It's that time of year again. After the wonderful preamble of complaints about what beers CAMRA chooses to buy for the massive beer festival it puts on without any subsidy, it's now time for the main event. Complaining About The Winner Of Champion Beer Of Britain. Deep joy.
Not being one to go with the herd I have two points to make here. The first being specific to the CBOB competition, the second being generally about CAMRA.
1. The CBOB competition is an extremely high profile event (whose rules are a mystery to me) which serves the purpose, among other things, of highlighting real ale to those who may not have tried it.
Everyone I know who moans about the result annually is, like me, into more radical, hoppy beers, IPA's and suchlike. Good for them. I would like to pose this question to such moaners as a group. Do you think that the best way to convert people from John Smiths Smooth etc. or mass lager to real ale (that's the aim, forget craft beer for now) is to get them to try a West Coast style IPA? Really?
I don't. My experience is that my road from drinking lager and not really liking it to swilling uber hoppy 10%ABV IPAs and loving it went through a good few stages. Gateway beers if you like. In the same way that a proportion of kids who enjoy eating candy cigarettes will end up doing crack, there is a progression to these things. I started off with extremely trad real ales and ended up drinking keg IPAs. Never would have happened without CAMRA.
This is my point with a lot of moaning about CAMRA. There is no need for them actively to promote keg IPAs. What they are doing already is massively helping that section of the market.
Results like this will encourage people to try a pretty inoffensive, technically good real ale. IPA makers should be pleased about this, the same way crack dealers are pleased when someone tries Marijuana.
2. Somebody said to me yesterday, "CAMRA should be abolished." I think this phrase neatly encapsulates the attitude that a small group has toward CAMRA but I would argue that it is based on a completely false premise.
Because of CAMRA's huge success it has a lot of influence. It doesn't have that influence because of legislation or because it is in receipt, like the public health lobby for instance, of public funds. Therefore it cannot be abolished. It has to answer to nobody but its members.
If it was failing maybe its members might hold it to account. They might even complain about who won CBOB, but I'm afraid I have to remind the moaners that all it has to answer for is more success than any other consumer group in the UK ever.
I personally would like to thank CAMRA for its role in creating the fantastic, exciting and varied beer market that we operate in. I salute you. I may even do so with a pint of Boltmaker.