Friday 6 January 2012

Tell Me What You Think

We talk a lot in these blogs of ours about this and that. Often though we return to old favourite topics like CAMRA and its role. I am often seen defending CAMRA, but I like to think I take a pragmatic view of the issues, though of course, for me at least, supporting quality real ale is a given.

A couple of days ago, I set a scene as to what I think motivates CAMRA in its dealings with Craft Keg and how I think CAMRA sees the subject contextually against its role in promoting and protecting real ale. I mentioned that for us, the battle to ensure real ale survival will never be won as such. We will just have good times and bad times - ups and downs. I also mentioned in the same blog piece, the new wave of keg beers and beer bars and the resurgence of London as a beery city.  These are important to bear in mind. There is change in the air and everyone in the UK beer industry needs to have a think about how they perceive that change, how it affects them and what opportunities it might bring.

We have talked here too,  and in other blogs,  about how all this fits together and tried, often unsuccessfully, to plot a road ahead. CAMRA, as an important component of the British beer scene is looking at it too and I'm part of a small working party reporting to the National Executive on the subject. We are in the process of formulating ideas and I'd like to hear your views against the background I have set out.  While we haven't fixed our remit in stone yet, it is along the lines of "How should CAMRA react to the growth of craft beer and specifically to the small but growing craft keg sector?"

So here's your chance to input to my contribution to the internal debate.  Constructive comments about where we are, where things might go and how you feel CAMRA should react will be very helpful to me in forming my input to the process. Views of definitions would be useful, (though trying to define "craft" may be a bit tricky.)  If you keep your feet on the ground too, that would be helpful. There is no point in unrealistic demands for change.  This is an examination of where we are and how the future might be shaped and not primarily a vehicle for change.  Please remember too that CAMRA is a member's organisation and that for any policy change to happen, one has to convince the membership.  Sorry, but there won't be much by way of feedback, as our NE will be the first to be informed of what we have come up with, but do let me know how you regard the future and CAMRA's role in it, with particular regard to craft keg beer. (Also,  please let me know if you are a CAMRA member or not when you comment and if you want to talk non publicly or off the record about it to me, particularly if you are trade, be it brewer or publican, do let me know.)

Bloggers have a genuine chance here to contribute to my input on the working party on a subject that has already caused a lot of debate within this blog. I hope that as many of you as possible take it up.

Remember too, it isn't just me you need to convince, so please think your arguments through.


The Beer Nut said...

I think CAMRA should drop the use of "real ale" as an objective term. I think it's fine in the organisation's name, and I've no problem with The Definition as such. But I think the term for what The Definition defines should be changed, to "naturally conditioned beer". (I'd have a fair bit of sympathy too with those who'd rather "Real Ale In A Bottle" wasn't a thing, and The Definition could then be "cask-conditioned beer".)

Beer which isn't fully naturally conditioned -- whether it's industrial muck, a force-carbed bottled version of a cask ale, or tiny-batch keg IPA -- is unquestionably, to a normal speaker of English, real.

Real Ale vs., er, whatever the official antonym is, has served its purpose. If CAMRA is serious about keeping the campaign positive, about being a campaign FOR rather than a campaign AGAINST, then it would benefit from adopting a less confrontational tone when speaking about the beers outside its remit and the brewers who make it.

And that's not to speak of CAMRA's excellent work co-ordinating the European Beer Consumers Union. "It's great what you guys are doing, but most of your beer isn't real" is, I'm sure, not terribly encouraging for the other members.

Oh, and Keg Buster can go as well. I doubt that's doing the organisation's image any favours.

Bailey said...

Lots to think about here. We might email you something more detailed and/or write a post.

For starters, though, it would be helpful for CAMRA to be really honest with itself about how it is viewed by members, prospective members and others who will never join but are 'fellow travellers'. At the moment, words which spring to my mind are grumpy, insular, dogmatic, hectoring, old-fashioned... and I'm a member and generally feel warm towards CAMRA! It may be that those perceptions are unfair, or beyond CAMRA's control, but they can't be argued away.

It is that which 'craft keg' and 'craft beer' are seen as a reaction to/refuge from, being (at least superficially) open-minded, modern, adventurous, etc.. The open-ended definition of 'craft beer' actually appeals to me -- it doesn't bother me *at all* that it's imprecise.

Tandleman said...

