 July 2011

Let's Just Have a Good Time

Last Tuesday I read a comment (by someone called String)on Mark Dredge's blog which made me a little annoyed. Well maybe not annoyed - exasperated would be a better description. This is what the commentator said with regard to the  Brew Dog and the Great British Beer Festival "issue". "I think the main issue is that the Great British BEER Festival is festival celebrating BEER. Personally I wonder whether that means that the GBBF is outgrowing CAMRA & their approach. Is it time someone else organised this countries flagship beer festival? I think so."

The comments about CAMRA and  Brew Dog were equally odd and one has to wonder why Brew Dog inspire such loyalty in some limited quarters and why their supporters use anything they can as a stick to beat CAMRA with.  Continuing with that metaphor, I reckon though that CAMRA undoubtedly made a rod for their own back in trying to accommodate Brew Dog in the way they did.  It would have been far simpler and less open to manipulation or interpretation, just to say to Brew Dog "of course we'd love you to come under the same conditions as everyone else.  Supply cask beer in 18s (as you do to the pub trade) and we'll sell it accordingly."  In my view, given Brew Dog's reputation, anything else was leaving CAMRA as a hostage to fortune. And so it came to pass, despite claim and counter claim.

Given that the Great British Beer Festival is coming up next week, let's have a look at the title.  It is short and to the point. It is well known and it describes I believe, the fact that is a festival and a big one, with beer. "Great" seems reasonably OK in that context.  What about "beer" then?  Well there will be beer - well over 1000 different ones - and while you can argue about whether the term encompasses all beer, it would still seem reasonable that as it is CAMRA's Festival, CAMRA can call it what they want and sell what they want. I am willing to bet that apart from a few geeks and disappointed brewers, nobody else gives a hoot. Everyone else will just be there enjoying themselves and will have in their hand, a beer that they are very happy with. Beer is after all of the moment.

So back to the comment above.  Firstly it may well be the leading beer festival in the country, but it isn't the country's beer festival; it is CAMRA's.  That means that CAMRA runs it as it sees fit and does what CAMRA wants to do to promote its aims.  The idea that this could be handed over to anyone else to run is ludicrous, would make a cat laugh and is just plain daft.  Any commercially run beer festival on a similar scale would likely be prohibitively expensive to attend and to buy beer.  Does anyone doubt the immense subsidy CAMRA volunteers provide by their free labour and expertise?  Not that this means it can't be improved. Each year changes are made to many things to try and make it better, but there will always be some that feel it should have this or that beer, or that some aspect could be changed for the better, but at the final reckoning, very few will leave disappointed by what is on offer to them.  There will be something for everyone.  And despite Brew Dog claiming that CAMRA festivals are  “stuffy, boring or misguided” I rather doubt that they will be missed, or that anyone there won't have just as good a time without them.

So let's look forward to next week. So many beers to try, so much good fun and good company. There will be a great atmosphere and a fine old time to be had is far more important than worrying about areas of contention that are of limited interest to the vast majority of attendees.

Let's just all go and have a good time.

And dammit I have ended up talking about you know who again. It still works for them.
Nor am I saying that a large non CAMRA run festival couldn't be organised, but don't doubt the difficulties in doing so.


SteveF said...

I'm sorry, I will too be preoccupied with cask vs keg, how outdated CAMRA are and the terrible injustices done to Brewdog etc etc to have a good time. I am sure that these concerns also apply to 99% of other attendees so it promises to be a miserable affair indeed. Oh well.

Cuhbert Rizla said...

Whilst I applaud Brewdog's skill in grabbing publicity their beers are a triumph of marketing over taste.

I've tried most of them and frankly they're shite.

Here in the rarefied beer blogosphere they may persuade the sandalistas to cream their pants in delight.

But Joe Public ( and I tend to agree with Cookie on this) couldn't give a rat's ass about some obscure Scottish brewery.

Pete Green said...

Do they supply 18s to the pub trade?

I was under the impression they dealt exclusively in 9s.

I also have real doubts (having spoken to one of the lead brewers fairly recently) whether they ever even had the stock to supply.

Ron Pattinson said...

I'd love to see someone else try to organise a festival on a similar scale to the GBBF.

The people complaining about the GBBF never will organise their own festival because they're just a bunch of whingers.

The ingratitude to the hundreds of who give up their holidays to run the festival is staggering.

