In 1976, the Sunday Mirror invited Michael Hardman, a founding member of the Campaign for Real Ale, to take part in a beer ‘taste test’. He walked right into a trap.
Tasting ‘blind’, Hardman joined his fellow judges in declaring a keg bitter, Tetley’s Drum, the unanimous winner, and the Sunday Mirror duly declared it ‘the best beer in Britain’.
Hardman was quoted in the article, admitting that Drum was ‘very good’ and that he wasn’t surprised by the result.
CAMRA had, in effect, publicly endorsed a product of the very type it had been set up to do away with.
Campaign members were not impressed: they wrote to What’s Brewing declaring it a ‘fiasco’ and berating Hardman not only for taking part, but in particular for appearing to speak positively about keg bitter.
Hardman argued that he had only reacted honestly — the real ales, in the middle of a famous heat wave, had not been at their best, and the keg had been ‘in better condition on the day‘. He also defended his decision to take part, saying that CAMRA needed to take every opportunity it could to reach mainstream audiences.
Nonetheless, a lesson was learned, we think: we can’t recall hearing of anyone from CAMRA being lured into a similar cask vs. keg blind-tasting since.
There was only so much space available in Brew Britannia and not every nugget we came across made it into the text, so there will no doubt be more posts like this in the coming months.