My What's Brewing arrived on Friday. That's the newspaper of the Campaign for Real Ale. CAMRA to you and me. It was a good issue in my view and there was one article, by Ian Fozard, that caught my eye particularly. Ian has form at CAMRA AGMs - in a good way - and has a lot of both campaigning experience. As well as being a pub chain owner, he is now a brewery owner - he owns Roosters of Harrogate, so he has a foot in more than one camp. His article is wide ranging and sensible in the main. He calls for an awareness campaign of the difficulties of running pubs, a closer working relationship with organisations where we have common cause and a more relaxed attitude to craft beer. (Don't get too excited about the last one though, he doesn't think much of it and prefers just to let the market decide. But tellingly he isn't remotely agin it.)
One phrase was striking though. Ian said "The National Executive" has a responsibility to redefine CAMRA's role". He remarks "Imagine if in 40 years time we're still campaigning for real ale as currently defined and deriding other beer styles." Indeed. That's quite a thought. Everything moves on and it is the role of leadership to ensure that the Campaign is capable of sustaining itself into the future. Some of what Ian says is being done though through the Fit for Purpose Review, which I had a hand in. Ian will be pleased to note that closer working with other beery organisations is firmly embedded in that piece of work and has already started I believe. The Fit for Purpose Review was an attempt to position CAMRA for the future and was a jigsaw piece in making CAMRA think more clearly about not only what we are doing, but what we should be doing in the future and how we should do it. I think that's still a work in progress, but it is a start. Holding the NE to account for progressing it will be key in the year to come.
I was pleased too, to read in WB a couple of progressive motions to the AGM from two of our more aware NE members. Motions 15 and 16 both refer to craft keg beer and are welcome, but whether they will pass muster at the AGM is open to question. I won't be there sadly, as Torquay just doesn't fit in with my plans, but I regard these two motions, particularly motion 15, as a stepping stone to next year, pass or fail. I will be there next year and there will be more motions. I have a year to think and plan, as I believe we are approaching a critical period in CAMRA's relevance and that certain nettles must be grasped.
It was pleasing too to note that at last we have some competition for NE places and there may well be more in the future and that the Chairman (Colin Valentine)identifies the Anti Alcohol Lobby - he rightly refers to them as "prohibitionists or abolitionists" - as a body that must be fought vigorously. So positive things, but we must have a leadership with the courage and vision to make the changes that will mean that CAMRA retains its undoubted relevance. CAMRA and that means the NE particularly, must have the courage to swim against the prohibitionist tide, to recognise industry change and to make CAMRA clear sighted in playing a leading part as both a campaigning and lobbying force in UK brewing. So, to those members reading this and going to Torquay, support progressive motions, listen carefully to the update on the Fit for Purpose Review and help shape CAMRA for the future not the past.
Now to another point. Remember the group that CAMRA set up to look at craft beer? I was a member and have news on that too, but you'll have to wait until later this week for it, as this background piece needed writing first. I doubt that you'll be impressed by the outcome though.
Next year we are in Norwich, a proper beery city and a train an hour from Manchester. And what is that in the palm tree?
This Conference believes that CAMRA policy should recognise that “Craft Beer” is beer with a distinctive flavour brewed by artisans. As a consequence, most real ales are craft beers but not all craft beers are real ale and CAMRA’s communication should reflect this.
Motion 16: This Conference believes that real ale is the indigenous beer style of the UK and notes that CAMRA will continue to concentrate its beer festivals on this beer style. Conference also recognises that there are some perfectly drinkable craft beers that are not real ale, and where CAMRA is required to provide a full bar, consideration will be given to selling keg craft beers as opposed to other keg beers.
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.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
Read my information and links and then decide for yourself. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes.
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