Is anyone else getting fed up of the cask versus keg debate or is it just me? Thought not. I am pretty cheesed off with it, but will have to gird my loins to speak against one or two anti craft motions at the CAMRA AGM, not because I'm a big proponent of craft keg. Most of it - at least at the supping rather than sipping end of it - is pretty dull in my view - just like most cask is a bit samey. My drinking experience tells me that kissing lots of frogs is a bad idea percentage wise. You rarely find a princess. Better by far at my time of life, to eliminate that onerous task by drinking what you know to be good, or what is recommended by people you trust. I've done the beer hunting bit to death and now, though the experimentation and hunting rears its head from time to time, by and large, I just prefer to drink beer for enjoyment and with my friends.
Mind you, I say that as a personal thing. I have done plenty of beer exploration and experimenting in my time, but I'm well again, though I really do recommend it to our younger beer drinkers, as you need to go through that pain to get to, if not nirvana, equilibrium. But then again, I am a beer drinker - side swipe following - not a fan boy. Drinking beer to learn and discover is one thing. Doing it because it is fashionable, quite another, though as in most things in life, one thing leads to another, so maybe even that isn't all bad.
Reading the AGM motions and looking at the election address one of the CAMRA National Executive contenders, I get the feeling that there is a bit of unease at best and hostility at worst, to our new cohort of keg devotees. I've thought about it and while there is no need for CAMRA to change its priority of real ale, there is no need for a dog in the manger approach either. Keg beer appeals to a certain kind of drinker that associates it with experimentation, cutting edge and hip. Why not? I feel pretty relaxed about it overall. Where there is a mixed approach to cask and keg, it works well and as most of the keg stuff is strong, it gives more choice when a similar cask wouldn't be finished before going flat or off. (By the way - if you could polish off a cask of strong beer in the first couple of hours, it is usually superior in developed flavours). But I digress.
Choice is good, keg bashing is bad, CAMRA bashing is bad, beer drinking is good. Not all beer is good and the idea we should all just drink beer and not care how it is dispensed doesn't work for me. I'm a real ale man and always will be. When kept well it beats the keg equivalent into a cocked hat. It has drinkability in a way that keg doesn't. But modern keg beer isn't always a bad thing. It's that choice thing again and especially where there is a mixed offer, it gives the chance for drinkers to compare and contrast. I don't think there are that many ale drinkers that never drink cask, just as there aren't so many CAMRA members that never drink keg. There is of course a need to protect live beer, as there is a thin end of the wedge and it would be bad if it disappeared, but the way to do it is by continually promoting real ale and always pressing for better quality at the point of dispense.
I'd be happier if we were discussing beer quality more at the AGM. It doesn't seem to be mentioned this year, though I will try and do so. Quality is always cask's Achilles heel. We should give a lot more attention to that.
I'm off to the launch of a new Lees beer tonight. I'll know people. That's as much of a draw to me as the new beer.
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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