Tuesday 7 February 2017

CAMRA Kremlinology

The workings of our mother church can be impenetrable at times. So I was pleased to be invited to a BGBW do to hear from the CAMRA revitalisation committee.

I didn't make it to my local revitalisation meeting, I was planning to go but a friend arranged a visit to the Dorking tunnels on the same day and I couldn't miss that.

They're dead good, go to a depth of 20m too.

I hadn't read the Revitalisation report either, what with there being things to do and only so many hours in the day. I've stopped questioning our church's teachings anyway. Back in the early days of this blog I used to whinge on about the bits that were bollocks but the Tandleman himself, the defender of the faith, put me straight. "CAMRA is about cask beer, all the rest is commentary" he said. Or something like that. And with those words the demon whispering on my shoulder was banished for good. Cask beer is indeed god's work, and it should have an organisation to defend it.

Michael Hardman
So, unprepared, I was looking forward to hearing about what had been going on. After being introduced CAMRA founder Michael Hardman reported on the 18 months of the Revitalisation project. The first six months were spent discussing what to do, the next six months travelling round the country to 50 regional meetings, and then six months arguing about it! He said he'd met some of the most enthusiastic beer drinkers in the country, and some of the greatest dinosaurs.

That last point interested me, as I suspect I count as a CAMRA dinosaur myself. Certainly given the choice I will order cask beer over keg probably greater than 999 times out of a 1000. I wonder if there's a term for crafties that never drink cask? Oh yes, heathens.

Hardman stated the conclusions in the report are that CAMRA should keep its name and build on a strong brand with a vision of seeing quality real ale and thriving pubs. It is not a manifesto for the status quo though, as if CAMRA is to survive in the long term it needs significant change. It needs to shift it's focus from a technical definition to a focus on quality, and build knowledge and understanding.

He continued that CAMRA sees real ale as the pinnacle of the brewers art, but not all quality beer is real ale. I thought there was some clever wording here, as it leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but we'll see how it pans out.

He finished saying the campaign must move to improve quality of beer, cider and perry in commercial settings. CAMRA should fight the anti-alcohol lobby. CAMRA's views haven't really changed since it started and with 185,000 members there was some compromise, but the recommendation sent to the national executive was the collective view of the committee.

There were some interesting points in the discussion. It was mentioned there were also three online surveys, and over a 1000 people took part in the surveys who weren't CAMRA members. Meetings also took place with SIBA, the BBPA, politicians and publicans. But for all the questions raised there seemed very few answers though. This could be because the national executive seem to have had kittens when they saw the project's recommendations. OK, that wasn't exactly how it was put but CAMRA Kremlinologists can draw conclusions from the fact that the current national executive decided to delay any decisions until 2018, and three of the Revitalisation committee have decided to stand for election to the national executive. Hearing this moved me to made a rare break from my strict abstentionist position and cast my votes. It will be interesting to see how things develop.


  1. Replies
    1. That was my first thought when I heard of the Revitalisation project, but it would have taken a bit more effort to shoe horn it into this post so I didn't bother.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Right you are. I'm a bit late with that one.

  2. I left the meeting feeling ever so slightly cheated (not to mention wanting some better beer!)

    A year on, with plenty of data to chew on, both qualitative and quantitative, the Revite crew still can't bring themselves to spell out their core proposition. We don't know a whole lot more than we already did.

    Did they not hear what they wanted to hear because too many dinosaurs got in the way?

    Are they worried that it will look like a stitch-up?

    Are they just hoping that by kicking it into the slightly longer grass a few more of the old guard will die off or at least become incapacitated?

    The fundamental circle of argument that cannot be squared goes like this:

    1. CAMRA's primary purpose has to remain the preservation of cask ale
    2. Good keg beer is more of a threat to cask ale than bad keg beer ever was.
    3. CAMRA needs to adapt, which may mean promoting good keg beer. However:
    1. CAMRA's primary purpose has to remain the preservation of cask ale... etc.

    Nothing convinced me last Monday that any of them really have an answer to this paradox.

    1. Yes, it wasn't particularly enlightening. I thought the revialisers were hacked off the national executive were putting the brakes on. I dare say things will develop but it will be another 18 months IIRC until it's completed.