Sunday 2 March 2014

Soapbox time

It's been a quiet week for me on the beer and booze front the past week so I haven't got much to report on. I was hoping to pay a visit to the Eltham GPO, a new Antic pub which has opened in the eponymous area of South East London but unfortunately I didn't get the chance. However I did have a great meal at another Antic pub The Baring Hall Hotel on Friday. They have recently started offering food and the Oxtail and Smoked Paprika Mash was absolutely delicious. The Hastings Blonde was pretty good as well, a crisp and thirst quenching Blonde beer. Blue Monkey Guerilla made an excellent dessert beer, a lovely stout with charming coffee flavours. I look forward to returning for more meals - judging from Twitter their Sunday Lunch looks pretty good.

I've been catching up with other beer blogs over the past week and I enjoyed Paul Bailey's piece on CAMRA: Fit for purpose? This is an excellent piece on that old stalwart of the real ale scene, and whether the changing face of the ale scene with the emergence of craft beer has made CAMRA irrelevant. As a card carrying member myself I think CAMRA still has a purpose, but I think the focus should shift from "campaigning" for real ale to "celebrating" it, including "craft" beer.

Craft beer is a real conundrum for CAMRA because a lot of it is served on keg. Although it's before my time my understanding is that when CAMRA first started campaigning one of the goals was to educate the public on cask ale and how it was much better than the cheap and nasty keg beers that were popular at the time. Crappy keg lager still exists now but there is also plenty of beer that is made with care and attention, and served keg only.

My opinion is that quality beer is in rude health at the moment  whether on keg or cask, and it's getting increasingly muddled about what the purpose of CAMRA is. Most of their campaigns these days don't really revolve around real ale itself, it's more about pricing and saving pubs. Many beer bloggers such as Pub Curmudgeon have pointed out that CAMRA is suffering a bit of a crisis with membership as it's not attracting many young drinkers. As it stands at the moment I don't think many young drinkers can see the point of joining CAMRA. Those who like ale have got so many excellent beers to choose from what's the point of joining a campaign with what could be perceived as an older and out of touch member base? Those who prefer lager and have no interest in ale would probably never join CAMRA anyway. Even if they were to convert to real ale then I don't think they're going to have much to campaign about!  Personally I think it's time for a shift in focus and marketing for CAMRA if they want to attract younger members, and that is why I think it should move from a "campaign" to a more general celebrating and educating about the traditional and craft beer scene we're enjoying at the moment.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere Pete Brown's beer blog is always worth reading, and his post on anti-drink stories is an interesting view on how beer and drinking in general is unfairly villified in the press. Personally I think drinking is unfairly portrayed, but most newspapers are only interested in circulation figures and juicy moral stories always sell well. I'm not sure what effect these stories have on the average reader.The militant anti drink brigade will also be against alcohol no matter what you tell them. But is the average reader who enjoys a few pints a week really going to be swayed in to giving up drinking after reading anti drink articles? Personally I think not.

That's it for now. Next week I'll be hopefully reporting on pubs and beer in the Sevenoaks area. Hope you can join me!


  1. There's lots of reasons for young people to join the beard club. They get a discounted rate & the full allocation of spoons tokens. In fact they best way of joining is to lie about your age. make out you are younger or older to get the cheaper rate.

  2. Given that the annual membership for a young person (or an OAP) is only £15.50 you actually make a profit on the Spoons tokens if you use them all.

    Ta for the mention, btw :-)

  3. You're welcome Mudgie!

    The Spoons vouchers are a good incentive although I don't know if the hip craft loving drinkers would venture into a Spoons often enough to make use of them