Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Beer Wars

I was made aware on Sunday of a piece in the Newcastle based Sunday Sun which reported on a so called fracas at a meeting of CAMRA Tyneside and Northumberland Branch. It seems there was some kind of fall out over what breweries should be represented at Newcastle Beer Festival. Cue a "young" versus "old" ding dong about this, in which it is hard to discern what the truth or indeed the problem actually is, but seemingly it evolved into an argument about web sites and more. None of it, outside our beery little world,  seems that newsworthy to me, but maybe it was a quiet news day at the Sunday Sun.

 A proposal to include more breweries from the local area than the Beer Orderer intended was, it seems, democratically defeated. There was also a web site "offered" to the CAMRA Branch and turned down by them, which was a cue for a flurry of rattles to be thrown from prams.  Oddly, the branch has an official website already and even more oddly, the site offered has the same name as the official one - "Canny Bevvy". It can be found at http://www.cannybevvy.com/ and the official one can be found at http://www.cannybevvy.co.uk/. The unofficial one advocates keg beer and that CAMRA should embrace it and the official one has a note "Beware of Imitations.  That gives you a flavour of things.  Now actively supporting keg beer is all well and good if that is your point of view, but since it isn't CAMRA policy, you are on a loser there. Unless you toddle along to the National AGM and persuade it of the need to change, it isn't going to happen and local branches have no authority to vary this national policy. It is unsurprising that this idea met resistance. The web site offered seems on the face of it at least, to be no better in its design than the official one, so God knows what that is all about. Content presumably and probably nothing more than a good old fashioned power struggle.

To me looking at this from the inside as it were, I just wish that locally we had enough young members that want to be involved, coming along to meetings and making proposals, though I like to think we'd work together and find common ground.  I would also say that if push came to shove, I would fight like a demon to uphold CAMRA national policies rather than let my branch go maverick.  Democracy is important. In short there is a right way and a wrong way to achieve change. And it does take time.

Either way, I find all this a bit unseemly.  Even if there is more to it than meets the eye, surely there has to be a way for minds to meet here without falling out publicly? Beer drinking is a broad church and division is bad for all of us.

Also seems someone from the meeting grassed it all off to the Sunday Sun, so it is now public domain.  I don't think I'd have commented otherwise. Still not sure I should have.


beersiveknown said...

I wonder if Mr Mitchell was in involved...

Cooking Lager said...

Great stuff. Best laugh all morning. Tankards at dawn.

Wait till I turn up with my AGM proposal that Fosters lager be recognised as the best beer in the world.

Tyson said...

CAMRA's dirty washing hung out for everyone to see?! Presumably the "young pretender" who got the Sun involved calculated that it would put exert some sort of pressure. A very high risk strategy as once it's all out in the open, positions are bound to harden.

Tyson said...


That is heresy...Everyone knows that it's Carlsberg.

Bailey said...

Think the author of the article is into beer himself and moves in beery circles on Twitter, so probably picked the story up there.

Cooking Lager said...


Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People's Front?
Reg: Fuck off! We're the People's Front of Judea

Tandleman said...

I got this too, which doesn't seem to have appeared in my comments:

Michael has left a new comment on your post "Beer Wars":

A few points about the Sunday Sun article.
The story was initially covered in The Journal's beer column, by the same reporter, on April 27 (three days after the meeting). It should be said that at no point did anyone "grass it off" to the newspapers.
At that time the website being offered to the Tyneside Camra branch did not support keg, or fruit cider, or in fact any of the breweries outside the branch area. It was, and had intended to be a local Camra website (with all the constraints that brings).
It had the same name as the .co.uk as it was also intended to more closely reflect the new design of the branch magazine, Canny Bevvy, which had recently been redesigned by the same people behind the .com offering.
At that stage the Tyneside branch website was the "old site" their website now refers to. At the meeting in question it was said that the web editors had been looking into doing a new site, but were waiting for a new CMS from Camra HQ and had no timescale for implementing it.
Subsequent to the meeting, and members comments that they did not want a new site it was decided by those who had built the .com to expand it to support all North East beer, cider, pubs and breweries and, at the request of Camra's NE regional director, remove anything suggesting a direct link to the campaign, which was agreed to.
Then five days ago a new Tyneside Camra website was, out of the blue, launched using all the more modern technology that those behind .com had been advocating.

Posted by Michael to Tandleman's Beer Blog at 15 May 2012 11:09

Tandleman said...

That makes their anger all the more understandable. Or see what Cookie said.

redpola said...

I don't recall CAMRA contacting me to vote on the keg vs cask debate. Maybe that vote is overdue? And maybe affecting branch policy then representing that at AGM alienates those of us who are here for great beer, not politics?

A 100% representation policy is as good a basis for a constitution as a regional policy mechanism- some would argue a better one.

Tandleman said...

You have one vote like everyone else if you are a member. You don't represent anyone other than yourself at the CAMRA AGM.

Cooking Lager said...

All organisations have differences of opinion. The comedy isn't that it occurred but how it was managed. People can stay or go if they don't like the outcome, and that can be related more to how differences are managed and how people are respected.

But to end up with 2 competing websites? That's a failure of the chairman to manage.

Sid Boggle said...

It's a challenge to CAMRA orthodoxy. Schism! Schism!

The Catholics (the closest organisation to CAMRA I can think of) tortured and burnt their heretics... 8-)

I dunno Tandie - City win the Prem, Gary Neville coaching for England, CAMRA members drinking keg, dogs and cats living together - somebody needs to check that Mayan calendar again 'cos it sounds like the end of days to me

cannyjan said...

