When CAMRA first ambled into the world of beer it was full of nasty keg beers and template pubs. Years on and CAMRA have genuinely done a marvellous job in spreading the love of real ale and they’re even starting to warm up to keg beer. Now we’re all basically agreed on the fact that beer is pretty damn good, one of their campaigns from the past year or so is called “Pubs Matter”. Celebrating the wonder of the British pub? Well, maybe not quite.
Whilst CAMRA bemoan Tesco and other such Bid Baddies gobbling up “popular and profitable” pubs they happily took cash of Tesco for a full page ad in the Great British Beer Festival program in the same year.
CAMRA’s beloved beer festivals are brilliant chances to showcase local breweries and they also to a great job of getting all the local pubgoers all together, drinking loads of lovely beer… in a field. Meanwhile tumbleweeds are enjoying a nice half of the same beer in a warm pub. Norwich’s City of Ale is an example of a completely different approach. Rather than spending a chunk of the budget on a freezing cold hall or a muddy field they host the festival across the city in different pubs. I’m not saying that there’s no place for big ol’ beer festivals but CAMRA should probably address the fact that they give with one hand and take away with the other.
Then we’ve got the supermarkets. Not the Big Baddies stealing pubs, but the “3 bottles of real ale for £5” offer that stalks the beer aisle, except it’s the same beer from the same massive breweries in every supermarket. If I had a quid for every time I’ve heard someone go “£3?! I can get two bottles for the price of that pint” or similar then frankly, I wouldn’t be worrying about the prices of beer at all and I’d be buying the bar staff a round every time I headed to the bar. I thought we wanted good beer, not cheap beer, but CAMRA are constantly talking about cheaper beer, getting money off thanks to the tax cuts they’re so proud of and of course, the all important CAMRA discounts. Heaven forbid a CAMRA member pays 10p more for a pint. They’re saving the pubs remember! They deserve more than to -gosh!- pay full price! Do pubs really matter? Or do they just want cheap beer?
Then there’s CAMRA’s bosum buddy – Wetherspoons. CAMRA loves to shout “Pubs Matter!” as they stick Wetherspoons discounts in the post to every member, they love to shout “Pubs Matter!” as their publications are covered in advertisements for Wetherspoons, they love to shout “Pubs Matter!” whilst drinking from a festival glass sponsored by Wetherspoons a long way from they’re beloved community pubs. CAMRA knows Wetherspoons aren’t the “traditional pubs” they’re trying to save but do they talk about how their cheap prices are talking custom from community pubs? Do pubs really matter? Or do they just want cheap beer?
In Lincoln CAMRA’s latest magazine there’s a delightful article talking about the HORROR of paying £1.80 for a half of a beer when the full pint cost £3.30. (and don’t get me started on the reference to people drinking halves as being “moderate drinkers and women”) What do you think you’re paying for when you buy a beer in a pub? Do you think the glassware is free? Do CAMRA themselves provide electricity and water to pubs? Are pubs -like CAMRA festivals- staffed by volunteers? Or do you just not value the work publicans put into creating the pub that you think matters so much? It takes the same effort to serve a half and wash the glass as a full pint. You don’t sit on half a seat when you drink a half. You don’t get half of the staff’s attention when you order a half. You don’t have to sit in half light when you drink a half. A pub isn’t just the beer. If you want half the amount of beer to cost the same price go grab 3 bottles for a fiver and sit in your house. But oh… wait a second… you pay less when you buy in bulk in a supermarket. I wonder why that it?
Do pubs really matter? Or do you just want cheap beer?
Clarification: Norwich City of Ale isn’t a CAMRA festival. Still think it’s an awesome idea though.