CAMRA chairman angry at BA magazine article

Reads 24588 • Replies 192 • Started Sunday, May 29, 2011 3:15:27 AM CT

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kmweaver
beers 3208 º places 116 º 10:30 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by Stephanos
Originally posted by SilkTork
Originally posted by kmweaver
Originally posted by kmweaver
Originally posted by otakuden
so yes, CAMRA protects a specific type of craft beer known in England as real ale. is there room for ingenuity and creativity within real ale? absolutely. but will CAMRA allow for it, or is CAMRA caught up in itself and unable to see the craft for the ale and the ale for the craft.


That’s basically the question here.


Actually (before SilkTork or someone else jumps on the opportunity to correct me), it’s still even a bit more complicated than this.

I’m going to go barbecue and drink some beer.


I think the difficulty is in the individual conceptions of "craft beer" as Ken suggested ealier. I think people in this thread and in the wider debate have differing understandings of "craft beer" and of "cask ale".

Some people misunderstand "cask ale" to be simply a serving method.

What people misunderstand as "craft beer" is harder to pin down.

Cask ale is like bottle conditioned ale. It is unfiltered. It is not difficult to define or identify once you grasp the simple concept: cask ale/bottle conditioned ale/real ale = unfiltered.

Craft beer is any product made by a brewer defined by the Brewers Association as being a craft brewer - that is any brewer who is a member of the Brewers Association. Within the association are different brewers who make a range of beers from brilliant, bottle conditioned beer to insipid filtered beer.

That a beer is cask ale doesn’t mean that the brewer is any good, or the ingredients are any good, or that the recipe will be any good.

That a beer is in the cask is no guarantee of quality.

That a beer is made by a member of the Brewers Association is equally no guarantee of quality.


However, people like the term "craft brewery", and I think they use it loosely to apply to any brewery they like (as long as the brewery is not a global monster). Craft beer has become - "beer that I like which is not made by a multi-national brewery". Some of the beer they like is filtered and kegged, but that doesn’t matter because it’s still tasty. Because filtered beer can be tasty they would like CAMRA to stop campaigning for live beer so that the filtered beer they enjoy can be part of a wider CAMRA campaign for "good beer".

Part of the problem with that, is the concept of "good beer" is going to vary between individuals. "Good beer" is usually a synonym for beer you enjoy. There is no absolute, universal definition of "good beer", even though many people would like there to be one.


A brilliant elucidation of the key misconceptions here.


Absolutely. And I think the other complicating factor at play here is that there’s inevitably going to be a two-tiered discussion: (1) what individuals think is best for UK beer culture as a whole, and (2) how that translates into their opinion on how CAMRA should conduct itself.

That latter point is a hugely charged political one, and (from what I’ve noticed) could take the form of a widening of CAMRA’s umbrella, creation of a new "UK Craft Beer" organization (with all the same difficulties and politics that the Brewer’s Association here enjoys in determining how to appropriately define "craft beer" for that market), or any number of other things. For me, commenting on that second point is kind of like having hefty opinions about another country’s national politics and culture, which is something I try to keep my nose out of.

 
SilkTork
beers 7341 º places 109 º 10:33 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by JoeMcPhee
Originally posted by SilkTork
Originally posted by tdtm82
Ian, not all CAMRA members are as tuned in as you are on beer and this is the point Joris is making. They are denying dispensing choice and slaying keg as a choice format when it is actually appropriate for some styles.



I’m not clear what people mean when they say "keg". My understanding of keg is UK based, so it means filtered beer. I’m not quite sure why filtering would be an appropriate treatment for beer. Filtering removes flavour compounds, kills the beer, and takes away the natural carbonation so the fizz has to be replaced. I’m not sure how this can be seen as an appropriate choice for any beer style. It is a convenient process that stabilises the beer, but it is a business decision rather than a "craft" decision.

I agree with what everyone says that a filtered beer can taste wonderful, and that much of the interest in a beer comes from the brewer’s skills, the recipe and the ingredients rather than if it is filtered. And I drink LOTS of filtered beer and enjoy it. But filtering beer is not a way to make it taste better, and I don’t think it is right that people should argue that it does.

Would I rather have a filtered beer than a live one that has gone off. Yes, of course. But I would rather have the live one in prime condition than the filtered one. I think that brewers should be making more of an effort to ensure that beer is served live and in good condition, and it saddens me that there is such a strong argument from people that filtering beer should be promoted as a quality practise. Filtering should always be seen as the second choice not the appropriate one.



Depending on the brewery involved, keg beer need not be filtered. It’s pretty common in North America for kegged stuff to be unfiltered. It’s not keg-conditioned (no priming charge) and it’s still force carbonated, but it hasn’t necessarily been force filtered. Other breweries do filter after fermentation - it’s completely up to the brewer.