BN: "If CAMRA is serious about keeping the campaign positive, about being a campaign FOR rather than a campaign AGAINST, then it would benefit from adopting a less confrontational tone when speaking about the beers outside its remit and the brewers who make it."

Couldn't agree more and have said in writing repeatedly. Not unhappy with the rest of it either.

Bailey: Nothing to disagree with there either. Any other views you have - great.

Mark Dredge said...

The fact that CAMRA wants to addres 'the growth of craft beer' suggests that it's out of date to me. Craft beer isn't some wild movement that's happening, it's just a different way of thinking about beer.

I do agree with TBN about 'real' not being a good word to use. The beers in kegs are all real, of course, though not necessarily real ale.

If CAMRA don't recognise craft keg then will it alienate people? If CAMRA do recognise it then will that alienate people?

CAMRA may want to just 'protect' real ale, but does it need protecting now? 900 breweries in the UK suggests that it's doing ok. What's the worst that could happen if CAMRA decided to support all ale and lager in kegs from breweries who make less that, say, 500,000 hectolitres a year?

'Craft beer' is just a term that people are using right now to differentiate beer made on a massive scale to that made on a small scale. 'Craft keg' is not a good term but it illustrates what things are like right now. What is important, I think, is that of the small number of breweries actually making kegged beers, the majority make cask beer as well. Why would CAMRA support half of what a brewery makes but not the other half? (especially when the difference is that one is reseeded with yeast and the other isn't).

As a general beer drinker, and a CAMRA member (though inactive - I'm a member so I can get BEER magazine), I want CAMRA to support everything that I like drinking and promote all good beer in the UK.

Northcote Brewery said...

I think this is a massive step forward, even if it's just tentative baby ones.
For an organisation that has been so against keg, for it now to be looking at it in a potentially positive light is great.
Without wanting to open a can of worms, I can only think be being a bit more open minded about the 'craft' beer scene and all that involves (ie keg as well as cask) is a positive thing. To become a more forward thinking organisation encouraging innovation and supporting change surely would help with the no so great image that CAMRA suffers from.
I am a member, but probably a pretty atypical one if the image is to be believed.

Tandleman said...

Mark: "The fact that CAMRA wants to addres 'the growth of craft beer' suggests that it's out of date to me"

Well if that remark doesn't illustrate "damned if you do damned if you don't" I wouldn't know what would. (As you go on to say yourself).

Anyway they are my words not CAMRA's and the biggest question isn't CAMRA's attitude to craft - most of that is cask anyway - but "craft keg".

You ask "Why would CAMRA support half of what a brewery makes but not the other half? (especially when the difference is that one is reseeded with yeast and the other isn't)."

Probably because it tastes better? But I would say that wouldn't I?

Northcote. Thanks for being positive.

Yvan Seth said...

Bio: Not much of a blogger - though trying to rectify that (time!) Anyway - I'm a CAMRA member (since 2008 IIRC), local CAMRA committee member (for just under year), and also have a keen interest in "craft" beer in the UK. My views do not represent those of CAMRA - and are sometimes in opposition ;)

On the subject of beer dispense, I think there's a few things CAMRA can improve.

1) Scrap objection to cask breathers. Let the CAMRA members vote with the NBSS system and vote down if they believe there's too much CO2 pressure. This will be helpful to many of our contryside pubs! (Plus I'm certain some GBG pubs out there use breathers with local branches being none the wiser - unfair advantage to the honest?)

2) Allow CAMRA festivals to provide in UK-brewed kegged beer. This will take some of the edge of a few noisy objectors. I expect few CAMRA branches will make use of the opportunity and those that do will do it in support of small UK "craft" breweries. It also has potential to provide an interesting cask/keg comparison. Too few people really understand or have experienced the difference. Perhaps allow keg if the same beer is also available as cask?

3) Remove some of the ancient anti-keg sentiment from the website and any other promotional material. (Not too fussed about "Keg Buster", but do agree it isn't funny and is very dated!)

4) Publicly issue guidance to branches & members to be pro-cask and not anti-keg. Advise against use of terms like "fizzy keg beer", etc.

5) As for "real ale" - we should stick with it. It's just a label. Personally I prefer "cask ale" but as far as I see it "real ale" is an invented term that has come to be synonymous with "cask ale".

I think fully supporting keg is one for the more distant future... baby steps! But we can start adjusting the tune now and be a bit more accepting that technology can be used for good!

