Monday, 16 August 2010

CAMRA: denormalisation beckons.

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?


Anonymous said...

“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 ...”

True enough, smokers didn’t see what was coming, but then there hadn’t been a similar campaign of smears and lies and hysterical made-up stories levied against any group in this country, sponsored by “the authorities” and dutifully carried out by their own peers, since the witch hunts of the Middle Ages, so it was perhaps understandable that, given the cunning and imperceptible way in which their demonisation was organised, all but a few didn’t know what was lurking around the corner until it was too late.

Drinkers, on the other hand, have no excuse for burying their heads in the sand. The whole anti-smoking campaign, from the early warnings of “a link with lung cancer,” through the turning point of “hurting innocent bystanders,” to today’s draconian ban is well within living memory for the vast majority of people who are old enough to drink alcohol today. And God knows, they've had enough warnings about it from smokers themselves saying "you'll be next," even before the smoking ban came in and the anti-alcohol movement even got started, which they'd have heard if only they hadn't had their fingers in their ears.

Any refusal by drinkers to see that what’s happening to alcohol is an almost exact mirror of what's happened to tobacco amounts to nothing more than sheer denial or sheer stupidity on their part. And any refusal to do anything about it – loudly and forcefully – now, while the movement is in its early stages, is nothing short of sheer, spineless cowardice.

banned said...

I used to go to CAMRAs very first Real Ale Festivals at Alexandra Palace in north London and well remember the half pint glasses though none survive.

"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". Which is how they got rid of thousands of local abbatoirs in favour of the big meat companies to the detriment of local farmers and consumers alike.

Leg-Iron, I've been off-blog for a few days so you might have covered it; should we worry about the New Delhi super-virus or is it just another scarey thing from the Government?

Curmudgeon said...

It does seem from comments on Dick P's blog that the letter you link to was a spoof - although nowadays you can never be too sure.

And your memories are a little hazy as Caffrey's has always been a keg beer and has never to my knowledge been available on handpump.

Wossat? said...

I used to be a regular attendee at the Fleetwood beer festival. Same degradation of quality coupled with rocketing prices you describe in this post has kept me away for the last three years.

If quality continues to fall we'll end up with beers containing zero alchohol content. The only use for bottled beer at this point will be as prejudicially deployed anal inserts for the purity gobshites who are killing our freedom to get rat-arsed on occasion. For the sake of the cheeeeldren of course...

13th Spitfire said...

Might there be a prospect of overturning the smoking ban if they citizens initiate is used (100,000 signatures), to at least get it up on the agenda in parliament?

Anonymous said...

Listening to LBC this morning talking about a litter fine.
A place called Sandwell, a 70yr old lady smoking next to a bus stop and she taps her ash. A warden gives her a fixed penalty for £75!
No ciggy on the ground, just simply ash. He has refused to pay, she faces a further fine of £2,500 if she does not pay.

Its this kind of thing that could send me over the edge.

Captain Haddock said...

I was a loyal CAMRA Member for over 10 years & attended as many of the "Great British Beer Festivals" in London as I was able to manage ..

I've also been fortunate enough to have toured several of the better, well-known Breweries .. including Young's of Wandsworth (twice) .. Fuller's of Chiswick .. The Hog's Back Brewery at Tongham, nr Farnham, Surrey etc ..

I resigned my membership of CAMRA in disgust at their support of the smoking ban (being a Pipe smoker myself) & told them so, when asked why I no longer wished to remain a Member ..

I've recently switched to this ...

At 8.2 ABV .. its a very nice pint ... I've recommended this to several others in the Blogosphere & as yet, no-one has disliked it ..

Available from Morrison's @ £1.69 per bottle .. I also understand that it can be bought at Tesco too ..

Incidentally, I have no connection with Weston's, Morrison's or Tesco ..

Paul said...

Captain Haddock: My local Sainsbury's sells the 8.2% stuff for £1.15 per bottle at the moment. If it's a nation-wide offer you know what to do.

I used to go to CAMRA festivals fairly often. I've been to the Fleetwood one but the beer was terrible and the 'music entertainment' was so loud you couldn't think. I had to go outside to speak to someone I'd met there.

CAMRA really don't see what's coming with the drinking ban. Many of their members don't help their cause by being so narrow-minded, even with beer - i.e. anything stronger than 4.2% is rocket-fuel and will cause you to lose sight of your faculties. I mentioned the stronger BrewDog ales to a few of them and they snorted at the idea, even when I made it clear that it's similar to whisky or wine in the way that you approach it.

Beer seems to be getting blander and weaker all the time - several well-known ales have been diluted from 4.5% to 4.1% in an effort to keep costs down but this adversely affects a beer. What was once a full-bodied, tasty and distinctive bitter is now bland and dull and exactly like any other ale.

Pubs are empty, soulless, unwelcoming places in this day and age. The few smokers who do go regularly are all forced outside, where they can't take their drinks. The community aspect has near-enough broken down even intra-pub - we are just 'clusters' or 'groups' of people now, not really a cohesive whole. The previous Labour government has a hell of a lot to answer for in this regard. They have killed the enjoyment of a large section of society - in any civilised country, the party that had done something like that would cease to exist. We're a bovine nation though and a lot of people really like being told what to do. It's frightening really.

sixtypoundsaweekcleaner said...

Generally, the beer festivals in my home town are very good. I only remember one which was bad. All the good beers had gone, leaving little to choose from. Apparently, CAMRA got complaints.

Saying that, I hardly go in pubs now, they're too expensive and the quality of the pint/glass of wine is too patchy. You never know whether you are going to get a good drink or not. For me living on a low wage, it's too much of a risk. I don't like spending my money on crap.

I think the future is all about brewing your own. Just watch the Righteous suddenly slap tax on it, or do something to curb our enjoyment...they just can't stop themselves.

Angry Squaddie said...

Let them try to tax home-brew kits or yeast.

I'll just brew with Aldi apple juice and baker's yeast. Google "turbo cider"

Fuck them, as soon as my next batch of wine is ready, I'm not paying a further penny to the Government in alcohol duty.

I'll miss gin and whiskey but I'll just have to stock up every time I go abroad.

Believe me, the Treasury will notice it if enough of us do it!

Captain Haddock said...

Thanks for the heads-up Paul ...

Complexmessiah said...

I could join you in ranting but it's been a long day so I'll just say "woo! Fraioch!" Only had it the once but it was a grand sup and no mistake!

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