You will all no doubt remember the recent (and ongoing)arguments about craft beer and how difficult it is to decide what constitutes craft brewing and all the circumlocutions consequently being trotted out? These sort of amounted to "well it is done with care and love" or some such oily euphemism, which meant really, that "craft" is what we want it to be. Fine and dandy I suppose, but maybe one reason why the nascent organisation Craft UK, seems on the face of it, to be dead in the water. Won't this bird fly then? "No" would seem the ready answer, as it makes itself difficult to identify with, seems complicated and without any real conviction. It kind of whistles in the dark. I think if I were a craft brewer, I'd prefer SIBA to carry my torch.
If defining craft is difficult enough, we now have the new (though Zak Avery says it came first) intending to appeal to all comers, Campaign for Really Good Beer. Not good beer mind you, but really good beer. Try defining "really good beer" in a way that anyone will agree with, though I suppose that isn't really the point. The point is probably to cock a snook at CAMRA, to subtly and not so subtly pressure them to change in some way and to have a bit of a laugh all round. The problem with that approach is somewhat obvious. If you don't set out clearly defined aims and don't take yourself seriously, then in the long run, nobody else will either. As Zak Avery says here about Craft UK, though it would seem to fairly apply to both, "it is somehow simultaneously so broad and so narrow as to be meaningless".CRGB seems particularly vulnerable to lack of definitive purpose
So is either actually a bad thing? No of course not. I'm very relaxed about it, both from a CAMRA and a personal point of view. It is good to see that people (however inadequately) are prepared to stick their heads above the parapet and try and kick off something that they feel is needed (however poorly judged) and it does indicate at least that people are taking beer a bit more seriously - more seriously in fact than their curiously ill defined organisations seem to be doing - but that's fine. It takes time to get a proper track to run on, so we have to wait and see in some respects. It could be big, though I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be. Personally though, given that they bothered at all, I'd like to have seen a Real Keg emphasis, as that at least could have begat a movement that could be generally understood, had some ready proponents and would have filled a gap in the market. Neglecting to find a gap, territory that can be claimed, a place of their own if you like, to my mind dooms both of these organisations to being sideshows at best. The other obvious problem as I see it, is that there are overlaps with existing organisations such as CAMRA and SIBA. It is difficult enough to elbow your way into a gap, but much more of a mountain to climb, if you want to challenge existing incumbents.
The optimistic scenario is that CAMRGB will somehow become a populist movement, but there are obvious problems. Really good beer is really just "beer I like". No common sense of purpose and lack of easily assimilated definitions will be a deterrent to many. And if a charge starts to be made to be a member, it is unlikely to retain more than a handful.
No-one wants to pay something for nothing and "really good beer" is as glib as it is meaningless. Both organisations have missed the target here.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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