Alas - I don't hold a lot of hope for any progressiveness from CAMRA on this front. I suspect an incumbent old-school (most of the active membership?) needs to die out first. I think CAMRA will get on just fine as it is, but think it would be better off with some world-view adjustments. As it stands I wonder if it is going to become increasingly difficult to recruit & activate younger beer-savvy members? We need to look to the future more and a little less at the past.

chriso said...

I guess a key question is the extent to which you can be "for" something without being "against" something different. It can be tempting to perceive threats that may be more imagined than real and adopt a more antagonistic stance than may be striclty necessary. Although I know you, and plenty of others, have said that CAMRA is not necessarily "against" alternative dispense & production methods but it is easy to get the impression that it is. Sometimes the "anti" stance seems to be fuelled by ignorance. I have asked several CAMRA activists what their view on keykegs is and been met with blank looks. An editorial I recently read in a branch newsletter referred to a visit to a multitap establishment (unnamed but it's not too tough to narrow the field to a couple of places) on trip to London and finding a "large range of pasteurised kegs" when few, if any of those kegs would actually have been pasteurised.

Tradition is nice, and it should be preserved at some level, but my focus in beer has principally been on quality - yes, I know it's difficult to define. When I started drinking in the early 70's, quality (such as it was) and tradition went hand in hand, albeit inconsistently, and it was easy to fully embrace the CAMRA ethos without conflicts. As the years have passed and my experience has grown I have come to appreciate a much more varied diet (provided the beers in question are "good" of course). That includes foreign beers, foreign style beers made in the UK, experimental beers, rare styles, strong beers and a whole host of other things that would not be regarded as traditional in UK terms by a large number of CAMRA members. It's not uncommon to find members who simply refuse to drink "foreign muck". It's not difficult to find members for whom the concept of quality is largely defined by brown bitters served in good condition - a rather different outlook to mine. I'm not saying those attitudes are all-pervasive but it's easy to get the impression that they are prevalent amongst the old guard, who still tend to dominate things at local level. Which can tend to discourage the newer members and more progressive thinkers from getting actively involved.

Of course, there are always going to be a variety of opinions within any organisation and anyone who expects its policies and the views of all its members to accord with their own is living in cloud cuckoo land. Engagement, disagreement and debate are the means by which any organisation develops and I'd like to see more of that within CAMRA. But I'm not sure what proportion of the membership are up for it. Many are happy to pay the subs and do little more than that. I know, I'm one of them.

beersiveknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beersiveknown said...

Some good comments so far.

I'd like to see more done to recruit and "activate" younger members. Perhaps increased ties with universities by taking part in freshers fairs and suchlike, encouraging more student beer societies.

In terms of alienating people, I'd rather it was the "old guard" alienated (most of them are life members in any case) in order to get the new wave of active members at branch level. Branch committees become stale as new members are scared away by meetings that drag on for too long and get stuck in detail.

I'd also like to see the end of the denigration of BSF staff by other festival workers!

Ed said...

As you've pointed out Tandleman, CAMRA's main focus is cask beer and I'm quite happy for it to stay that way. 'Craft keg' may be better than 'old keg' but it's not as good as cask.

One of CAMRA's contradictions could be removed though, and possibly approval won from beer geeks, if the foreign beer bars at some beer festivals were extended to foreign style beer bars and craft keg from British sold there along with the foreign muck ;-)

Simon said...

Both good cask and good keg are very welcome but as a lapsed CAMRA member I would say one thing. Whilst keg beers can be exceptional the fact that there are thousands of pubs across Britain with the knowledge of how to store and serve cask conditioned beer is exceptional and something that should be preserved. Of course have plenty of keg beers (particularly for strong and speciality beers) but having such a widespread support of a traditional process is fantastic.

CAMRA is about the promotion of good beer and a tradition. That doesn't mean it can't also accept and promote other methods of serving beer and other quality alcoholic drinks. It's not a zero sum game. As an organisation it needs to promote a culture of appreciation for quality be that in cask ale or keg, even wine or food. They don't have to actively promote things other than cask ale, just don't bash them.

Mark, said...

Will blog or email some comments. Underlying theme to consider though - why does CAMRA exist?

Founding principles are, to my knowledge, and interpretation, good beer, good pubs and ensuring that naturally conditioning beer doesn't die.

