Though the Campaign for Real Ale weren’t the first to talk about ‘real’ beer, their enormous success in the mid-seventies did popularise the term and, before long, a whole range of other consumer products were having their ‘realness’ assessed.
The very first edition of What’s Brewing contained an exposé of a pub which was pretending to serve beer direct from a barrel on the bar while actually pumping it from a pressurised container in the basement, and it didn’t take long before those were known as ‘fake’, ‘false’ or ‘bogus’ barrels. ‘Fake handpumps’ became a similar source of irritation.
In 1974, Michael Hardman went mad with ‘real’ in an article about the Cambridge Beer Festival for What’s Brewing:
The whole event had an atmosphere of reality. The beer was real. The food was real (bread and cheese). The occasional bursts of music were real. And, most important of all, the people were real. There was no synthetic beer, no processed food, no piped music… typical of the events which big business tries to push on the gullible public of England.
Real people!? This is surely an expression of Phildickian paranoia from a time when people imagined we’d soon be eating flavoured vitamin pills for dinner, confusing androids with humans and listening to nothing but Switched on Bach.
Before long, ‘real lager’ (German or Czech) was being described as the alternative to the ‘ersatz’ license-brewed variety. In 1978, CAMRA voiced its support for CAMREB — the Campaign for Real Wholemeal Bread. The 1983 Good Beer Guide mentions ‘”real” bottled beers’ and includes an article entitled ‘Real Cheese Please’. The 1984 edition (detail from cover, right) contained an article about ‘real fire’ heating as, for the first time, the presence of a suitably authentic blazing hearth was indicated in pub listings.
In the last forty years, CAMRA’s approach has been imitated by various other campaigns, giving us real education, real pet food, real books, real gravy, real milk, real farming, real beauty…
That last, of course, was a marketing campaign by cosmetics company. Hmm. Maybe we need an overarching Campaign for Real Realness, perhaps with a technical committee, to guard against ‘fake real‘?