CAMRA's Mid Life Crisis
Iran’s supreme leader enforced it, Egypt’s dictators attempted it and now – in his own way – CAMRA chairman Colin Valentine has also joined the ranks of figureheads taking pot shots at free speech by choosing to vilify anyone whose opinion doesn’t fall in step with his own or could threaten the course of the real ale cause. Blimey.
Speaking at the 2011 CAMRA AGM last month, Colin decided to unleash what – to him – must of sounded like a scathing and unapologetic attack on craft beer and a newly discovered force that’s more evil than kegged beer itself: the ‘bloggerati’.
Sadly for Colin, months of practicing in front of his mum’s bathroom mirror didn’t pay off as - for the rest of us - his speech sounded like nothing more than the kind of pathetic whinging that’s usually symptomatic of a bad case of close-mindedness than a rousing call to arms.
You see, it’s not actually the ‘bloggerati’ bit that bothers us. Infact, the BrewDog blog has regularly called CAMRA out over what we believe to be a frankly archaic approach to beer that’s partly to blame for the UK's craft beer vacuum. It’s only fair that CAMRA have a place to voice their opinions too.
What we don't think deserves a place is the spouting of genuine madness such as Colin’s suggestion that beer bloggers are only interested in ‘new things’. Clearly the idea that the ‘news’ is made up of ‘new’ information is a concept that's passed Colin by.
Colin’s assumption that all beer bloggers are obsessed with kegged craft beer is also one of the many sweeping assumptions that pepper his AGM address; choosing to bypass any mention of the many writers who consistently champion non-mainstream, mass-produced beer, full stop; writers who regularly review, discuss and support cask ales and other ‘real ale’ products as part of engaging with the UK beer scene as a whole.
Like any cause worth fighting for, Colin’s CAMRA needs an enemy with an alternative ideology to rally against. Unfortunately the alternative ideology in question is craft beer and the enemy is beer bloggers, or anyone else who doesn’t feel the need to partake in a jolly good round of beard stroking and back slapping whilst reminiscing about CAMRA’s forty-something heritage.
In order to survive what increasingly seems to be something of a mid-life crisis, CAMRA need to use their experience and expertise to act as a forefather to the modern British beer scene whilst facilitating debate and engaging people across the generations.
Stunting and attacking discussions about beer just because increasing numbers of people are turning their attention to craft only serves to prevent more individuals from becoming involved, educated and passionate about good beer – keg, cask, craft, real or otherwise.
For now, however, Colin's approach to craft beer increasingly smacks of a figurehead who's frightened of the future, where dictatorial policies quickly become the standard knee-jerk reaction as a means of preserving the past, regardless of the implications for the future.
*there are already some excellent blog articles on this. Tandleman and Glyn Rabid About Beer got involved, Pete Brown as sharp as ever on it, and Sid Boggle, Reluctant Scooper and Mark from Beer.Birra.Bier all had their say too. and most recently Mark @ Pencil and Spoonfirst blogged about it before