I've been to some beer festivals in the past. The one in Aberdeen about fifteen years ago wasn't very good. The most recent one (just outside Aberdeen) was so bad, with a poorer selection of beers than the average supermarket, all bottled and at vastly higher prices than the supermarkets, that we actually left and went to the pub instead. That was roughly five years ago and I haven't been to another one since.
Way back in the late seventies/early eighties, I visited the Bristol beer festival on two sucessive years. Beer there was in barrels and nobody could have sampled every one of them and survived. The entrance fee included a glass with the beer festival logo on it - a half pint glass so we weren't wasted too soon. Even so, half-pints of some of those beers were enough. They had been brewed to strengths thought impossible back then, when 'average' beer was around 2-3% and 5% was reserved for Stella Artois and other expensive beers.
Nowadays it's going the other way. I note that Gold Label barley wine has declined from 11% to 9% and the varieties of Chimay on offer no longer include the really strong ones. The price is still going up but the strength is going down.
I still have one of the Bristol glasses. The other met with an unfortunate accident involving a shelf I couldn't reach properly. Well, it was old.
Beer festivals seem to have gone downhill over the years. They used to make a real effort but that one with the bottled beer was the last straw for me. Morrisons has a better selection of bottled beers at a fraction of the price. Banana beer is an interesting experience. Rhubarb beer is something to try once too - but only buy one bottle. You might never open the second one.
In the days when I, as a smoker, was allowed in pubs, I enjoyed a pint of Caffrey's from the hand pump. The proper pump, not the electric thing. In the days when proper pumps were common, you could spot a barman/barmaid in the street because they had one huge right arm for pumping and a little left one for holding the glass. They looked a bit like hermit crabs. But I digress.
Caffrey's is available in cans with that widget thing that makes it explode if you haven't chilled it enough. It looks the same but it doesn't taste the same. The pub version is better and well worth the extra cost. The fact that I haven't been in a single pub this year has nothing to do with the price of beer.
With my tastes, I'd be a natural CAMRA supporter. I love the small-brewery beers. I have several of the Wychwood T-shirts. There's a Scottish beer called Fraoich, made with heather, that is wonderful. I've never seen it on a pump but if it is available I'd really like to try it. It's damn good even in a bottle.
I could have been a beer snob... but I like to smoke and therefore CAMRA despise me. They support my exclusion from the pubs, even the ones that have no real ales, they will be happy to see me banned from the beer gardens and they have accepted without question the lies of the antismokers. They are part of the enemy.
Even so, I did not derive pleasure from reading this.
I don't want the pubs to close faster. I want to be allowed back in there. That cannot happen if they all close. CAMRA, as far as I am concerned, can go to hell. They have chosen their side in this war and they cannot, and will not, change sides now.
Drinking is in the process of being denormalised and has been for some time. CAMRA don't see it, just as smokers didn't see it when one non-smoking carriage appeared on trains and smoking apartheid was first introduced on buses. Now we have parks where uniformed freaks can confiscate the bottle of wine you brought for your picnic and buses have, in addition to 'no smoking' signs, no drinking and no eating. Yes, you can't even have a sandwich on the bus any more.
Not that long ago, people would get on the bus with a can of beer to drink on the way home. They weren't driving, after all. In fact, I remember seeing folk doing that just last year. Now you can't drink anything, not even water, on the bus. Argue with the driver all you like. He's Polish and won't understand you.
It's early days for booze and earlier still for food, but it's the same technique. Even those pubs that have turned into restaurants will find that they still can't survive when drinking is banned. The levels of control on the food they serve will kill all but the big chains. Paying for one test that covers a hundred outlets is easy. Paying the same amount for the same test that covers one outlet is not.
You know, various smoker blogs have pointed out for a long time that the methods used on us are the same slow, methodical erosion of freedoms that is now being applied to all sorts of other aspects of life. All the antismokers ever saw was 'smoker' and their training took over. He smokes. He is an addict in denial. He is subhuman. Don't listen to him. It won't happen to you because you don't smoke.
CAMRA fell for that hook, line and sinker. Now it's happening to them. Exactly the same way.
Are you next?