opinion real ale

CAMRA members and keg

We heard the disappointing news today that some very reasonable suggestions by a CAMRA working group were rejected almost completely by the National Executive. This was followed by the rejection at CAMRA‘s annual general meeting of another sensible step towards supporting British breweries. (Though Motion 15 (more here) was carried.)

Neither bit of news was unexpected. Policy doesn’t change overnight and let’s not forget that, as others have pointed out, keg-friendly bloggers are not CAMRA’s core membership. It can’t afford to scare the die-hards away, even if that makes other members sigh and ponder cancelling their direct debits.

Anyway, here’s some thinking about where beer geeks stand in relationship to CAMRA and keg beer. We haven’t numbered the boxes this time, so apologies to those who like to label themselves. (But we’re in the fifth box down.)

UPDATE: changed the diagram. Better?

Attempt to map attitudes to keg beer against CAMRA membership.

We’ll get bored of these graphics soon. Probably. Maybe.

27 replies on “CAMRA members and keg”

You missed a non-member category: “Amused and/or confused by CAMRA. Thinks cask on a continuum with other good beer. Segregation neither helpful or hindering. Just silly.”

Think that’s the one right in the middle of “passive members” (though already feeling that we haven’t provided enough footnotes: the big coloured blocks indicate a rough correlation.)

I’m a non-member but I don’t think I fit in the pink bit at the bottom… Existential crisis time!

On the other hand, I think I agree with Alan.

Interesting. I feel I’m drifting into the seventh box, if you include foreign craft beer as well. Apart from a few excellent British breweries who consistently produce quality tasty cask beer I now find a lot of cask beers the same and also BLAND! Perhaps my taste is changing though.

Hmm. So those coloured blocks don’t work. Can we summon the energy to rework the graphic? Hmm.

I think what we wanted to capture is that there are members who are fairly agnostic about cask ale. What we’ve failed to get across, though, is that there are people who have warm feelings towards cask ale but who just think CAMRA is daft. Right. Got it.

I think that the fifth box is about right for me but I’m not a member 🙂

I’m a non member who would put myself on the ‘active/passive’ cusp. I would add that well-kept cask is best but that good keg would be a godsend for those pubs who aren’t much good at keeping cask (which is probably most pubs).

Fastcask always seemed very odd. All it does is allow beer to drop bright faster. It doesn’t actually address the problems of cask ale. Fastcask will still get oxidised, go flat, and go off if it’s not drunk fast enough. I rather suspect that fastcask is more to do with streamlining the production process in the brewery. You can take the centrifuged or filtered beer from the same stream that is going to bottles and kegs and just add in the yeast beads on the way…

Barm – the most concise and glorious thing written about fastcask ever written. The mind boggles – and it only makes sense if the beer is essentially brewery-conditioned with a wink of the eye to CAMRA by keeping the beads in. Clearly there’s no gushing secondary fermentation, or fastcask would be pointlessly ill-conditioned beer.

Number 6 looks best to me.

I think most modern members join for the JDW vouchers and free entry to beer festivals, not to actively campaign for real ale.

I am a brewer of predominantly cask ale with some keg and bottle products.

I’m not a CAMRA member and don’t think I ever will be, though without CAMRA’s support, I don’t think my brewery would ever have become successful.

As my husband knows even if I was a member I would probably pay for entry mainly because beer festivals that have members discount for beer festivals also have a non member lane for entry. Last time we got in first despite turning up ten minutes before opening as we were only folks in the non members queue. Members queue was around the tent. 🙂

I think this is about right. I wonder what this graphic would have looked at 3-4 years ago? It is pleasing that some CAMRA members are seeing that GREAT BEER doesn’t HAVE to be cask. Most, as you indicate, don’t get it. Yet.

BTW … I’m a Life Member, and a member of CAMRGB. I am in the 5th box too.


‘Core membership’? What’s that then? Can an organisation which has seen rapid growth in membership be seen to be making policy for a ‘core membership’? If that’s the case, the issue would appear to be, as others have debated on Tandie’s and elsewhere, democratising the organisation to properly reflect a balance of views, not just those of beardie-weirdy life members who can get to wherever the Members Weekend is held.

