Sunday, 9 February 2014

Still Fit For Purpose?

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has been described as "the most successful consumer organisation in Europe". Since its formation in 1971, CAMRA has not only saved traditional cask-conditioned ale (Real Ale), from almost certain extinction, but has been responsible for the establishment of hundreds of new breweries here in the UK, and a huge explosion in the numbers of new and exciting beers that are available to today’s drinkers.

This success has not been confined purely to these shores, as spurred on by, and in many cases in imitation of, the huge rise in interest in traditional beer styles, thousands of new breweries have commenced operation around the world, most noticeably in the United States. There are now in excess of two thousand craft breweries in America, and an unimaginable number of different beer styles and variations. A country once notorious for its bland, big brewery lagers, is now home to some of the most tasty, interesting and diverse types of beer anywhere on the planet.

The four young journalists, who, whilst on holiday in Ireland back in 1971, set up the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale, as CAMRA was then known, could not have dreamt their fledgling pressure-group would be so successful; neither could they have imagined their efforts would have so much impact. Today, some 43 years on, CAMRA is a highly professional consumer organisation, with a paid staff, offices in St Albans and nearly 160,000 members, and yet at a time when the campaign has never looked so successful, just how relevant is the group today? Is CAMRA still fit for purpose in today’s increasingly diverse brewing industry?

I ask that question because around five years ago, the brewing industry in this country changed. The change happened imperceptibly at first, but then slowly gathered momentum until today it is like a juggernaut, almost out of control and who knows where it will take us next? I am talking of course about “craft keg”, hipster bars, and a virtual explosion of different tastes, ingredients, styles etc. In short it seems that in this short space of time the whole world of brewing, pubs and beer appreciation in general has been turned on its head.

Prior to this, virtually all the new concerns established in the wake of the “real ale revolution” were breweries that offered a standard range of several bitters, with perhaps a golden ale, complemented by a few seasonal brews such as a porter or a strong ale. The beers would invariably be cask-conditioned, and whilst some were stunningly good, many were shall we say mediocre, or even on the borderline of being boring.

There were a few exceptions to this cask only rule, such as Lovibonds and Meantime, but these companies were on the whole regarded as mavericks, particularly by the CAMRA fraternity.  However, things were about to change. I am not intending to relate the rise from nowhere of "craft keg", as I don’t know enough about the subject to do that. In addition there are others, far more qualified than me to undertake such a task, but having said that I don’t think anyone in the industry was quite prepared for what happened next, particularly in London. There are now around 50 new-wave breweries in the capital, and the new ones seem to be springing up all the time.
This explosion in breweries and beer styles, coupled with an unfamiliar means of storage and dispense caught CAMRA off-guard, and there was certainly a great deal of suspicion surrounding the latter on behalf of the campaign. The very mention of the word “keg” was like a red rag to a bull, so far as many die-hard CAMRA activists were concerned, and I must admit that even a broadminded member such as myself, took a bit of convincing.

A letter in the current, (February) edition of the CAMRA monthly newspaper, “What’s Brewing”, by the renowned and well-respected writer, Tim Webb (he of Belgian Beer Guide fame, amongst several other fine publications) makes the point that the world has moved on since the early days of CAMRA, and there are now some very good beers which, whilst not falling within the campaign’s definition of “real ale”, are still excellent beers in their own right.

I think this is something many of us have known for quite some time; especially those of us who have travelled abroad and enjoyed the beery delights of places such as Bavaria, Belgium, Bohemia and the United States. It is also something known to anyone who enjoys a bottle or two of decent beer. Yet again though, if the latter are not “bottle-conditioned” they will not fit in with CAMRA’s strict definition of “real ale”, but I defy even the most die-hard, died-in-the-wool CAMRA traditionalist to argue they do not taste as good!

I am sure the majority of members feel the same too, and yet, as Tim Webb points out in his letter, by using the term “Good Beer Guide”, CAMRA has boxed itself into a corner, because only those pubs serving cask-conditioned ale can be considered for the Good Beer Guide, and by definition pubs or bars which don’t can be deemed as NOT selling “Good Beer”.

