This is a judgmental title and I will immediately admit that I am generalising with it. It’s not something I actually believe. However, I am having a little rant and a dig at my dear uncle in this post and therefore feel I have the right to say as I please.
I don’t agree with some of the CAMRA bashing that has gone on in recent years. Though I have never, and will never, be a member, I applaud the work they do, changes they’ve brought and know quite a few who are supportive and active volunteers. But you can’t defend the indefensible and I’m afraid that often CAMRA members become their stereotype and don’t help themselves.
My Uncle Dave was once chairman of his local CAMRA branch, (from Dewsbury but I don’t know which sect that is and won’t name it purposely.) He was a man who introduced me to many different beers and pubs and someone who I’ve often enjoyed having a pint with. Not only has he taken me to different beer festivals and taught me about different styles but he also introduced me to many of the Belgian and German beers that really taught me to appreciate every continental beer style. He has drunk ale since his teens and has worked as hard as other CAMRA members to see it reintroduced into many a pub.
But I’m starting to think my Uncle doesn’t like beer.
Certainly the last few times I’ve been drinking with him he hasn’t seemed to have enjoyed anything. The beers – rubbish. The pubs – rubbish. The choices – rubbish.
So this Saturday I went out with him, and a few others, for a few pints around Huddersfield. This would be, on a normal occasion, anything but a chore. But, due to recent form, a chore is what I expected and a chore is what I got.
We started in the Sportsman, a pub my uncle has long disliked, mainly because it has the CHEEK to brew its own beer on site, as well as offering a large range of other options. My uncle has long hated the Sportsman’s micro brewing company and their beers, but, to prove a point, he TWICE opted to purchase one. Needless to say, he had nothing nice to say about them. Constantly critical. CAMRA would not stand for this quality of beer, as I understand. But since he is aware he doesn’t like the beer, why even buy it?
Next, I insisted we went to the new Hand Drawn Monkey Beer Shop, knowing full well my uncle would disapprove. On arrival we find that both cask pumps are from Mallinsons and both keg pumps are Summer Wine. Even I’m disappointed by this lack of variety in my choice. Even so, I happily opt for 2/3’s of Summer Wine Barista. My uncle opts for…nothing. “I don’t like Mallinsons,” he exclaims despite never trying either beer on offer here. His wife, my Aunt, wants a Barista, but “doesn’t want 2/3’s of it.” Luckily it’s available in bottles – 330ml bottles. Two thirds of a pint is 380ml. So for the sake of 50ml, my Aunt makes the point to the “modern thinking” bar staff. Apparently, that extra 50 ml is too much…
We move onto the Rat and Ratchet, a pub my Uncle used to love. They are having a beer festival, this is perfect. Well so you would think. 16 cask pumps to go along with the 12 already available on the bar. 28 beers, and can this former CAMRA branch chairman find a beer? “I’ve opted for Rudgate Mild because the rest are all from Micros I’ve never heard of.” How exactly does a micro become macro if nobody drinks their beer, I ask? “Micro’s beers are too thin,” is my only response, even though he hasn’t tried any.
So we move onto the Grove. My beloved Grove. A place where we’ve celebrated my Uncle’s birthday a couple of times, working our way through the cask board and bottled beer menu. But this was five or six years ago and beer has changed since then. And in his opinion, changed for the worse.
He doesn’t like the look of any of the beers on offer on an extensive cask board. He won’t even look at the keg board because, God forbid, one of those delicious beers will murder his unborn children. The bottle menu remains forgotten because why look for something you like when you can complain about things you don’t? I have four beers from the keg menu and enjoy every single one. My Uncle looks on in disappointment.
Is he a one off? No. The current chairman of this branch was found in the Rat and Ratchet complaining to the owner of the Hand Drawn Monkey Shop about the apparently controversial 2/3’s measurement. We see him at various points of the evening, always cantankerous.
My Uncle’s friend, a long standing CAMRA member, is also out. He too doesn't like Mallinsons and I have an inkling it is more to do with who brews their beer, rather than the taste. He also has a Moor Top in one pub and immediately exclaims that Buxton Brewery “don’t know what they are doing with hops,” which is absolute poppycock. If you don’t like a particular beer or style, there is no need for such generality.
Which is why I have no qualms about generalising with CAMRA so broadly. Too many of your members do nothing to change the opinions so many have in place about your organisation. Beer is a broad perspective, but too many want it limited to Bitter and Mild. I love a good Rudgate Mild as much as a man who has been drinking real ale for 60 years, but if that is your limitation then that is your choice. Not ours. I love my Uncle, but he is, what I will describe as, a beer racist. He's the beer equivalent of an elderly neighbour who shakes his head muttering "the youth of today..." If it was brewed post 1990, it may as well be drain water. If a British beer uses foreign hops, it may as well come with a burning Union flag effigy. If a traditional pub adopts to current trends and progresses, it may as well close. I needn't worry about him seeing this and being offended, because an opinion of beer is only worth reading if it's printed in the Opening Times. But then, this fancy internet malarky's a little bit too modern anyway...