Tooled Up Froth Blowers, RALF and the Ring

Not the real RALF logo.
Not the real RALF logo…

When we wrote about the Ancient Order of Froth Blowers, we knew they were relatively well known, but didn’t know they’d been immortalised in animation. Our favourite discovery, however, has been that the AOFB was used as a cover by ‘Wild Geese’ mercenaries who turned up to support a 1981 coup in the Seychelles wearing blazers embroidered with the Order’s logo, and with their bags stuffed with guns.

That Froth Blowers post also led a chap called Bert to tip us off to the existence of the militant Real Ale Liberation Front (RALF), founded by pub landlord and CAMRA member Nick Winnington in Weymouth in c.1977, with the aim of carrying out small acts of sabotage against keg beer and the big brewers. There was more than one member, and there were some stickers, but that’s all we know. We’ve emailed Nick (with Bob Arnott’s help) and await more information.

Finally, our new favourite book(s), Green and White’s Evening Standard Guide to London Pubs (1973), gives us this:

Another organization concerned with pubs and beer is ‘the Ring.’ This is a loosely knit group of mature students of the pub scene. They meet once a month for a determined pub crawl, obliged to visit ten or eleven pre-selected pubs. Masonic rituals prevail; you buy drinks in groups of three or four in strict rotation; and when the leader has finished his half pint, he shouts ‘Ring out!’, at which you must drain your glass and leave the pub… Men are known collectively as Hector, and ladies — though not normally accepted — as Morag.

Can anyone confirm the existence of the Ring? Or is this just it’s-a-mad-world journalistic bullshit?

Yet More Pre-CAMRA Beer Organisations

Pub User's Preservation Society memorabilia.

In a comment on our post about the National Society for the Promotion of Pure Beer, John Lamb brought to our attention to other proto-CAMRAs — the Ancient Order of Frothblowers and the Pub Users’ Preservation Protection Society.

Though we’d never heard of it before, it turns out the AOFs isn’t especially obscure. The excellent Friends of the Frothblowers website has more information about them than most people will ever need but, for the really obsessive, there is even a book. (And, for those who like a good vintage beer mug, prepare to feel envious at the sight of Steve ‘Beer Justice’ Williams’ remarkable charity shop purchase.)

There’s less information about PUPS out there. Pint in Hand, the magazine of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, ran an article on them in 1998 which we’re going to try to track down but, in the meantime, here’s a summary from a later issue of the same publication (link to PDF):

The front page of the first issue of their Journal was reproduced – dated May 1946. Subjects of concern included price, décor, rude publicans and short measures (not a lot changes, does it!). Membership cost one shilling and included a ‘beerometer’, a patented device to show how much money the customer had been cheated out of by the head on their beer.

That really does sound quite CAMRA-like, doesn’t it?

UPDATE 18 April 2013: the January 1979 edition of CAMRA’s own What’s Brewing newsletter contains an article by Barrie Pepper and Andrew Cooper with a lot more information on PUPS, based on a collection of cuttings and publications found in a Lancaster bookshop.

It was… founded by a West End author, Townley Searle, who had brushed with a landlord, been refused a drink, and felt there was much wrong with the public house system… [Its] arguments were not so much about the quality of beer, but more about the quantity and the unfair rights of landlords.

They cite an edition of the Sunday Pictorial from 1946 which says the Society had ‘4000 eager wallop-neckers who insist they’re the victims of much tavern skullduggery’.

Hopefully, CAMRA, Barrie Pepper and Andrew Cooper won’t mind us reproducing the photographs above.

UPDATE #2 18 April 2013: and now we’ve found a letter from Mr Searle published in The Times on 20 May 1946 under the heading ‘The Status of Froth’:

No one objects to the ‘collar’ of froth above the rim or brim. The trouble is that so often the collar starts an inch or so below the rim, with the result that the customer is defrauded of about two-pennyworth of beer.