Our wish list for a beer consumer organisation

With various embryonic entities popping up to answer the call for a body to champion all good beer, regardless of whether it’s ‘real ale’ or not, here are a few things that we would like to see in a British beer consumer organisation.

1. We want it to be serious, measured and perhaps even a little boring. We think even the venerable CAMRA fails on this front sometimes, allowing passion to spill over into bad temper. UPDATE: Beior.org in Ireland seems to get this right.

2. To work constructively alongside CAMRA. That doesn’t mean necessarily always agreeing with them, but at least getting along well enough to manage joint events or campaigns. It certainly means that cheap jibes about beards and sandals are out.

3. A focus on quality, taste and the certification of ‘good beer’, probably through blind taste test panels. We wouldn’t care if that meant some beers from big breweries got the stamp of approval, or if it meant that some small breweries get some harsh feedback.

4. Avoid distracting, divisive side-campaigns — e.g. “drink British craft beer” — and stay out of politics. As the beer blogoshire shows, people who love beer, when they get off that topic, can turn out to have very little in common. Trying to get them to agree on anything other than that well-made beer is where it’s at would spell disaster. Promote good beer and leave it at that.

5. Achievable objectives. Here’s an example: reduce the number of pubs in the UK where there is no beer a member of said organisation would want to drink. That might mean more cask ale; or it might just mean a bottle or two of good beer in the fridge.

We still think, with a bit of creative thinking, CAMRA could take this on this without compromising its core values but there doesn’t seem to be an appetite to do so, leaving a gap in the market for something else to emerge.

American Craft Beer Week

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The gentlemen at Hop Talk have kindly reminded us that it’s American Craft Beer Week.

This set me thinking about (a) how much I’d like to be able to get hold of more American beer in the UK and (b) what a nice term “craft beer” is.

There’s something a bit sanctimonious about the term “real ale”. And it’s also a very vague term – you need to know a lot more to understand what qualifies a beer as “real”. “Craft beer”, on the otherhand, is a quieter term, and also tells you something specific about the beers it’s applied to – that they’re “crafted”. In other words, some care has gone into their design and manufacture.

I’m not bothered, especially, whether my beer comes from a cask; whether it’s bottle-conditioned; or even whether it’s ale.

All I ask is that it shows evidence of someone having thought about it, tasted it, and changed the recipe to make it taste nice or at least taste interesting. I’ve had plenty of “real ale” which didn’t have much craft in it (a load of pale malt, a ton of fuggles hops, hand-drawn label) and some which was, as a result, barely drinkable. Equally, I’ve had beers from very big breweries which indicate that someone, somewhere in the organisation, still cares about their craft.