I don't think any of those things demand anti-keg manifesto, but sometimes it feels that;s what CAMRA adopts, whether officially or by, and I hate to use this word, extremists.

P.S. And on 'real ale', I've mentioned to you in conversations before about my constant battle with our blog name - now you've got me re-running this debate all over again!

Neville Grundy said...

I was at the CAMRA AGM 2 or 3 years ago when the cask breather was debated yet again, and the attempt by some CAMRA branches to gain acceptance of that device was soundly defeated. Compared to accepting modern keg beers, accepting the cask breather would have been a tiny step, so I would suggest to you keg beer fans that any significant acceptance of modern keg is highly unlikely. Were I to have a vote on the issue, I'd vote against any change to CAMRA's current policy on keg beers.

CAMRA is FOR real ale as currently defined. It is also for choice so consequently, despite what the rapidly diminishing real ale Taliban might think, it is not AGAINST anyone else's choice of drink. Interestingly, CAMRA's founders said last year during the campaign's 40th anniversary that they never intended it to be anti anything.

As a CAMRA mag editor, I have told contributors that criticisms of other drinks will be edited out of any articles. You'll read no references to "chemical fizz" or "zombeers" in our mag, and that's how it should be.

Erlangernick said...

Not sure what's more moentous: that CAMRA are looking into 'craft(sic) keg' or that you've capitalized it!

Birkonian said...

In 1973 there were no good keg beers. The problem facing CAMRA in 2012 is that the goalposts have beem moved. Very good keg beer is available and it isn't even fizzy. Also, many branches (not all!) are populated by dyed-in-the-wool types with views unchanged over decades. Younger generations are not attaracted by formal branch meetings and socials preferring to get their views across and organise their lives through social media.

Erlangernick said...

What *should* CAMRA really do though? Announce that they're pleased that keg ain't as bad as it used to be?

I think your time would be better used educating people on the benefits of cask, publicans how to care for it, all that good stuff. Oh, and oversized glasses: that too.

Kegbusters...execrable. Real Ale Twats would actually be better. Helpful, too, in a self-reflective sort of way.

Curmudgeon said...

IMV "real ale in a bottle" is something that needs to be scrapped, or at least greatly downplayed.

When CAMRA was formed, draught in the pub dominated the beer market and there were only a tiny handful of bottle-conditioned beers.

The world has now moved on, and bottle-conditioned vs brewery-conditioned quite simply is not a direct equivalent of cask vs keg.

This distinction simply does not resonate with the general public and to my mind has become profoundly unhelpful.

Erlangernick said...

BTW, I do know how to spell 'capitalise', pity Android doesn't.

chriso said...

Cripes, the CAMRA website has had a facelift. When did that happen? At least it doesn't look like something from the early 90s now. And the outdated definition of keg beer seems to have disappeared. Well, I can't find it anyway.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Sorry Chriso, it is still there: CAMRA FAQ

Many more advisory panels and committee meetings to be had before you can change the game.

Tandleman said...

Birkonian A lot of keg may well be good, but it is fizzy.

chriso said...

Jeff: I think that was on the old site but there was also a much longer, whole page description of what keg beer is - or was - that seems to have gone.

Unknown said...

My only comment, for now, is to say this is all very good indeed. The debate I mean.

I will attempt to say what I think CAMRA should do over on my blog.

StringersBeer said...

@Jeff, @Chriso, and here:
(includes filtered / pasteurised )

Ian Garrett said...

