CAMRA: To be or not to be?

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Disclaimer: This is not a post for postings sake. This is not an attempt to have a cheap pop at an organisation I know next to nothing about. This is a post to elaborate on recent discussions with like minded beer folk.  Ultimately this is a post which will document a thought process.The subject header of this discussion is slightly misleading as the post does not intend to question the existence of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), as there is no doubt that decisive activists past and continued advocates present  make CAMRA a key player in the continuing rise and success of Real Ale.   The subject of this discussion is based purely on a personal dilemma; should I take membership in CAMRA?  Hardly a dilemma in real-terms given the types of hard-hitting decisions people make on a daily basis, but more a dilemma in the context of personal interest.

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On first appraisal I looked upon this question as a matter of; “do I want to spend £20 on this membership?”.  As a result of my Yorkshire-tight-fistedness I have not parted with my cash yet.  Reason being that I have managed to convince myself that £20 would be better spent in a pub or in a bottle shop.  That’s correct, my twisted rhetoric has me believe that buying beer is the only way to support the thing that I love.  However, as my beer career has developed, I have being increasingly aware of CAMRA as both an organisation and as a topic of conversation and or heated debate.

Picture My beer background, in brief, is that I am foremost a homebrewer who is slowly finding his way in what appears to be a vast choice of beer (and I use the word ‘beer’ as a way to describe all barley, hop, water and yeast based beverages).  I would also like to believe that I am yet to ‘pledge an allegiance’ to either side of what, on occasions, appears to be reduced to a playground spat where you are forced to pick your gang and not stray too far from it for fear of wedgies, Chinese-burns or even a purple-nurple!  One side of this spat seems to be CAMRA and the other side being those who see most beers as ‘Real’ and do not feel that the storage receptacle; be it cask, keg or bottle; or the locality in which the ingredients were sourced and the beer brewed as being relevant when acknowledging these beers as Good.  Mark Dredge has written about this in more detail and in more specific terms of a beer Bloggerati – see Pencil and Spoon.  Leigh Linley explores a little further about Cask vs Keg vs Bottle vs Can here – see The Good Stuff.

To be fair to all concerned, there are also a large – if not the largest, group of apathetic drinkers of beer who could be in either of the groups described above.  Subdivision of this group sees those that are aware of the debate and choose not to be get involved; and  those who are blissfully unaware that the circus is in town.  While this is a topic of debate in itself, it is my belief that it is this group of apathetic beer drinkers that hold the key to the success of good beer triumphing over bad* (*mass produced accountants beer).  First and foremost I consider myself to be in this group and am desperately looking to those with the power to tell me where I should be concentrating my efforts to champion good beer.  It is also only fair and proper to clarify that there are also divisions of opinion or liberalism and conservatism (if I may use such emotive and political terms) within CAMRA and the Blogeratti… i.e. there are CAMRA members who are staunch traditionalists in their vision for Real Ale and there are those who are open to beer evolution; as there are also Bloggers who love cask beer and whole-heartedly support CAMRA; and of course Bloggers who do not see the value in embracing CAMRA for what it is, and for what it could be given the time and potential to change.

And breathe! …

Getting back to my point; “do I want to be a member of CAMRA?”.  Well lets look at my case.  I find myself to be a lover of good beer; I brew beer in a way that I consider to be true to the drink; I blog about beer and yet I find myself without a sense of belonging due to the conflicting rhetoric bombarding my tiny mind (might I add – this sense of belonging is not important to everyone).  So it seems to me that there is only one course of action and that is to add membership to CAMRA to the above list.  After all, how do I learn and hope to understand all of the aspects of my hobby and passion? and how can I decide whether I can be actively involved in CAMRA if I haven’t even tried its membership?  I did gauge opinion from fellow Tweeters and got a range of answers and suggestions that only support my opinion that division among lovers of good beer is neither use nor ornament.  So, while I may not fully understand the politics, and I am hoping for some feedback on what I know is not an entirely facts based blog post, I feel that I need to stop my silo thinking where beer is concerned and think more in terms of supporting anything that will push good beer closer to and eventually past global bland beers as the everyday choice available to the consumer.  “By definition will this bring our beloved Craft Beer in-line with everything we despise about mind-numbing global produce”? I hear you say… well yes, but only by definition, they may well eventually be global brands, but I know which global brands I’d rather see lined up in front of me when I walk into any pub in the UK.

*Roll credits and hopeful music*

Now for that bit at the end of documentaries where you learn what happened next………..

“Five minutes after producing this blog post, David became a fully paid member of CAMRA and he plans to review this annually.  He still plans to enjoy beer from the keg and from the bottle and plans to blog-it-up on a regular basis”.

P.s. Thanks to @OkellsAles @BeersIveKnown @BenCorkhill @GroveBri @Abarth50010 @Tuff86 @PeteBrownBeer for replying to, or contributing to the debate re: my original Tweet on this topic.

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