To be fair, CAMRA has recognised this paradox and taciturnly admitted that there are many other forms and styles of beer, which are equally as “good” even though they are not “cask-conditioned”. Over the past decade or so the Campaign has published “Good Beer Guides” to Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and the West Coast USA; and very good guides they are as well! More recently it has published a guide to London pubs and bars, many of which also serve “craft keg”, foreign ales and lagers along with other “non-approved” beers. Des de Moor’s excellent “CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer Pubs & Bars” is an essential companion on visits to the capital; although the beer scene is changing and evolving so rapidly there that the guide is in danger of fast becoming out of date.

So should CAMRA now stop concentrating solely on cask-conditioned “real ale”, and embrace other styles? I’ve already demonstrated that to a certain extent it has, but should it go further? Is there a danger that in doing so the campaign loses its way, as after all exactly what constitutes a “good beer” is open to interpretation and can be somewhat subjective anyway. Answers on a postcard please. Alternatively just post them on this blog!

With acknowledgements to Curmudgeon who has written his own, albeit short, post on this subject. His post though was primarily responsible for me writing this one.

Personal Statement:

I have been a CAMRA member since the mis-1970’s, with an un-broken subscription; as witnessed by a membership number in the low 3,000’s. Over the years I have made many good friends through the campaign, have visited numerous breweries and countless pubs. On top of that of course, I have drunk and enjoyed an untold number of beers.

I have been actively involved with the campaign for many years, including over 25 years on the committee of my current local west Kent CAMRA branch, where I have served as secretary, chairman and Brewery Liaison Officer. These days I’m content just to go along to socials and other branch events, although I have recently taken the job of sourcing and ordering beer for our Spa Valley Beer Festival. 


Tyson said...

CAMRA has a bit of a two faced approach to this, similar to the old "don't ask,don't tell" rule. For example, Kernel brewery is too good and well known to be ignored even though it was at the forefront of the keg revolution. So it gets in the GBG under the pretext of making "bottle-conditioned beers and the occasional cask beer". Very, very occasionally if truth be told. If would be interesting to see what the local branch would do if Kernel ever opened a pub.

DavidS said...

To basically repeat / summarize my comment from Mudgie's blog...

I think there's a good case for CAMRA to continue specifically promoting cask ale - it's a special case in that if people aren't reminded that it's a Good Thing then it could fall by the wayside in the name of convenience and consistency.

On the other hand, it drives me nuts when they don't realize that craft beer in general is something that they should be squarely in favour of, given that most craft beer bars have an impressive range of cask ales, most craft breweries sell cask conditioned beer, and that the craft beer thing is generally getting a lot of people enthusiastically drinking cask conditioned beer who might not otherwise have been interested in it.

Taking this on board might involve some people getting over the kneejerk "keg = chemical fizz" thing and accepting that discerning drinkers (and pubs and brewers) can appreciate both cask and keg beers. Also people appreciating that there are beer styles beyond mild, bitter, stout and golden ale. And as you say, a lot of people have already got this - some of them even accepting that there's such a thing as good lager - but old cliches seem to die hard...

Cooking Lager said...

Of course the beard club is fit for purpose.

So long as that purpose is "drinking club for some middle class blokes"

Why do people insist of giving it some other purpose?

Tyson said...


Middle class?! I've never been so insulted!

Cooking Lager said...

It lets some rougher types in from time to time to give it cred.

Not too many, not enough to lower the tone, just enough to keep it real.

That's how I got in.

py said...

There really are two paths ahead of camra, we can choose to remain an increasly small and irelevent insular little club of middle aged blokes who like to argue and legislate about the intricate technicalities of a style of beer that never really existed in the first place whilst the entire beer and pub industry collapses around us, or we can try and actually engage with the rest of the UK and do something about it and promote the wider joys of pubs and beer to them in a way that might actually interest them.

Cooking Lager said...

I vote for the former. Py.

It looks less effort.

John Clarke said...

One thing CAMRA needs to do is firmly knock on the head the idea that "real ale" and "craft beer" are mutually exclusive terms. They aren't, and certainly shouldn't be.

DavidS said...

John - bang on.