The cannybevv.com website was launched without the chairman's knowledge and he asked those responsible to take it down as soon as he found out about it. This was not done. We were already in the process of updating cannybevvy.co.uk but were also heavily involved in the 36th Newcastle Beer Festival which we felt was more important. The new cannybevvy.co.uk went live after the beer festival as we intended.

redpola said...

How do I vote without attending the AGM? By post? Email?

Tandleman said...

You can change that by going to the AGM and persuading others it is a good idea. That's the rules and that's the way to change them.

pillboxhunter said...

I notice that Michael says that the new cannybevvy.co.uk site appeared out of the blue. It will have appeared to do so from his point of view but the committee and some branch members were aware it was coming as they had been notified and asked for comments on early versions - unlike the .com version. The main problem with the .com site was that it isn't compliant with the new Euro "cookie" law and there was little point in having a brand new site that wasn't compliant and would have to be changed. Simply deciding to ignore the law and hope it goes away isn't very sensible either.
Anyway there is more to come on the .co.uk site with a members only section due soon.

Stono said...

I just dont feel I know enough about the background of whats gone on to comment on this particular instance, so I wont.

instead the point Id make is more general, as Ive seen it few times where branches have had fallings out with members or had strong disagreements on issues & campaigns and that is the branch has to take the decisions,which are made by the majority and all branch members must accept and abide by that process.

The way to change peoples minds isnt to fight them, throw toys out of the pram,remove your support from them or circumvent them. Its to accept the decision, support it if you can, and if you still feel strongly its the wrong thing to be doing, help shift those views by carrying people along with you, demonstrate the value of what your suggesting and dont exclude people from it.

youll find people are far more willing to listen, if you remove the confrontational from it. Its most definately not a war.

Rob Nicholson said...

The problem I have with fighting like a demon to upload CAMRA national policy is when it takes SO long to get it changed and when said policy is so anal it makes my teeth hurt. Fruit added to cider is my current pet hate. CAMRA *is* full of cliques and so say otherwise is delusion. You say drinking is a "broad church" which it is but CAMRA certainly isn't broad (aside from waist lines).

Rob Nicholson said...

>How do I vote without attending the AGM? By post? Email?

You can't... except for NE posts but even then it's like pulling teeth.

A* said...

If I may add a couple of things – I don’t want to get too involved after this really, as I have decided that I want no involvement in Camra locally.
I understand the argument of you’ve only got to be in it to change it, but this issue was really the final straw in proving that this branch is not open to moves to modernise itself (the branch meeting where it had to be explained what Twitter was and why it wasn't a threat to the branch committee's power would have been funny if it wasn't so worrying)
Really, when people work long hours in stressful jobs it’s just too much to ask to stick it out in the branch, when every meeting just ends up causing more stress, frustration and effort. I’m definitely not alone in feeling this way – I’m so drained and fed up of the whole thing I’ve not even fancied drinking much beer recently! Even one of the local GBG pub landlords, which has one of the local microbreweries in the basement, was disgusted, and led to a much retweeted photo of a Camra membership card being burnt.
With regards to the national AGM, they really need to introduce some electronic way that people can get involved and vote – many of us are not in the position to be able to afford a weekend and travel at the other end of the country, and postal ballots I would imagine ensure a low turnout among younger people. The Camra website has a secure members login, so why not use it to allow voting?
I must also point out that the article in question does not really 100% reflect the exact course of events or issues involved – ie. it is not really a young vs old argument at all. I would say it is more members with new ideas vs those members not open to anything new (including the internet – your NW branch is very lucky to have someone like you in charge).
But there are just so many of that second group that everyone else who wants an exciting future for the branch faces too much of an uphill struggle, and without a huge recruitment drive and trying to get more people to come to meetings it will never, ever change.
Despite all that, the reason that I personally will never attend a Tyneside & Northumberland Camra meeting again is not really based on these arguments.
Whatever your opinion on the issues voted on, the behaviour and attitude of some committee members has really saddened and upset me.
Subtly included in the minutes to the meeting was a reference to a young committee member "resigning from the Committee" and that "This was accepted.” That fails to convey the disappointing closing comment by the chair, in front of the whole branch, of "I was going to sack you anyway."
It's clear the long hours and complete dedication that the committee member in question had put in to try and improve the image of the branch through a new magazine (universally praised in the area) and new website – and for the Chair to speak to one of his younger and newer committee members in such a way (having been the one who begged him to take over the magazine in the first place) is, I believe, just absolutely despicable.
Not content with this, some committee members since the meeting in question have, I feel, been rude, unpleasant, and childish, which is completely uncalled for and just not nice.
From experience I know that this is not replicated at all other branches and that it is just unfortunate to encounter such individuals in Tyneside and Northumberland. But as this is where I live it means that I sadly cannot be an active Camra member in this area.
Luckily the North East is full of enthusiastic, fun people who love their beer, so it does not mean the end of supporting local pubs, breweries and beers, or meeting with like minded people – it just means doing it without the frustrations and distractions that the local Camra branch brings (which is what the new cannybevvy.com is working towards).

Cooking Lager said...

Considering the obvious acrimony I guess it would be difficult to reach fair compromise over the name "cannybevvy"

However it does neither party any good to argue over it. Decide to whom it belongs, then part. 2 Sets of people using it is not an amicable divorce.

Anonymous said...

nice idea.. thanks for sharing..