So what did the old boys in all their wisdom manage to conjure up regarding craft beer at their recent AGM? Not much, in fact it was rather embarrassing to be honest.
It could have been one of those moments where you think we could be in for some real progress here, maybe CAMRA will take a bold move and support craft beer dispensed from a keg/key-keg/squirrel etc. Alas I was left feeling disappointed. I say disappointed because I believe that CAMRA are in a great position to continue campaigning for as long as they've been around already in the name of great beer. Unfortunately for me (and plenty of others), "craft-keg" does exist but they won't promote or endorse it. Are you kidding me?
The absolute garbage I've heard from a wide range of CAMRA members regarding kegs is simply laughable. The ignorance and myths that surround them is pathetic. "Oh but you force CO2 into the beer so it's fizzy." CO2 is a by-product of yeast eating sugar, and some natural carbonation ends up in the finished beer, force carbonating to achieve the desired level for your particular beer style is just good brewing practice. I don't remember seeing beers winning awards judged under the BJCP style guidelines that didn't have the correct level of carbonation.
Then there's the whole finings/filtration/pasteurisation nonsense. I would much rather drink a cask beer that has a haze than pour fish guts into it. I also don't recall any of the UK's craft brewers pasteurising their beers. And filtration, on the lowest setting possible, what's wrong with that?! You still get a huge amount of flavour, a great mouth feel, and a slight haze. At the recent CAMRA Spoons beer fest I had a wheat beer that was completely clear! The Germans must be laughing at us.
Whilst we're on the subject of ignorance:
"It's too cold" - Let it warm up.
"It's too strong" - Have a half.
"A half!?" - Yes, a half, or even a third. Why not take your time, enjoy the flavour.
"It's too expensive" - Well Sir, it has lots of quality ingredients, the finest malts, and bucket loads of hops, or it's been aged in a whisky barrel, etc etc. But that never seems to satisfy.
"Can you top that up for me?" Well, not really. I'm an experienced bar tender you see, and if you take a closer look at the lined glass I've given you, you'll notice that the beer falls just short of the line because by law there is an allowance for head. It doesn't have to be running over your knuckles.
All of these lovely role plays occur hourly in beer bars across the nation to the frustration of increasingly knowledgeable and passionate staff. Why does an old school CAMRA member think they have the right to do that? "I've been with the campaign since the beginning". So, you've had the blinkers on for the last 40 years, and your point is?
So what's my point? Beer lovers across the country probably have the largest range of choice they've ever been able to enjoy. Cask, keg, bottle, and the finest imports from across the globe. CAMRA should be refocusing on this, how difficult would it be to promote just good beer? (#CAMRGB) Make a few definitions about cask conditioned ale, craft keg beers, and get people back into pubs enjoying these great offerings from an ever increasing range of quality homegrown breweries. Neither side of this debate are in any doubt what they think about mass produced, adjunct laden, lagers and the like.
However, this doesn't look like it's going to happen. CAMRA seem hell bent on continuing to remain in the dark ages, ignoring all of these fantastic beers that are being dispensed in a manner they simply fail to understand. How can they be deemed as relevant to the beer industry in 2012? They can't really, the most exciting breweries in this country producing world beating beers will decide for themselves how they want to dispense, and if that is keg, they will be ignored. I for one want to see great cask conditioned beer being brewed in this country. But I also want us to learn from our friends across the ocean, in all directions, that are making great beers, unhindered by some old fart telling them how to make and dispense their beer. Don't they seem better off for it?