As someone from the ‘Militant Wing’ of CAMRA who has been selling, quite openly, Foreign Beer to unsuspecting victims for over 20 years at CAMRA Festivals I’ll start off by saying that Craft Keg just doesn’t sound right. It sounds a bit like home baked Mothers Pride, not entirely appetising.
As to the question of how CAMRA should react to the changes in the Brewing Industry and the growth of the market sector that has appropriated the tag ‘craft’ to its products then I have to say it should be passive.
As has been said many times CAMRA is about Real Ale, and I’m sorry if some people think that is an outdated and irrelevant term but it’s there, it’s in black and white, in the Articles of CAMRA and in the dictionaries. We can’t undo what we have achieved by turning our back on Real Ale. The question of CAMRA’s acceptance of Keg beer, and I make no distinction as to who is brewing it, is a Red Herring, CAMRA is not waging a campaign against anything, it campaigns for Real Ale. Now some may say it’s not been too effective in halting the march of the big Brewers swallowing the small ones, or halting pub closures, but for a consumer organisation it’s done pretty well.
I’ll admit to once trying to sell Keg Beer at GBBF, actually I didn’t try but that didn’t stop the then fledgling on line community from saying I had. After all they’d seen the evidence, big cylinders under the bar! And Porterhouse actually suggested how we could serve their beers without CO2.
But I digress, we are witnessing a new growth in the beer market with many of our newer brewers looking to Keg beers to extend their range of beers, their belief that some beers are better served chilled, under CO2 pressure, is their prerogative. And some of them are very tasty. But just because a brewery puts beer in Kegs alongside Cask conditioned beer should have no influence on CAMRA support for that brewery. After all we have plenty of Brewers who pasteurise and can or bottle beers, we don’t denigrate them for it, we just don’t sell those products at CAMRA Beer Festivals.
I’ve been to sample a few new keg beers recently where there was an opportunity to sample alongside the cask versions, and the vast majority of time I preferred to cask. But then I’ve been drinking cask beer for a long time, but I’ve also been drinking keg beer for a long time so it must just be down to my taste.
One thing that I have heard direct from the trade is that the increase in new Keg has brought its own problems, too many brewers trying to get their beer into too few pubs and bars. Keg beer needs a Keg Font, most of them are already tied, branded and badged so the expense of putting a new Font in is holding them back.
And i’ll finish with a question, why is the Keg version always dearer than the cask?

Ian said...

bugger, no edit function.. what I meant to say was that i preferred the cask

Curmudgeon said...

"CAMRA is not waging a campaign against anything, it campaigns for Real Ale"

Of course, but over the years CAMRA has become a general repository for "beer enthusiasm", which goes way beyond real ale, as defined by CAMRA. Most beer enthusiasts are members of CAMRA, but a growing proportion of the beer they're enthusiastic about is outside CAMRA's remit. Which inevitably causes a problem.

And there remain plenty of diehards in the organisation who refuse to countenace anything that isn't cask- or bottle-conditioned.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Tandleman,

Until there are generally accepted definitions of “craft beer” and “craft keg” I and many others, I'm sure, will be unable to respond to your question in an objective, logical, manner.

Therefore unless anybody can let me know what they are I'll just leave this issue mainly to the 'fan boys'(and girls) of say Camden, Lovibonds and, to me anyway, surprisingly Thwaites; see below.

John Holland an 'ordinary'CAMRA member.
PS My Google Account not working hence my becoming anonymous.

Ian Worden said...

I found your comment on "the resurgence of London as a beery city" amusing - I live in East London and have just 5 decent pubs within 20-25 minutes walk (plus others that don't sell anything I want to buy). Getting to the few specialist bars in the centre is a lengthy and expensive experience. 1 of the 5 pubs, which reopened last year, does offer craft keg, but rarely seems to sell any - I think price is a big factor.

On CAMRA, I looked at the aims listed on page 5 of BEER and find them a complete mishmash. The list starts with "good quality real ale" - ie not ALL real ale - but then mentions the aspiration to be the "consumer's champion" in the "beer and drinks industry". If it were, it would be against minimum pricing (which will eventually hit pubs as well) and would campaign properly against high pub prices, the real reason for closures (although I agree that the smoking ban was a tipping point for many). When new, it camapigned against low strength watered down beers (I think anything under 3% was excluded from the GBG). Now, it encourages them, in nanny state fashion.

I think that part of the problem is at the centre, where a lean organisation of beer enthusiasts has been replaced by a bloated bereaucracy seeking new ways to justify their existence.

I think CAMRA needs to revert to its origins but recognise that in the real world people don't decide on their drinks by the dispense system. It should accept that there is a lot of poor quality real ale about as well as poor quality keg.

The focus should be on good quality beer of all kinds served at an affordable price (I'm not yet on a pension, but I suspect that more and more members are). High carbonation is a barrier to quality in my view, but I've no objection to normal beer from Bavaria, for example. I recently tried some US craft (keg) in the US and would willingly drink some of these in place of many real ales (but not at £7 a pint).

I've been a CAMRA member for 30 years and was 'active' for the first half of that time. If I hadn't signed up for life membership years ago I would have lapsed by now.

Curmudgeon said...

