I've just received my Summer edition of Camra's quarterly publication 'Beer' and I was pleasantly surprised to see a healthy debate within it's pages titled - Should Camra promote all 'craft' beer?
Arguing for the 'YES' camp is author of the Good Beer Guide Belgium and former Camra exec member, Tim Webb. In the 'No' corner is the current Chairman of Camra's Rochdale branch and author of the Tandleman Beer Blog, Peter Alexander. It is an interesting debate.
Webb argues that 'Camra needs to get involved in the new world' and that a 'new generation of beer drinkers' are 'not impressed by technical correctness of production' but instead 'get excited by exploring taste and variety'. He goes on, 'What makes beer good...is neither dictated by technical specification nor advertising. It is defined by what experienced palates taste within it'. He describes Camra's definition of good beer as 'now plainly inadequate'.
Alexander counters in a concilliatory tone by stating that 'Few of us are so closed-minded to believe that cask is the only way to serve good beer'. However, he goes on to state that 'Our purpose, until the members say otherwise, is to promote real ale as the indigenous beer style of Britain. It is why we exist'. To reinforce this point, Alexander qoutes one of the Camra founders, Michael Hardman, 'I must point out that we're not fighting against anything, we're fighting for something'.
Alexander finishes his argument by saying that 'The craft beer movement must find it's own way in the world'.
On the following page, Fuller's head brewer, John Keeling continues the debate further by exploring the science of packaging, dispense and it's influence on flavour.
It is good to see Camra devoting some space over to this issue and exploring it in a mature and non finger pointing, knee jerk way.
This is an exciting time to be a beer drinker. The range and quality of beers out there has never, in my opinion, been better. Both keg and cask have their merits and on the issue of dispense, I'm fairly pragmatic. If the cap fits and all that. Keg has clearly moved on since the dark days of the 1970's when Camra first started and I believe that quality cask and keg can peacefully co-exist in a perfect beer world.
However, on the question of whether Camra should promote all 'craft' beer. That is, as Peter Alexander says, down to the members of that organisation. If you are not a member of Camra and think that they should endorse keg, join the organisation and try and change it from within.