Unknown said...

Split feelings on this one.

I think the edges have been worn off the point about the name which does make it sound a bit daft. But my gripe here is that when it suits CAMRA (eg when there are arguments about craft keg) the response is "it's in the name, stupid, we can't possibly do anything other than real ale. Look at the name. It's what we're about."

But then at other times CAMRA lays claim to the term 'beer', which is much broader than real ale. I accept that this is a product of forty years' history and all sorts of stuff, but it can look like a shifting of the goalposts to suit whatever argument we're having.

On the other hand, I clicked on this post because of the title and came here to emphatically agree with it. Ten years ago I used to go to GBBF and find myself seething with anger and frustration as all sorts of things. But I still went every year.

For the past three or four years I've gone with genuine excitement and have not been disappointed. I don't know who has done what to improve things but improve it most definitely has. It's a triumph of an event. There will always be holes to pick, and the dramatic growth of the BSF bar will continue to prod some of the craft/cask/keg arguments back into life, but anyone who attends GGBF with a view to doing anything other than having a thoroughly good time is an arse.

It's a festival. Nowadays it even feels like a festival. Let's got there and be festive.

Anonymous said...

It is unbelievable silly to write "one has to wonder why Brew Dog inspire such loyalty in some limited quarters... " and then continue to display the same degree of niche loyalty in your own limited corner.

Look, have fun. I have even enjoyed getting to know about the volunteer aspect festival and CAMRA through this discussion but to suggest that there is anything purer in the way CAMRA goes about its business than any other hobby club is getting just a bit weird. But it could be celebrating left-handedness or great shoes for men of the 1930s and if volunteers came out in droves and everyone had a great time, well that would be great, too, on this measure.

Have fun. Many, sure, would find it stuffy - but if you don't who cares? There may be unintended consequences of stifling innovation in the UK beer market and inclusion of the bland with the good due to overly fine focus of CAMRA but, as you say, "CAMRA runs it as it sees fit and does what CAMRA wants to do to promote its aims." If you like it and are having fun there is no reason to make excuses or to be overly sensitive.

A Good Beer Blog

SteveF said...

"There may be unintended consequences of stifling innovation in the UK beer market"

Do you have any evidence that CAMRA are doing this?

Dubbel said...

I'm with Pete Brown, firmly on the fence on this one.

Further to the "it's in the name" argument and definitions of Beer, it is of course the Great BRITISH Beer Festival and, of course, the Bar Sans Frontiers has been a revelation for a number of years. In fact it's quite feasible that I will spend the day there without drinking a single British beer and loving every moment. If the Foreign bar has been embraced by CAMRA, why not craft beer dispensed by other means?

I have a personal preference for cask conditioned beer and will always naturally gravitate (pun-intended) towards that form of dipense. It would be no skin off my nose, however, if there were some gassy fonts on offer for those who prefer some CO2 - the knuckle-draggers ;-)

That said BrewDog are undoubtedly troublemakers who are more concerned with gaining extra publicity than new fanboys at the finest beer industry event in the country.

Can't wait for Tuesday :-)

Anonymous said...

"Do you have any evidence that CAMRA are doing this?"

Unintended consequences are not "done" - they occur within any system. I am not describing an evil plan but what occurs when ever a large or new thing comes into prominence. In this case, there is only so much national attention span and (even in the UK) beer consumption capacity. By having a large entity like CAMRA plugging product "X" successfully, it is not only expected but necessary that its competitor product "Y" has a harder time getting ahead.

In this case, as CAMRA supports only a niche brewing technique (albeit usually a welcome one but, what with bad real ale being somewhat protected by CAMRA, not all) within the overall beer scene and then labeling that sector of beer as "beer", it creates difficulties for other forms of beer to get attention.

CAMRA members may say you do not care or even that this is actually the point but it is obvious that promoting real ale successfully is not only leaning up against mass industrial gak beer but other forms of good beer. In the US (less so here in Canada) there is a similar phenomena occurring where "national craft" brands are perhaps unexpectedly putting pressure on local craft brewers by taking shelf space.

A Good Beer Blog

SteveF said...

So no, you don't have any evidence.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Steve, for confirming there was another denser blog comment to be made out there in the universe.

