Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Post in Praise of CAMRA and Food for thought for SOBA

There has been a fair bit of criticism of CAMRA in the blogosphere recently. Pete Brown has had a crack over his perception of the opening ceremony of the Brewing Centre in Burton, Greig has packed in his membership citing political differences, and others have weighed in with comments. Others like Ed have also made a point of looking at the positives. Roger Protz has come out in defence making sweeping statements that probably weren’t the wisest.

My CAMRA membership lapsed a year or so ago when it no longer became possible for me to renew my membership online, from memory it had something to do with having to enter your county branch as a log in or password and obviously as an overseas member I don’t have one and the disappearance of a web support email address. Anyway there was no political or theological falling out between me and the campaign. I have finally got around to signing up myself and Sarah with direct debit using Sarah’s UK bank account.

From my vantage point on the other side of the world much of the criticism of CAMRA seems somewhat unfair. The worst being that the organisation has a culture of entitlement. It seems to me that the Campaign as a whole amasses large amounts of volunteer labour on a regular basis in the interests of cask conditioned beer. Thousands of CAMRA members regularly donate time in the interests of the cause, that there will be some members who don’t and expect some of sort of payback for simply being a member shouldn’t outweigh the thousands that do. I think a big part of this is how the Campaign presents itself. This brings me to the second main criticism levelled against the campaign which is that it narrowly campaigns for cask conditioned beer rather than craft beer in general. I think this one is pretty much nonsense. CAMRAs core reason for being is cask conditioned beer, it’s like criticising the SPCA for not campaigning on Child Poverty. I of course am biased. I agree with Martyn Cornell when he says “nothing is capable of beating the best cask ale” and accordingly I agree with CAMRA.

As for some of the criticisms of policy there is probably more just cause. It would probably be good if the take it to the top campaign was quietly retired, from a New Zealand perspective it’s amazing how affordable good beer is in the UK. The super complaint against the tie seems dangerous as history seems to teach us that tackling the tie only ever results in unexpected often negative consequences.

The point of Greig’s post was that there are lessons to be learned for SOBA, in that, I suspect he is right. With new Memberships running at a rate of one a day we are growing and we will gather both members who want to contribute, those who won’t but still support the cause and those who just want a cheap glass of beer at Hashigo and a discounted rigger at Regional. It's up to the organisation to balance these kinds of members and preserve the image and intent of the organisation.


Greig McGill said...

Nicely said Kieran. Can I have my "i" back though? ;)

I take your point regarding campaigning for cask beer. That's not the issue. Good on CAMRA for doing that. I just think that, given they often are asked to venture opinions on "dead" but perfectly tasty craft beers, they should really be saying "not our area, no comment", instead of "bah, it should be Real Ale!" - A comment I have personally overheard more than once in several great beer locations in England.

I wish CAMRA well, I might rejoin in time.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

'i' instated. me and spelling , a dance that moves in and out of step.

Greig McGill said...

Haha, now it's in the wrong place! ;) Doesn't worry me really, just extracting the urine! :)

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Your one of those pedantic CAMRA types arn't you? :-)