I have a strange relationship with CAMRA, I have grown up in an CAMRA environment, I have vague memories of my Dad getting a lifetime membership from his mates at his 40th birthday party, I have been taken to CAMRA beer festivals since a baby, I have been socialising alongside many ELAC members while working for the Leyton Orient Supporters Club and most recently since the start of the year I am BLO for Signature Brew. Despite all this I have officially only been a member for a year, the reason to signing up this year is I thought their views on Craft Beer was changing. Now with the revitalisation of CAMRA, which is going down as we speak, I feel it is a good chance to open discussion and invite people to the East London and City CAMRA revitalisation meeting that we are holding at Leyton Orient Supporters Club this Monday.
I don’t think anyone is questioning the hard work over the years CAMRA has done, I truly believe that if they hadn’t done the ground work throughout the previous decades we wouldn’t be in this beer boom that we are right now. They also know how to throw a good beer festival, the very first GBBF may have not gone so smoothly but moving on from that they grew and now their experience of running festivals is priceless, a few newer festivals organisers could do with a bit of that experience passed their way. Also the work they do with campaigning to save pubs is excellent, the books and guides they produce are good, especially Des De Moor’s latest CAMRA Guide to Londons Best Beers,Pubs & Bars, as I feel it was a turning point in accepting more Craft Beer and keg bars into CAMRA world. But I agree with them, they need a bit of a face lift, they need to look at themselves and assess the situation. We can throw stereotypes around but for as many typical CAMRA member stereotypes there are there are equally as many stereotyped Craft Beer geeks. What does frustrate me however is when people from either side flat out refuse to accept the other, instead of working together. People are scared of change and things that are new, that is human nature, but it frustrates me to see people put their hand up at me with disgust because I suggest to them a beer that is in a can or think that all keg is evil. Bad beer is evil, we all agree on that. People who also just wave off CAMRA without seeing what they do or giving it ago frustrate me. If CAMRA change to a more open approach to new beers then their members will follow.
Those CAMRA members who are unsure on kegs I encourage you to visit your local micropub or somewhere comfortable that serves some of the new Craft Beer. I fully understand that somebody who has drank real ale most their life would be put off by entering a Brewdog bar. However, micropubs are leading the way forward and providing somewhere with a comfortable and familiar environment for you to try whatever good beer you like. Likewise, with someone who hasn’t tried real ale before, get yourself down to your local CAMRA beer festival.
Even though I have been submerged in CAMRA environment for years and even put on CAMRA driven events at Orient I do feel they struggle at representing a younger newer crowd. This is something I think they could focus on during this time of reflection. These thoughts is why I think it is important that everyone to give them feedback on where they think CAMRA should focus their organisation on, bloggers, podcasters, brewery workers, untappd addicts, everyone! What would we as a new wave of beer drinkers want to see CAMRA do. I don’t feel there is a need for them to get involved with what the breweries are doing but should be there to be able to provide information on those breweries. New guides for Craft Beer bars and breweries as well as their current real ale guides, presented in the same style as their current guides would be great. Just recently at the Cambridge beer festival there was a key keg bar, and guess what… It smashed it, they sold so much beer from key keg to many happy consumers. Surely this says something, keg beers do have a place at CAMRA festivals, I would love to see this spread across other events. The opportunity is there for CAMRA to grab, by providing us members with the info about new breweries and the technology of kegged beers, as well as providing us opportunities to try them alongside real ale at their festival.
What is the answer? Where does CAMRA go from here, to be honest I don’t really know the answer myself. But I would like to see is a more open attitude from their members towards beers that are not cask condition, and accept that good beer can come in other forms now. I would like to say that they should represent the drinker of all good craft made products, but I’m not sure if the ship has already sailed for them to do that. They need to continue their work with saving pubs without a doubt.
I’m looking forward to the meeting being held at Leyton Orient Supporters Club and I will be behind the bar serving all those lovely people that shall be in attendance. We will have local beers from Hackney Brewery and Signature Brew for you to enjoy during the meeting, pints will be a special price of £2.50 a pint. We also have some great beer in bottles and cans that I feel will be rather topical for the evening. Doors open at 6pm but the meeting will be from 7pm till 9pm and you can register at this website.
You can find Leyton Orient Supporters Club on the West Stand at the Matchroom Stadium, Leyton E10 5NF in East London. Entrance is alongside the main stadium entrance, close to the Club Shop and Ticket Office, on Oliver Road E10.
Disclaimer – These views are all my own and not those of Leyton Orient Supporters Club or Signature Brew