Thinking about it a bit more, the GBG is kind of an interesting issue. Even having accepted that CAMRA's goal is specifically to promote cask ale, you could still argue that they'd do that better by producing a guide that reminds the reader that cask ale is a Good Thing but doesn't ignore keg or bottled beer (and other stuff about a pub) rather than something that keeps its cask blinkers firmly on and eventually becomes irrelevant as a result.

Rob Nicholson said...

When CAMRA (prompted by two well known northern characters around here) instigated the "Fit for purpose" review a few years ago, I felt a little let down when they said it wasn't addressing subjects like this. IMO these subjects are just the kind of thing it *should* have reviewed and not concentrate on obvious, albeit important, operational stuff.

So maybe we need another fit for purpose review that *does* look specifically at CAMRA policy?

If CAMRA hadn't set itself up as a self-styled consumer champion and protector of pubs and was effectively a protection society for a single style of beer (and cider), then I don't think we'd be in such a dilemma. Cookie points out "why are people trying to give it a new purpose?" - well to a certain extent it's already given itself new purpose.

Even the name is a problem as Cornell pointed out in one of his blogs.

All I know is that if anything this debate is gaining more and more momentum and won't be going away very soon.

Time for CAMRA to rebrand???

Cooking Lager said...

I could troll this further, Rob, but instead I'll try to make a sensible point.

If you use the analogy of the Tory party as being an aging (if you were being unkind you might say dying) organisation looking to attract new support, you might think Dave did a logical thing regarding equal marriage. Pick an issue that divides the generations rather than left and right and let the under 40's see you appreciate their values. A law which changes nothing but sends the right message out. After all every opinion poll said people prefered his policies but just don’t like his party. No brainer.

Had it worked, he'd be quid’s in. He'd have a new generation of foot soldiers. Trouble is it didn't. It attracted no new members and pissed off lots of older activists. The trouble for Dave being that those 50-70 year old members did a lot. They stood for the councils, printed off leaflets and traipsed about delivering them. The 80+ members may of done little these days what with being not long for the world but would have likely put something in the will alongside the church and the cat sanctuary.

Ouch. He has halved his membership, decimated his activists and lost financial legacies. All in an attempt to make a declining aging outfit relevant to a new generation.

What's this got to do with CAMRA? Well isn’t that what you’re really talking about. The fact that you’re a bunch of old codgers and the kids don’t want to hang out with you and are all down the Brewdog bar?

When I'm not trolling I'm an active beardy weirdie. I notice a fair few active members that do a lot. People not easily replaced. Most of who sit on the traditional wing of beardy attitudes, many of whom speak in terms of chemical fizz, ignorami and things being over their dead body.

If you are going to piss them off, better be sure you can replace them. That the kids really want to get involved and do things. The beer festivals, the various drink some gut rot, win a t shirt type crap, the magazines. Otherwise there’s a lot that gets done now that won’t get done when they take their ball away.

The question is how to embrace the new without rejecting the values of the old. I have no answer, but if you find one the world will be yours.

Rob Nicholson said...

I see your point Cookie. Almost dammed if you do, dammed if you don't. It's definitely not certain that if CAMRA did embrace other styles of beer that those all-elusive new/younger active members would flock to the table. The reason they're not flocking already is that they don't perceive there is a problem - they've never had it so good.

So is the choice is adapt and run the risk of downsizing considerably or carry on as we are and simply run out of steam?

Sheffield Hatter said...

Cookie can be quite sensible when he's not trolling.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks everybody for your comments to date. There are some really good points being made, and some interesting analogies being drawn. I've only had a brief chance to flick through them so far, and I'll respond in greater detail tomorrow as, somewhat ironically, I'm off to a CAMRA Open Business Meeting this evening!

I somewhat doubt whether the issues touched on by this debate will be discussed, although I may try and raise the matter under a.o.b. CAMRA though does increasingly seem to be facing a dilemma over what to do regarding the way the brewing industry is heading, and could be in danger of missing the boat.

One thing that particularly strikes me about the campaign at the moment is the fact none of us are getting any younger, (myself included!) This unfortunately means fewer and fewer active members, as there just isn't the influx of younger ones willing, or able, to replace us older hands.