But as long as we are taking this approach, let's be honest about your relationship to thinking about this question. You are displaying the syndrome of a man who loves a lovable, kind, loyal, cross eyed dog. He tells everyone how lovable, kind and loyal while everyone else thinks "my fuck, that's a cross eyed dog."

A response like that brings back visions of that VIZ comic strip and little else. Thanks for playing to stereotype, SteveF.


SteveF said...

That's quite a leap you've just made there Alan. I would respond in kind but a) I've only read two of your posts and therefore lack sufficient information for a personal attack (as do you, though it didn't stop you) b) Tandy has written a post asking people to be positive so I don't want to derail things with a negative slanging match.

Having said that, you made a fairly significant claim. I asked for evidence that you back it up. You provided conjecture, in my opinion, not evidence. I'm a CAMRA member (of little over a year) but not an uncritial one. I'm perfectly happy to accept good evidence that CAMRA are stifling innovation - I don't have any great personal stake in the matter. But you haven't provided this. Instead, you posted conjecture then a weird thing about Viz for some reason.

Ron Pattinson said...

Alan, I'm with Steve F. I can't see how CAMRA "stifles innovation". The exact opposite, if anything.

Calling it some weird special interest club entirely misses the point.

Anonymous said...

Steve and Ron, what I describes is not only at place but fundamental in any marketplace let alone other systems. Sometimes it is called the difference between systematic discrimination or systemic discrimination. But it is also about the marketplace of ideas and how people react to success in making decision as consumers or otherwise.

If you do not see that and understand that to be a fundamental for of evidence in relation to the discussion, I don't know what to tell you. To call it conjecture is, with respect, slim and, as noted, like the man who loves the cross eyed dog.

Feel free to not care dismiss me and not continue. It's your club, I'm not looking for an argument and I don't really care either. I am only trying to describe what I see as the plain implications of the written text above.


Tandleman said...

Alan - It is tempting when one is called "unbelievably silly" to be offended. Then of course it isn't the first time you've had a pop at me and in the same personal way. (You were wrong then too I recall. I think you also hinted I was weird - or at least my reasoning is - but that was in respect of something that wasn't actually said or even implied by me. Now I see you have a snide go at Steve F and are dismissive of Ron. Pattern emerging?

Would it bother me if Brew Dog's keykeg beers were there? No. Does it matter that they aren't? No. Like many though I find their cask beers to be good on the whole and would have liked to see some innovation there. Why would innovation only be non cask conditioned anyway? Perhaps someone could explain that?

As for the GBBF being stuffy? You haven't been have you? Or haven't been in recent years - see Pete Brown.

You do make one good point when you say that CAMRA (and I'm paraphrasing here) don't do enough to counter bad quality real ale. Agreed 100%. That's why I insisted this aspect was given greater prominence in the Strategic Review. It is one of the most important things CAMRA could do. I will be watching that one closely.

Oh for a guy that isn't looking for an argument, might I observe that you seem to be going about it the wrong way?

SteveF said...

Calling it our club is a fairly transparent rhetorical trick - it's designed to portray us as closed minded clique members, out to defend our insular little circle at all costs. However, as I stated, this isn't true. I've been a member for a short period of time and have no great emotional ties to the organisation. Moreover, I'm not an uncritical supporter; I've written before that I think CAMRA should be more open towards alternative methods of dispense, for example.

Now, feel free to insult me with reference to Viz if you like, but I really don't think what you've provided is evidence. I'm perfectly happy to admit that I'm not an economist and I'm perfectly happy to accept this criticism of CAMRA, if it's true.

However, at this stage, it seems to me that you've provided a generality and not much more. Or, to put it another way, you've seemingly described a theory. You've then stated that it applies to CAMRA. And that's about it. In my line of work, when I propose a theory I'm expected to do a bit more than that. As I say, economics isn't my area of expertise, so perhaps someone well versed in that area would see your comment and recognise it as sufficient in and of itself. But to persuade this Viz character you'd have to lower yourself down to my level and go beyond the theory and into actual evidence.

SteveF said...

Oh and for the record, I will be going and having a great time. Partly because there's going to be loads of great beer to drink and partly because it's my birthday next week. Hooray!

Erlangerni said...

Nice post as usual.

What is innovative about leggings beer? What does "open to other methods of dispense" mean?

