14 Jan 2014

Falling out over great beer

For as long as beer has existed it has been social, a talking point.
Sit in any pub across the country and you can expect a friendly chat over a pint, so to most people things look great in the beer world. We are all friends.

Infact, things within our beer culture can be much darker and seedier. I'm not talking about binge drinking, 'dryanuary' or even the smoking ban. It is much worse and goes back into the history of the launch of good old friendly CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale).

You see at one point, cask beer (Real Ale) was the only beer we could buy in our pubs. We had no other way to serve it. We had no choice until the 50's when keg started to appear and even then the tech didn't make it to the UK until the 60's.

Keg changed the UK beer scene in a way no one could ever expect and for a very long time. Publicans realised a cask would only last three days and what didn't sell you poured away at a loss. Keg was working out cheaper and less hassle. Publicans had no option with business interests in mind. Because of this thousands of UK microbreweries were forced to close and never brew a drop again. I wasn't around but I've heard plenty about how bad the quality of the keg and 'smooth flow' beers that were pasteurized, filtered and served using added gases were. The beer scene lay smashed at the foot of the bar like the victim of a drunken bar brawl.

It wasn't until CAMRA launched in the UK and started demanding better quality beer over 40 years ago that things started to improve. Over time microbreweries made a comeback and the UK was back on the map for great beer. Just recently the media reported that the UK is a top tourist spot for it's beer alone. John Smiths smooth is still one of the best selling beers here though so things are still not perfect.

The thing is, keg is back. The good news? It is being filled with amazing beers from award winning, record breaking breweries such as Magic Rock, Thornbridge, The Kernel and BrewDog.

"I wouldn't touch a keg beer, no matter what"

"Ohh god, not BrewDog"

Are just some of the things I have heard from people who say they love and fight for the best in the UK beer scene, total bollocks. These people are select memebers of CAMRA who often even refuse to enter a bar that serves keg beer.

Not all CAMRA members are the same, many of them drink and talk keg beer with me quite often and accept that the beer scene goes through these changes.

When the USA beer scene exploded the term 'craft' came into use. Craft is a meaningless term in the UK due to the way the USA judge a brewery to be craft or not so for this post we will say that craft is beer of high quality, unusual or bold flavours, passion, good ethics, an artistic focus on image and a scientific focus on brewing.

Many, if not all, of my favourite beer is what I would call craft beer. I'm even a BrewDog shareholder. Craft beer is stunning.

Yet many CAMRA members view craft as being worse than a well known leader who ordered the death of millions of Jews. Don't take that out of context please, it's a metaphor.

I now call these people 'The Real Ale Twats' after the feature in the adult comic, Viz.

One of the reasons could be personal taste with many craft beer styles being much more extreme than the usual real ale, but many people dislike cider and CAMRA have a whole spin off wing to support Real Cider. Why not great craft beer? It's beer after all?! And it tastes fucking amazing nine times out of ten, they just add a little gas and filter it. Most don't even use chemical filtering and many bottled craft beers are not filtered at all, pretty much Real Ale in a bottle. Plenty of Real Ale breweries do filter using chemicals such as one found in the swim bladders of fish.

CAMRA view Greene King and Marstons who do use these chemicals in their terrible, bland beers brewed to just make money by people in suits as quality beer, Greene King are closing something like 400 pubs this year and selling them to Tesco and others while The Kernel doesn't filter at all and the brewers still grow beards.

The reason I get so pissed off is the double standards they have, I said in my CAMRA article recently aimed at these people that what goes into a keg is often of higher quality with more passion with much more flavour.

Their is much more to this story and I shall be coming back to it very often.

In the meantime, I call for a new front. The Campaign for Quality beer. Where beers that meet strict rules on passion, ethics and quality will be fully supported and published in our Great Beer Guide.

Until next time keep your Greene King IPA, CAMRA. Make mine a Punk IPA.

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