"I think that part of the problem is at the centre, where a lean organisation of beer enthusiasts has been replaced by a bloated bereaucracy seeking new ways to justify their existence."

Indeed, and they come up with all kinds of politically correct "campaigns" that just do not resonate with the membership.

To read many CAMRA publications, you would get the impression that the organisation's main focus was to oppose planning permission to turn failed pubs into something more viable.

Leigh said...

Again, maybe a simplistic view of things (which I tend to do) but for me, what I'd like to see CAMRA do adopt a less confrontational approach - keg, bloggers. Bloggers are not 'noisesome' - ask the hundreds of breweries who have enjoyed increased revenue through instant publicity and support that bloggers can - and have - provide. Many bloggers are CAMRA members, and I think that's sometimes forgotten. (realise your post may not have been about this subject per se, but you get my drift).

Nick Boley said...

I, for one, am pleased that this debate is happening now. It is long overdue. I have been a CAMRA member for 35+ years and find the extremist fundamentalist positions of many at national AGMs disheartening to say the least. It puts many active members off attending because the debate is arcane, detailed and seemingly often irrelevant to most of us in the campaign. The fact that many of these members are of my generation depresses me, as we all get tarred with that particular brush at times.
My view is simple: the new wave of so-called craft-keg brewers have far more in common with us in CAMRA than they don't. They are passionate about quality beer, beer styles, marketing beer more widely, etc. OK, so many of us prefer cask ale, but some of these new keg beers aren't bad and a million times better than Watney's Red. Many of their bottled beers are better-tasting and less gassy than many Real Ale in A Bottle beers.
These new craft brewers are not CAMRA's enemies - we know who are (PubCos, supermarkets, fascist health police, Treasury, etc) - and so fighting them or wasting time on arcane debates is pointless and counter-productive. Yes, cask beer comes first, after that perhaps we should look at good beer.
The cask breather debate has also been raised. As a chemist, I have looked at the chemistry of the application of a cask breather and can find no reason for extraneous CO2 to get into the beer.

chriso said...

Nick Boley: The issues of gas, and of cask breathers, are interesting. Even most CAMRA diehards like a bit of gas in their beer, provided it gets there "naturally". If memory serves me well, a major original objection to extraneous gas was that keg beers were invariably over-fizzy, using the carbonic bite it produced as a substitute for brewing properly. As you say, many bottle-conditioned beers are, frankly, not very well made, with over-primed, over-carbonated beers being relatively common. So we now have the concept of "good" gas vs "bad" gas, irrespective of the level of carbonation involved, and determined by whether it is produced naturally or introduced by some other means. Now, I don't have sufficient scientific expertise to know whether there is a qualitative difference between the effects of natural & artificial gas, but I've not seen any technical analysis exploring the issue. Yes, natural is nice in general terms, but, if the difference to the product in my glass is negligible, it's not going to be something I get too het up about.

StringersBeer said...

@chriso: "difference between the effects of natural & artificial gas"(!) would be a religious question rather than a scientific one.

Nick Boley said...

Chriso: Your points re carbonation are well-made. Referring to Tandleman's blog today (10th) Thornbridge certainly have got the bottled-conditioned aspect well sorted. Closest bottle-conditioned to draught I've had for a while.
Back to the ask breather argument. Well, CO2 is CO2. If a cask breather stops the beer going flat it can't be bad. The correct level of carbonation for fresh beer can be maintained, and the amount of oxygen let in is also reduced, which retards staling. What it does is keeps all this in some sort of equilibrium, without making the beer gassy or arresting secondary fermentation, as if more CO2 is naturally produced by this route, the demand valve will not let any more in, and may well release pressure - as I say it should keep things steady.

Curmudgeon said...

"Thornbridge certainly have got the bottled-conditioned aspect well sorted. Closest bottle-conditioned to draught I've had for a while."

I didn't actually think Thornbridge's bottled beers were bottle-conditioned.

Tandleman said...

Maybe some are? I just don't know.

Lorraine said...