Rob Nicholson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Nicholson said...

Paul- - that's CAMRA's biggest problem at the moment IMO - the *big* elephant in the room. All of the above will be moot unless something radical happens to get significant new blood into the organisation - there will be nobody here to worry about craft or real ale. It's the same story in almost every branch I end up chatting to - same old faces running things and when there is maybe a new active member or two, they are often on the wrong side of 40. There *are* exceptions of course but the above generalisation I feel is accurate.

Like Cookie, I have no answer either :-( The loss of choice & poor quality keg was an obvious problem historically. That hook just doesn't exist anymore and craft is making it even harder to convince a 20/30-something that there is a problem that needs them to give up some of their free time to help run the campaign.

I think we run the risk of the campaign having loads of members who join either as almost a charitable donation on the assumption somebody else fights for the drink they like or because of the infamous benefits - but dwindling numbers at branch level to do the hard work like produce branch magazines and vote for GBG.

Whilst there is a chance I'm making this up but I'm sure Graham Donning once said to me that a possible outcome of the "Fit for purpose" review was that CAMRA had done it's job, there was nothing else that we could effectively fight for and it should be wound up... or become just a drinking club!

To a certain extent, all of the above was happening before craft came on the scene. Could in some perverse way craft be CAMRA's saviour as a hook into the younger member? I'm doubtful but the alternative is the campaigning stalling or maybe collapsing at branch level due to lack of members. With high membership, it could probably sustain something centrally for quite a few years with paid staff. But I feel the beer landscape in general would be poorer without branch magazines, branch awards and local beer festivals. The one thing can could go IMO is the GBG as a book... I'd not shed a tear there ;-)

Cooking Lager said...

The thing is guys; CAMRA has to all intents and purposes changed. It is no longer a campaign for real ale. It won that campaign and moved on. It doesn’t need to include decent keg beer as that will stand or fall on its own merits. If you change the campaign they have been members of for decades to one of decent keg beer, you are ending the campaign they joined and are starting a new one. If you ask older active members to campaign for something they don’t really care about you must not be surprised if they decline and step down.

The change that has occurred is that it is now basically a campaign for the pub. You can see that in most of its rhetoric and most of what it asks of government. It is no longer about encouraging people to drink real ale. The beer festivals are more about fund raising from ale enthusiast to ale enthusiast and not really about common or garden variety drinkers.

The thing about pub campaigning though is that it isn’t as cut and dried as asking more pubs to stock real ale and more punters to drink it. People will prefer some pubs over others. Some pubs will close because they deserve to, because they are no longer required. In some areas a convenience store is of greater utility to the local residents. In some areas new housing has greater utility and therefore greater value. Is the average beer enthusiast really that bothered if a number of pubs close that they never step foot in so long as the multi beer pub they frequent and love is thriving?

The falloff in involvement is in part that there really is little to campaign for and what there is questionable as to whether it matters that much. On the one hand lots of pubs are closing, on the other there has never been greater choice of decent beer in lively vibrant specialist beer pubs to enjoy.

The question to ask is why should the younger beer enthusiast who has a great market to enjoy be that bothered regarding a few pubs he usually swerves close?

py said...

The reason the U30s don't get actively involved in CAMRA campaigning is because they don't believe in the message. They grew up in a world where in the majority of pubs cask beer was just as likely to be crap as keg beer.

The enemy is not keg beer, it hasn't been for decades, the very real threat now is the anti-alcohol prohibitionist lobby. If we campaigned against them, perhaps people might see the need to join in.

Curmudgeon said...

To a large extent CAMRA has already become a drinking club and an organiser of beer festivals.

Yes, the beer duty thing was a great success, but how much actual campaigning is done at a local level?

That may not be a bad thing, but it has to be acknowledged.

@py - CAMRA has been notably reluctant to confront the anti-drink lobby and indeed in some areas has shamefully sought to make common cause with them. Perhaps it's not a good idea because it wouldn't look good to be seen as a campaign for people's right to get pissed.

That role might be better undertaken by a single-issue pressure group encompassing all consumers of alcoholic drinks.

Paul Bailey said...

