Saturday, 28 May 2011

Hello, good evening and welcome........

Today is the day – the launch of this new blog!!
Well let me tell you there are no balloons, no multi-purpose fanfares and certainly no dancing girls (Lady of the Beers banned them some time ago…). What there is though is a promise of good, honest, down-to-earth opinions on beers, beer festivals, breweries and all things beer related to run alongside my writing for

So then let me tell you a little about myself: I’m a 33 year old opinionated CAMRA, SPBW & Brewery History Society member from Leeds and am proud to be so. Yes I do have a beard but unlike other “set-in-their-way” CAMRA members I actively shy away from all the politics and in-fighting that this group (like any other politically motivated consumer group) invariably has and like to focus on campaigning for real ale, pub’s and drinker’s rights. What I won’t do is join the ever increasing bandwagon of beer bloggers queueing up to find fault with an organisation that has taken a dying product and made it into a flourishing market leader and as Roger Protz says “(we) would have little to write about if CAMRA hadn’t raised the banner for good beer”.

A quick word about CAMRA: There is a lot of debate about CAMRA at the moment with pieces being written by Roger, Pete Brown, Martyn Cornell and CAMRA National Chairman Colin Valentine to name but a few so I may as well use the opportunity of this first post to let you know a little of my view. As I have pointed out earlier I am a fully paid up member of CAMRA, have been for a number of years, and am proud to be so. This doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with all of “their” opinions but to start off with I find it an easy way to keep up with beer news and get some good beer journalism delivered to my door – coupled with the contentious Wetherspoons vouchers (which are useful to taste the beers I need to for Wetherspoons) to me this is worth the annual fee alone. It also enables me to meet a lot of interesting and unusual people all passionate about real ale. Yes, just like the Church of England, CAMRA does have an aging membership and is struggling to adapt to all the needs of the people today but like the Anglicans this doesn’t mean it should simply be written off as irrelevant and past its best. Words like traditional and patriotic, however un-trendy today, are to me as relevant as they ever were and I feel “real” ale, and more specifically British “real” ale, thriving though it is, is as much under threat now through taxation, pub closures and irresponsible supermarket pricing as it was 40 years ago – so there is a lot for a consumer pressure group to get on with and let me tell you CAMRA is definitely getting on with this. I do not feel the need to debate CAMRA’s definition of “real” ale at this point (though will at a later date), although I will admit it is definitely time to re-assess the use of cask breathers, but what I will say is it has always struck me as being a little naive of a few people to ever expect an organisation that was set up to protect the cask product against Keg ale to now fully accept and endorse this area of the market, as nice and as well crafted as some of these ales (like Meantime and Thornbridge) are. If a brewer wishes to go down that route I wish them all the success but when cask ales are in such demand at the moment is this the right decision? Much has been made of recent comments by the CAMRA National chairman Colin Valentine, and rightly so as he has waded into this debate with all the finesse of a pregnant hippo at feeding time, and I am very happy that there is now a lively debate going on around these once taboo subjects within CAMRA – I am glad as a member I can actively do something about making CAMRA more relevant, and intend to do so, and with a foot in both camps hope that at some point in the not too distant future we can reach some common ground to move forward in promoting these most excellent of British products before the hair pulling starts!!

I am a freelance journalist and member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and besides this blog contribute to Mark Fletcher’s and the Wetherspoons real ale site – yes Wetherspoons!! I have already been on record criticising various experiences I have had at Wetherspoons, especially the service, and must admit that there certainly isn’t a Wetherspoons pub in my top ten list but despite this I wholeheartedly support the way they are trying to bring real ale to a mass market audience. If this gets just one more person turned on to wanting to know more about real ale then that, in my view, is a success and if the constant drip of my comments to management sees that drinking experience improve in any way I will feel fully vindicated in taking on this role.

Lastly a note to all you brewers, pr firms, pubs, beer festivals etc out there: By all means send me bottles or invite me down as I, like the rest of the poor beer journalists, love a freebie but unlike some (who will remain nameless for the moment) don’t expect me to sell my soul to you as a consequence because as the American journalist Walter Lippmann once said “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil - remain detached from the great”.

Thank you for joining me here and hopefully thank you in advance of joining me in the future for further ramblings……..