I didn’t attend the CAMRA AGM this year. Not for any anti-CAMRA reason, but because we were visiting friends in the wilds of Bristol (I don’t often go north of Watford as you well know).
As a member of CAMRA I am supportive of and frustrated by the organisation in equal measure. But my membership will continue. Why? Well, because I love cask ale – but also because I believe that change comes from within.
Despite knowing I couldn’t attend I made sure to be active in other ways – casting my vote in the elections and reading through the various motions. The motions were their usual mix of interesting and business as usual, but two stood out:
This Conference instructs all CAMRA Branches to ensure that when selecting pubs for their Pub of the Year, or any other, awards, they should ensure that the pubs are clearly not breaching any of our internal policies particularly regarding areas of discrimination. This will include their premises websites and any other aspects of social media.
I’ve spoken before about my interest in the lack of diversity within the membership (and within beer more widely), but was unsure if that was the intended meaning of this motion. Was it about possible sexist/racist/transphobic behaviour? I put the question out on Twitter, but received nothing but similar confusion in response. I also searched both the external and members area of the website, but could find no internal policies alluding to this sort of behaviour. It passed and, if it’s what I thought it was – fantastic! And if anyone could point me in the direction of said policies – even better.
[UPDATE: It does mean this! Excellent news.]
This Conference agrees that the term ‘craft beer’ is an inclusive one that can apply to real ale. It therefore instructs branches when using the term in any material or publications to ensure that it is used in this way in order to counter a tendency for the term ‘craft beer’ to refer only to non real ale.
As you can imagine, there was much interest in this on social media. And, when the following was tweeted I awaited the backlash…
Motion 7 to accept the term craft beer to apply for real ale was rejected
— CAMRA AGM (@CAMRA_AGM) April 8, 2017
And oh how they back lashed! Or…lashed back? I’ve decided to anonymise quotes, but all are taken from Twitter:
‘In its present form I can’t see CAMRA lasting another 5 years’, said one person (slightly dramatically in my opinion).
‘At least we know cask ale can not be craft according to CAMRA…well, this year anyway’, said another.
‘It was a badly worded motion that wasn’t given any time’, another CAMRA member lamented, ‘so, so stupid to not even consider it.’
As I said before – I wasn’t there, so I can’t comment on what was said at the time, but here’s my take on it:
I agree that it was a badly worded motion, and I agree that cask ale can also be craft beer (the original craft if I may be so bold). We know now that craft beer isn’t about keg even if it seemed that way originally. We have many craft breweries producing some beautiful cask ales and it’s likely that many younger people have ‘found’ cask ale via the keg beer route.
But while the UK is still without an organisation with a clear definition of craft beer – how can CAMRA possibly pass a motion like this?
I thought a definition might come with the announcement of the United Craft Brewers a couple of years ago, although that quickly descended into farce. This is so utterly boring, but so very necessary if we want to bridge this gap between ‘craft’ and ‘cask’, ensure the protection and growth of craft beer (including cask ale) and, of course, provide a knowledge base for brewers to ensure a level of quality is maintained.
But even then I wonder if CAMRA will accept it, as inevitably it won’t apply to all cask ale including some of the Big Brewers that bring much needed funding to GBBF (correct me if I’m wrong – this is an assumption).
It’s a difficult question, but one that is worth discussing, I think. I’d be interested to hear thoughts from those who were at the AGM, and I hope it hasn’t put people off joining CAMRA or continuing their CAMRA membership because ultimately it is the members that have the power to create change. What that change is I don’t know, but I just know it’s on the horizon.