I have no problems with that, personally. (I am not CAMRA hardcore!) I understand that some people like crisp carbonation so would prefer the bite that would come from force-carbonation. My preference is for non or natural carbonation, but it’s each to their own. I don’t think that is a quality issue, that’s just differences in taste.

 
madmitch76
beers 34781 º places 238 º 10:38 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by JoeMcPhee


I’m glad to see some UK brewers experimenting with American hops in things like bitters and golden ales - they are terrific products, totally in line with British tradition yet still in the experimental vein that is needed for the market to move forward - I just don’t see that there isn’t room for both models within the UK without the two sides trying to kill one another.


I don’t think it’s lack of good hops that makes a lot of English ales a bit bland. Stone proved as much when they used Kent hops and all English ingredients in their very fine (and very US tasting) Emperial IPA. It’s as much about technique and balls!

 
cgarvieuk
beers 35040 º places 453 º 10:44 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by madmitch76
Originally posted by JoeMcPhee

I’m glad to see some UK brewers experimenting with American hops in things like bitters and golden ales - they are terrific products, totally in line with British tradition yet still in the experimental vein that is needed for the market to move forward - I just don’t see that there isn’t room for both models within the UK without the two sides trying to kill one another.


I don’t think it’s lack of good hops that makes a lot of English ales a bit bland. Stone proved as much when they used Kent hops and all English ingredients in their very fine (and very US tasting) Emperial IPA. It’s as much about technique and balls!


I think thats unfair to the Legions of Good UK beer that have gone before.
yeah Were seeing a growth of bigger and bolder beer, and that good, its a wider choice i love choice. But that shouldnt imply that the the older traditional beer are bland or WORSE

 
madmitch76
beers 34781 º places 238 º 10:54 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by cgarvieuk
Originally posted by madmitch76
Originally posted by JoeMcPhee

I’m glad to see some UK brewers experimenting with American hops in things like bitters and golden ales - they are terrific products, totally in line with British tradition yet still in the experimental vein that is needed for the market to move forward - I just don’t see that there isn’t room for both models within the UK without the two sides trying to kill one another.


I don’t think it’s lack of good hops that makes a lot of English ales a bit bland. Stone proved as much when they used Kent hops and all English ingredients in their very fine (and very US tasting) Emperial IPA. It’s as much about technique and balls!


I think thats unfair to the Legions of Good UK beer that have gone before.
yeah Were seeing a growth of bigger and bolder beer, and that good, its a wider choice i love choice. But that shouldnt imply that the the older traditional beer are bland or WORSE



Legions? Really? You must be going to different beer festivals than me then or maybe you get the best stuff as staff! Or maybe my palate is jaded. But finding a great (as opposed to competant but somewhat dull) UK bitter or golden ale is the exception in my experience rather than the norm.

 
JorisPPattyn
beers 13046 º places 88 º 10:57 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by cgarvieuk
Originally posted by madmitch76
Originally posted by JoeMcPhee

I’m glad to see some UK brewers experimenting with American hops in things like bitters and golden ales - they are terrific products, totally in line with British tradition yet still in the experimental vein that is needed for the market to move forward - I just don’t see that there isn’t room for both models within the UK without the two sides trying to kill one another.


I don’t think it’s lack of good hops that makes a lot of English ales a bit bland. Stone proved as much when they used Kent hops and all English ingredients in their very fine (and very US tasting) Emperial IPA. It’s as much about technique and balls!


I think thats unfair to the Legions of Good UK beer that have gone before.
yeah Were seeing a growth of bigger and bolder beer, and that good, its a wider choice i love choice. But that shouldnt imply that the the older traditional beer are bland or WORSE


All true.
Yet, the whole British brewers’ world is still riddled with notions that were obsolete at the end of WWII - and I’m not referring to cask ale, this time (before somebody blows his top - there’s nothing obsolete to cask ale, IMO!).
Ask any brewer in the UK (OK, I might have to skip BrewDog, Meantime and suchlike suspect characters) what is truly the best malt, and he’ll blurt "Maris Otter". I have no qualms that it was, once.
And very well-known UK beer writers - not to mention the brewers again - still adhere to the urban myth that on the "Continent" (another of those marvellous words), decoction is used because of the poor quality of the "Continental" malts...

 
chriso
beers 7540 º places 736 º 11:04 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by SilkTork
I’m not clear what people mean when they say "keg". My understanding of keg is UK based, so it means filtered beer.