The real paradox in this whole debate is that whilst many commentators are viewing CAMRA as increasingly irrelevant, membership of the campaign continues to rise. At last night’s West Kent business meeting we were told branch membership now stands at 542; the highest it’s ever been. I believe the national membership is also at an all time high, which begs the question why are all these new people joining CAMRA? Surely it must be for reasons other than the Wetherspoon’s vouchers?

Locally we probably get to see just 5% of our members, so perhaps Rob is correct about people joining as “almost a charitable donation on the assumption somebody else fights for the drink they like”. I do agree that things would be poorer without such things as branch magazines, Pub of the Year awards and, of course, local festivals, and on a personal level these are attractions which keep me coming back for more and lending my support at branch level.

Last night’s meeting served to reinforce the point about an aging membership. There were 10 of us sat round the table, and not one of us was under 50 years of age! CAMRA was a young organisation once; I was in my mid-twenties when I joined. Many NE members were in their late twenties or early thirties, and although the campaign was far less polished and professional than it is today, there was a sense of expectation and discovery which has vanished, to be replaced by rigid structures, far too many committees and seemingly endless directives. I get the feeling CAMRA is taking itself far too seriously these days, and expects rather too much from its dwindling band of active volunteers. Certainly the sense of fun which was once there has disappeared, and I wonder if this, more than anything else, is what is stopping younger members from becoming more actively involved.

Like most of the commentators on this post, I really do not know what the answer is. The point has been made, several times, that embracing the new risks alienating the values (and indeed experience) of the old. Fortunately, I do sense, certainly within my own branch, much more of a willingness to embrace new concepts such as “craft keg” and café-style bars, and even amongst many of the “old guard” pursuits, such as “beer tourism” have never been more popular. This latter activity is something set to grow further, as more and more “mature” members reach retirement age, and find themselves with increased leisure time in which to enjoy fun of seeking out different beers and styles of beers, not just here at home, but all over the world.

I therefore remain moderately upbeat about the future, although as several people have pointed out the biggest threat doesn’t come from a clash of old and new ideas or indeed from conflict between young and old members. Instead it comes from a vocal and increasingly militant anti-drink lobby, determined to enforce its own narrow-minded morality not only on anyone who enjoys the odd social drink, but also on those whose livelihoods depend on the brewing, distribution and retailing of our favourite drink. That they should be doing this under the guise of “improving the nation’s health”, demonstrates exactly the sort of slippery and dangerous customers they are.

Those last comments should perhaps be reserved for a separate post, but in the meantime I would like to thank everyone who has contributed so far to this debate.

Curmudgeon said...

I think the significance of craft keg is greatly overstated in the blogosphere - it remains very much a niche, beer bubble phenomenon that scarcely impinges on the vast majority of real ale pubs and their drinkers

Rob Nicholson said...

I can't disagree with anything you have written there Paul in the last comment. I echo exactly the same in East Cheshire.

I personally feel the fear is mainly unfounded. As Mudgie points out, craft keg is relatively limited in reach at the moment. It's going to happen though WHETHER OR NOT CAMRA WANTS IT TO HAPPEN esp. as we're not campaigning against it.

I agree about the "fun" comment - I have enough rules & regs in my life without CAMRA adding to them.

I personally think the world would not end if CAMRA embraced craft keg and non-BCA.

Rob Nicholson said...

As for the anti-alcohol lobby - totally agree and isn't the NE supposed to report back on that from a motion last year?

Rob Nicholson said...

Finally for now - how do we get these three import questions debated wider in CAMRA? Unfortunately due to lack of engagement of the NE & central committees, the forums have pretty much died - which is a shame. They were tasked with improving communication on strategy - sorry, but I don't see any real difference several years later.

Rob Nicholson said...

@Mudgie said "but how much actual campaigning is done at a local level?"

I think a fair amount given the number of volunteers. Production of branch magazines, getting publicity via pub awards and running local festivals is actually quite a lot...

I can't begin to guess how much time the organisers of the Velodrome beer festival put in...

Curmudgeon said...

What I meant is more "issue-based campaigning". Branch magazines, pub awards and beer festivals could be regarded as the core activities of the "Beer Appreciation Society".

