Tuesday 19 May 2009

CAMRA newsletters

Here’s something to put the cat amongst the pigeons. CAMRA newsletters are quite useful sometimes. Yes, they feature articles that speak of ‘a good time was had by all’ and reports of visits to beer festivals are pretty good in the middle of the night when sleep won’t come. However, looking back through the ones I have saved over the past few years, they are pretty invaluable when it comes to cataloguing the changing nature of the way CAMRA people look at beer (they’re not bad for looking at local brewery history at the ground level). For a start I must declare an interest: I used to edit the Somerset one and amongst submissions on bus timetables (honest), there were reports on visits to the US, Australia, the Czech republic and lambic breweries. Looking back through them, this was the raw stuff of history, evidence of changing views towards beer. I had reports on Aussie micros, Singaporean micros and even a beer festival in the Galapagos or somewhere like that; on the other hand I remember some right stinkers: one chap said he had a report on the Boston beer scene and would I like to print it. Along came 2000 words of closely typed nonsense, which I managed to cut to 50 words; another time I printed two letters about the same pub in the beer desert that was (and presumably still is) Bridgwater. One lauded its recent beer festival, the other complained about its (unfair) pricing policy at the same festival. The pub made a fuss, kicked out its real ale pumps and closed some time ago. Yes of course the newsletters laud CAMRA, but they wouldn’t do otherwise — it would be like a copy of Radio Times telling everyone not to watch the TV (what a good idea); they are provincial, again so what. As someone who collects all sorts of beer memorabilia rubbish, I still find myself — guilt free — slipping one into my pocket when I find them in a pub somewhere out in the wilds and off they go on the second shelf right in the picture.


  1. Ok, what are the implications of such changes?

  2. There are no implications as such, the earth won’t wobble on its axis, the pub trade won’t suddenly blossom, I won’t suddenly give up drink, but these observations (which are what they are) suggest to me (at least) that if you look at CAMRA through the prism of its newsletters then the Campaign isn’t as black and white as both its defenders and detractors paint it.