Perhaps that should be clarified? Take a look at my post on page 10 of this thread and the (outdated) CAMRA description of keg beer at
http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=180630
CAMRA seems to define keg beer in terms of the container it is dispensed from - "a sealed metal container", presumably distinguished from a cask which has both a bung hole and a shive hole - AND the processes it goes through on its way to the consumer’s glass. And CAMRA’s definition of "real ale" or "cask conditioned" ale certainly does not simply depend on whether the beer is filtered or not. There are some interesting observations, suggesting that the definition of "real ale" may not be quite as clear cut as one (and presumably CAMRA) might hope at
http://hardknott.blogspot.com/2011/05/is-it-real.html

And I’m not sure there has been any pronouncement on whether beer distributed from KeyKegs, which are definitely becoming more prevalent especially for beers coming into the country from overseas - where the dispense is "forced" by gas but that gas does not come into contact with the beer - can qualify as "real ale".

Of course, CAMRA is not in a position to verify the specifics of the production and conditioning processes at the brewery, or the treatment of the beer once it reaches, and is dispensed from, the pub cellar (cask breather debate anyone?). And, in the UK, we have grown accustomed to distinguishing between casks and kegs by the appearance of the container. So, perhaps, it is not surprising that the assumption prevails that beer can only be "real ale" if it leaves the brewery in a tub with two holes in it and that all beer that leaves the brewery in such a container will be "real ale" in the consumer’s glass.

 
SilkTork
beers 7341 º places 109 º 11:05 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by Tim Webb
Originally posted by SaintMatty
I think the article was written by Tim Webb, although I’ve not read it.



Yes, I wrote it in one of my regular columns. Here is an extract:


Has CAMRA stunted the growth of British beer?

.....




Some good points.

I think it’s generally taken as read that what CAMRA achieved in the 1970s changed the beer world for the better. But that it is struggling to keep in touch today.

There are two options:
1) change CAMRA so it has a sharper image, is less bureaucratic, and so it campaigns on issues that beer drinkers recognise and welcome.
2) start a different campaign group

Both options have been raised and discussed many times. Though mainly the first option for various reasons - such as the powerful consumer powers that CAMRA have earned which it would be good to keep, and the large (underused - ignored?) membership base, mainly consisting of students who signed up at beer festivals.

There are, however, some points that I think don’t stand up to scrutiny, such as:

"By deifying a limited range of virtually unexportable ale styles, did CAMRA fossilise British beer culture in a spoof version of the 1950s?"

Britain does export bottled beer, and these exports have been increasing over the past few years.

British beer culture is a little more complex than that. While there are men with flat caps supping pints in traditional pubs serving nowt but pork pies and picked eggs as food, there is a thriving growth in modern bars serving "foreign" beers to an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd. And there is the core market of lager drinkers.

Pubs have changed also. The most successful pubs these days are very food orientated - and are totally unrecognisable from pubs of 10 years ago, let alone 50 years ago!


But, a good read though!

 
SamGamgee99
11:07 Tue 5/31/2011

Force carbonating doesn’t inherently produce a crisper mouthfeel than cask. Filtering doesn’t remove natural carbonation either. Brewers who keg their beer typically make the decision to add more CO2 to it than you would get in a cask, and this is the difference. Coming out of filtration, a beer will often have somewhere just over a volume of CO2 in it and might have considerably more if the brewer has bunged the fermentor to target a certain amount of CO2. They then will add the remainder that they are looking for via a pinpoint system in-line to the bright tank, or with a carbonation stone in the bright tank. Or they could krausen or prime and reseed the beer for natural carbonation. This exact procedure can also be used to create CAMRA-approved real ale from my understanding.

If a draught system is set up properly, there is no influence on the mouthfeel of the beer. The gas simply pushes the beer out of the keg and to the tap and is not absorbed into the beer. A proper setup is not always the case, but neither is proper cellaring of cask ale. In theory, you are perfectly capable of serving an unfiltered keg at the same temperature and carbonation as a cask beer. This generally isn’t done because consumers expect their beer to be colder and more carbonated if it is not cask. Serving cask with a breather is basically this same setup but instead of the gas pushing the beer, the pump pulls it and the gas just chases it.

I think filtration is a valid issue to consider, as is centrifugation, which is increasingly common in the US as an alternative to filtration or fining. But in itself it doesn’t preclude a beer from being approved by CAMRA, does it?

The only true point of difference between the two, that cannot be made up by keg, is that ambient air enters the cask and will inevitably spoil it in short time. And then I guess the cellarman can control the carbonation somewhat, but a brewer can target that exactly in the keg, so it is really a moot point.

I just think that you can systematically tear down the rhetoric when you put it up against reality. Keg as practiced in the past and by big brewers in the UK might not be what CAMRA likes, but keg is not inherently like that and can come close to being simply cask beer that does not oxidize when tapped, which is really what every brewer and publican likely wants.

 
chriso
beers 7540 º places 736 º 11:08 Tue 5/31/2011

Originally posted by SilkTork
Be interesting to know how his speech came about

Indeed. Perhaps he was a bit miffed about the perfectly sensible decision to open up the debate in the CAMRA mag and decided to fire a warning shot off his own bat.