You're right to say the campaigns don't resonate with much of the membership.I have been a member of CAMRA for 6 months and am not sure I'll renew next year - I reckon it will be better for the industry if I spend the membership fee at one of my local brewery taps (and 50p off a pint of teeth jarringly cold ale at the JDW is unlikely to convince me otherwise). But this debate gives me a bit of hope. I would like to see CAMRA at least back off anti-keg sentiment, if not begin to support craft keg (or whatever). Evidence, rather than opinion, might be helpful though. Is there evidence for craft keg opening up the market for real ale? E.g. do we know of pubs that have stayed away from cask ale (because of shelf life or not knowing how to look after it )but have started to stock craft keg and then moved onto cask? How many of us have persuaded a mate to try something kegged as a 'safe' intro to flavoursome beer before trying them on some real ale?
If craft keg can be demonstrably seen as complementary rather thab a threat, perhaps the old guard will see sense.

The Beer Nut said...

do we know of pubs that have stayed away from cask ale (because of shelf life or not knowing how to look after it )but have started to stock craft keg and then moved onto cask?
This is what's happening in Ireland, though it's probably more about their customers' interest in cask beer than the technicalities of keeping it. Craft keg beers get them weaned off the mass-market stuff, and cask follows from that when the pub's customer base is big enough.

Erlangernick said...

I've found the bottled Kipling to disappoint some, at least based on the *one* pint I've managed to enjoy of casked stuff -- had to travel to Nuremberg, of all places, to get that though. Just isn't as hoppy, and comes across a bit sweet at 5%.

Wild Swan, OTOH, is fecking brilliant in the bottle! Seems more characterful than the cask I enjoyed a couple of times last year at the Sheffield Tap. And Jaipur seems about the same as casked.

None of them are bottle conditioned though; I'd say Thornbridge have got non-bottle-conditioned bottling sorted.

Phil said...

What was that story I half-understood about Thornbridge and centrifuges, to the effect that while their bottled beer was unfiltered you'd still have to look pretty hard before you found a molecule of active yeast? Something about labelling, too - the label on one of theirs originally said it was bottle-conditioned (because unfiltered) then didn't (because so little yeast actually present)? Somebody must remember this better than I do (it would be hard to remember it less well).

FrFintonStack said...

I have to echo the call on Kegbusters: firstly, the name seems at odds with CAMRA's constant claim that it exists to promote cask ale, not denigrate other kinds, but more importantly, it does a better job than Real Ale Twats of making real ale drinkers look like, well, twats.

The December edition was staggeringly wrong-headed for an organisation that is trying to attract more female members and to turn women onto real ale: a bunch of rubgy-shirts making dick-jokes and behaving like boorish idiots you'd leave a great pub to avoid, the presentation of women purely as sex-objects, and a final scene that comes pretty close to actively promoting prostitution? It's even more ill-thought out than the "beer goddess" campaign.

But congratulations where it's due on finally ditching the "pint head" campaign.

I'll also echo Beer Nut's comments on the issue of "real ale": I'll also point out that CAMRA actually go a step further than that and explicitely conflate "real ale" with good beer (despite their frequent claims to the contrary) in the title of their flagship publication.

Anonymous said...

But what about the smoking ban?

Neville Grundy said...

Anon: what about it?

Bailey said...

CAMRA's response to the appearance of craft beer in kegs should be something to do with the smoking ban? That's... how would that.. wha..?

The Beer Nut said...

Anonymous, please draw RedNev and Bailey an infographic.

Unknown said...

Isn't mentioning the smoking ban the beer blogging equivalent of Godwin's Law?

As for what I think... I think thinking's so important, Baldrick. CAMRA have no need to 'react' to 'craft keg'. After all, it's a campaign *for* something.

I'll tell you more over a glass of something german and gassy at NWAF...

Neville Grundy said...

Beer Nut: are you in the habit of patronising people? If so, it's rather arrogant.

Neville Grundy said...

Beer Nut: are you in the habit of patronising people? If so, it's rather arrogant.

The Beer Nut said...

Is it less arrogant if it's only occasional?

I was referring to the recent fashion for infographics on Boak & Bailey's blog and Twitter.

Everything's better with an infographic.

Tandleman said...

RedNev - Anonymous comments always run the risk of a bit of stick, though in this case, I don't think it was.

Rob Sterowski said...

Phil: We had a long discussion about Thornbridge’s bottled beer last year, din’t we? It’s not filtered, but centrifuged instead (which leads to all manner of entertaining arguments about whether there’s philosophically any difference between filtering yeast out, centrifuging it or just letting it sink to the bottom very slowly). It’s not bottle-conditioned because it’s already carbonated before it goes into the bottle.