I am not saying this is a bad thing, btw.

Curmudgeon said...

"I personally think the world would not end if CAMRA embraced craft keg and non-BCA."

Yes, I think this would lance the boil. CAMRA could still regard the promotion of British cask-conditioned beer as its core function, but it could accept that it is OK to champion good beer that falls outside that definition.

I suspect over time this will happen via a gradual process associated with the turnover of the generations rather than by passing of AGM motions. The last thing CAMRA should be doing is trying to arrive at definitions of what "craft keg" is OK and what isn't.

But it's ridiculous that, when it is the subject of so much debate, BEER magazine is not allowed to do a taste test of craft kegs. Opening Times could get away with it, though.

Rob Nicholson said...

Ahh, see what you mean. On that subject, lack of resources really does hold us back. I also think that the political attack is better from CAMRA centrally although writing letters etc. isn't too taxing. Could be easier though through central management IMO

Tim Webb said...

CAMRA centrally has been presented with a whole series of papers and discussion pieces on why and how it needs to address the question of how it addresses and accommodates the global revolution in craft brewing.

For some reason this never reaches the membership. More recently it has not even been circulated to the NE.

I would love to know why this is but I doubt we will ever be told. There will be a reason though.

Ho hum.

Tim W

Rob Nicholson said...

Maybe you are branded as a heretic ;-)

CAMRA does seem to be very stuck in its ways. Consider the new pub of the year.A great looking pub and worthy of the title but phrases like "stuck in a time warp" instantly defined it. Does that appeal to a wider audience or CAMRA's real target audience?

So getting back to the title of the blog, is POTY fit for purpose? To be honest, the winner doesn't matter as the important part of POTY is the publicity.

Cooking Lager said...

In regard to committees. Doesn't sound like fun to me. Is there free beer and sandwiches?

As for the forums. Have you seen the nutcases on the CAMRA forums? All they achieve is to make a member question why they would associate with nutters. The facebook page is a better representation of sane on line beardy enthusiasm.

Paul Bailey said...

Well Tim Webb’s letter certainly seems to have sparked a whole lot of debate about what constitutes good beer, CAMRA’s relationship with beer styles other than cask, and the direction the campaign ought to be heading in. I would like to think that bloggers like Curmudgeon, Tandleman and I have all helped to push the debate along, in our own individual ways, but despite some great input from lots of diverse commentators, we don’t really seem to be that much further forward.

Many have argued that as CAMRA ain’t broke, why try to fix it? Certainly trying to upset the applecart by means of radical motions at the national AGM is not the way to go, and anyway such proposals would stand virtually no chance of getting through, given the make-up of attendees at this event. Others, including myself, favour a much more softly-softly approach, banking on the fact that changing demographics amongst the Campaign’s membership, will eventually lead to a groundswell of grassroots’ opinion in favour of change.

Whether that change will occur quickly enough to prevent CAMRA from being sidelined as an increasingly irrelevant “beards’ drinking club”, is of course a danger, and I fully sympathise with the frustration of respected and knowledgeable people, like Tim, when they find their own proposals for change ignored. It sounds like there are some serious issues going on behind the scenes, and if the CAMRA membership as a whole is deliberately being kept in the dark over this, then we need to know why!

I don’t want to get too involved with internal politics here, but I do sometimes wonder which group of individuals is really calling the shots within the Campaign? Are the reins of power held by the various committees, or even by the chief executive? From what’s been said, it doesn’t appear to be the National Executive pulling the strings, but then they’re all volunteers like the rest of us. Is it pure fantasy then to think there’s some sort of hidden agenda involved?

Anyway, having strayed somewhat off subject I’ll end by saying that, for my part, I’ll continue to be a member of CAMRA, and play as much of an active role as my time and inclination allows. Like many other free-thinking members though I’ll continue to do my own thing, and drink what I find enjoyable and suitable for both the time and the place. Whether this is cask or craft, British or foreign is up to me, and I won’t be straight-jacketed by dogma or edicts from on high. As I’ve said before, there are certainly some interesting times ahead.

Cooking Lager said...