Currently i am probably mostly in box 4 (though not an active member) I would probably be further down the list, but it’s very rare that I get to try supposedly “decent keg” – certainly no pubs near me sell any – and the few times I have tried any it was disappointing.

However, i dont rule out improvements in the future, and if it means that even the mediocre pubs near me can serve up a reliably good beer then I will be broadly in favour.

Having worked in the industry for 20-odd years, I know plenty of active CAMRA members who drink and enjoy good kegged beers on a regular basis. Not sure I find the need to pigeon hole people or have them assign themselves a box.
Even though I am not a CAMRA member, and I often find some CAMRA members irritating at best I have to say I’m not sure what this achieves.

Jesus, will you look at that, I think I may have aged about 30 years! However, I did shave this morning and I’m not wearing sandals.

Beer and Brewing — that’s interesting. How specifically did CAMRA help your brewery? At a local level?

Sid — good point, and we’re certainly very much in favour of making it easier for members to have their say.

Rabidbarfly — just to be clear, this wasn’t intended to be a Chat magazine “Which Type of Lover Are You?” questionnaire — just an attempt to remind ourselves and others that there are lots of perspectives in play, and that CAMRA is more complex than some people might think. People do seem to enjoy categorising themselves, though…

Alan — you’re a free man, not a number, etc..

Matt — you might be tickling the edge of an important issue, there: if, as some say, ‘craft keg’ is so rare as to not be worth worrying about, are its advocates really asking for CAMRA to help make it more readily available? And, if so, is that a step beyond what we should ever expect CAMRA to do?

My major gripe with CAMRA – as a member – is that it’s a membership organisation with numbers rivalling that of the Labour and Conservative parties that (much like those other two) has little idea of where its members are and what they want. Perhaps they want to lead anti-keg death squads, Perhaps they are more ecumenical. I don’t know and neither does CAMRA, but they pay their subs and where they are should be reflected by the organisation.

My other issue is they have a regulatory place as a super complainant to the OFT. I don’t think it’s in the beer drinker’s interest that this role is fulfilled by a cask-only body.

It is pleasing that some CAMRA members are seeing that GREAT BEER doesn’t HAVE to be cask.

As I say whenever this comes up, CAMRA members have been drinking brewery-conditioned beer without a word of complaint for, oh, um, just over forty years. British bottled beers with secondary fermentation were like hen’s teeth not very long ago, and some excellent bottled beers still fail the “real ale in bottle” test. People don’t take that much notice. If anyone out there boycotts Old Tom because it’s Not Real Ale, I haven’t met them (and don’t wish to).

It’s really not about the not-cask, it’s about the kegging – and in particular about some breweries’ apparent eagerness to make ‘craft keg’ look, feel and taste as unlike cask beer as possible. Put it this way: if you were designing, from scratch, a system for delivering brewery-conditioned beer through a bar tap, would it involve microscopic levels of filtering, high levels of refrigeration and pressurised containers with propellant gas in contact with the beer (and an extra 50p-£1 per pint)?

I’m in box four, as it goes; I try a ‘craft keg’ beer every so often, but so far I’ve always been disappointed. I had 5 a.m. Saint on cask once; it was a fantastic beer, worthy of a place in my all-time top 20 of any beer ever. I’ve had it in bottle and on keg since then. It was OK.

Brilliant! So I now want to invent a brand of industrial specific yeast strain based CO2 production so that craft kegs can be pressurized with the socially correct CO2 for each particular beer. I have seen the light and the invention that provides the solution as well. Maybe the CO2 canister can gak a tiny little bit of that yeast into the keg, too, just to ensure that’s in there, too.

I think this is an interesting and difficult time for CAMRA as I’m sure it takes a lot of bottle to quite radically alter your stance. I also think that there are a few brewers who who only brew cask beers but feel they are closer to the “craft beer” world than they are to CAMRA.

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