Mind you, I'm sitting in a Franconian Biergarten drinking unfiltered, hoppy Kellerbier that was squished from a 1000 litre plastic bag in a tank by an air compressor. (For 3,50€ per Liter.)

ErlangerNick said...

Fecking smartphone. That should be "kegging" of course.

Professor Pie-Tin said...


I think I preferred " leggings beer " - surely a phrase redolent of pouring a large amount of alcohol down a bird's throat in an attempt to prise 'em off. "

Wahaay !

StringersBeer said...

Ah, that was the "String" who'd never heard of CAMRA's winter ales fest. Sigh.

re. the BD getting CAMRA to "ban" them thing, who was surprised? Seriously?

John B. said...

Just a thought - but if CAMRA are in the business of promoting real ale why do they run a beer festival not a real ale festival? Seems like there's a big campaigning 'miss' to me there.

Then again, if you're selling cider, perry and foreign non-BCA bottles (none of which are real ales) you'd have a problem.

Seems to me CAMRA has got to decide exactly what it wants to support.

Ghost Drinker said...

Good post Tandy, Well said! I shall be hunting you down to buy you a drink on Tuesday if your around :)

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Brewdog vs CAMRA, cask vs keg, I don't really care, Im going to have fun and if it's half as good as last year I'll be happy!

see you there - hopefully with a big glass of pink beer in your hand like last year ;op

Martyn Cornell said...

What's underlying Alan's point, I think, is that North Americans look at the whole Camra-v-BrewDog thing with bemusement. To them, it's like Sunni versus Shia.

It IS irrelevant, though, because it's in the pubs and bars that BrewDog and other "craft keg" brewers will succeed or fail, not at any sort of festival, Camra-organised or otherwise.

I'm bemused, however, by the apparent need for some to indulge in insults and inaccurate putdowns rather than argument - "obscure Scottish brewery" Mr Rizla? Their website gets far more hits than Camra's does, and ranks quite a bit higher than, eg, Fuller's.

Neville Grundy said...

Tandleman: it's good to see how everyone here has risen to your call to have a good time. It's been a pleasure to read a thread without the tedious craft v. keg debate (I feel a yawn coming on already), the "Brewdog good or bad?" schism, or the "CAMRA should make its mind up" squabble.

Some of you bloggers certainly know how to have a good time! I'm jealous.

Anonymous said...

I have to make clear as well, that Mr. T and I as well as Steve have sent emails and comments via other parts of the internet that include my combination of saucy satisfaction and sincere regret for being such a shit as I was. I don't know if there is a word for that emotion. There is likely one in Finnish.

To Martyn's comment, it is bemusement but also sheer unadulterated gut wrenching jealousy. I wish I could go have fun at the GBBF, too, and received my well deserved kick in the arse and then a sharing of many pints.


coxy said...

I had a pint of that cross eyed dog and hated it,too cold and probably oneOf those trick fonts that made keg look like cask. I like brewdog beers ,but laugh at idea they are new and trendy ,just read the nerd speak on the side of the bottles,defo written by the spotty virgin type, anything sold in the devil Tesco cannot be cool.maybe we should have a great British dog fest where brewdog and Alans cross eyed dog can lord it over us, they can have physical fights between men dressed in keg costumes and cask costumes,or we could just have a right good piss up at the GBBBF and celebrate with fun and drink.

Sat In A Pub said...


Now I'm bemused. You seem to be indulging in a spot of "my dad is bigger than your dad." I will quite happily take your word for it that Brewdog get more hits than Camra and ranks higher than Fullers.

But so what?

Surely all that proves is that, er, they get more hits and rank higher. Not very meaningful in the real world, I'd say.

Tandleman said...

How does Martyn know? Is this another aspect of geekery that has eluded me? Is there a table published somewhere or is this done as a hobby? Like phone hacking.


Anonymous said...

Now that I am being positive and helpful in everything every day, I can share this... because it is nice to share.


Tandleman said...

Thanks Alan. CAMRA seems to rank higher in GB at least.

beersiveknown said...

website hits in this situation don't mean much. local camra websites aren't part of the national site whereas everything brewdog is under the same domain. Also brewdog has a younger audience than camra so a greater proprtion of its supporters will be web savvy. Not to mention that people will refresh browser windows (new "hit") when waiting for the launch of a new beer. There's so many other reasons why website hits mean very little in this context but I'm tired and going to bed. Goodnight

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