I think your last paragraph says it all, Paul. The desire for CAMRA to widen its remit in to keg beers comes from a belief by many that will somehow legitimise a member to drinking them. WTF? It’s a free country, people are free to neck what they like. You can be a member of CAMRA and drink Fosters out of a toilet bowl if you like. Who on gods earth pays money to join something that tells them what is and isn’t acceptable to stick down their neck? is that why people want CAMRA to accept keg beer? Because they haven't the balls to just go order and drink one in front of their beardy peer group mates?

But when it comes to a campaign it needs to operate on a principle of enlightened self-interest. Namely people are interested in campaigning for something they see themselves personally benefiting from. Those that lament the young declining to be involved more often than not are saddened by the lack of altruism in the young, forgetting that their own generation was never altruistic. With a domination of a left wing mind-set comes a view that the opposite of altruism is naked self-interest. That the young are selfish and therefore not interested in altruism for the common good.

This generation is the same as any other. The same as yours. The overriding system of ethics in place and overriding motivations are one of enlightened self-interest. The young are happy to campaign for causes that fit this, just as yours was. Human nature does not change, it is one of the few constants. We are the same species as existed 100, 1000, 10000 years ago.

All CAMRA needs to do is return to its original founding principles of 4 blokes sat in a pub not liking what the market offered them and demanding something else because that’s what they personally wanted for themselves. Others joined them because they wanted it for themselves too. Whatever that something else is, is the enlightened self-interest of the next generation. That might be craft beer, though I doubt it.

py said...

I saw two polls the other day, both of 18-20 year olds. When asked "how many times a week do you drink alcohol", 46% replied "never and I'm proud of that". The main reasons given were health concerns, because alcohol makes you "lose your mind", and because it tastes "awful".

In a separate poll, when asked "what alcohol do you drink?" Only 22% chose beer as their preferred alcoholic drink, the main reasons given were that "it doesn't taste nice". Spirit and mixers dominated the poll.

I imagine if you had ran this poll 10 years ago, the amount that didn't drink would be closer to 10% and the amount of drinkers who chose beer would be closer to 50%.

If CAMRA doesn't see this trend as the number one threat to both pubs and the future of cask ale, they're utterly delusional.

py said...

"is that why people want CAMRA to accept keg beer?"

In answer to this Cookie, I want CAMRA to promote keg beer to young people because promoting cask beer simply doesn't fucking work.

If people don't get into beer by the time they're 25 they probably never will; whereas if they at least get into keg beer they will probably move on to cask beer later on.

keg and cask beer are not enemies, they're colleagues. The enemy in this scenario is wines/spirits/alcopops or worse: teetotalism.

DaveS said...

"I want CAMRA to promote keg beer to young people because promoting cask beer simply doesn't fucking work."

Not sure if I'm disagreeing with you or agreeing with you, but I'd say that "religiously promoting cask beer while bashing keg beer simply doesn't fucking work."

If you go into your local Trendy Craft Beer Emporium, it probably won't be short of da yout drinking cask ale (unless it's Brewdog), but if you then try to explain to them that they should keep to drinking only the cask stuff because keg is all flavourless piss, they'll probably conclude that you don't know what you're talking about and stop paying attention to you...

Paul Bailey said...

"If you go into your local Trendy Craft Beer Emporium, it probably won't be short of da yout drinking cask ale."

Definitely the case down here DaveS, and encouraging to see. You will also find quite a few local CAMRA members (myself included), drinking keg, but don't tell anyone!!

Paul Bailey said...

Cookie, you are so right about human nature, and yet far too many people fail to see this. Those of us who are interested in history recognise that nothing about human behaviour really changes; and those who ignore or dismiss history are doomed to make the same mistakes.

py said...

If I wanted to convince a group of 18 year olds that beer isn't just unsophisticated slop drunk by football hooligans, one of the first places I'd recommend to them would be a modern style craft beer bar, probably a brewdog bar. They'd see that beer is extremely cool and popular with their age group, sophisticated, varied and diverse in flavour and strength.

If they had had the misfortune to ask their local traditionalist CAMRA rep for advice instead, where do you think he would recommend and what would their relative impression be?

John Clarke said...

Well I'd suggest Port Street Bere House and I suspect they would be very impressed.