The piece below is the opening of what I’m lovingly calling the “Shitting on my Doorstep” trilogy.
Following the announcement by CAMRA of their revitalisation project much debate has opened up about what the campaign is for and where it is headed.
I find this situation to be quite comparable to the craft beer movement and, more presciently, those who have or are trying to define what it actually is.
On the face of it both had similar, if perhaps romanticised origins. Group of people gets together, bemoan how corporatism is spoiling something they like and resolving to do something about it.
Of course their future’s have panned out a bit differently but they nonetheless each wield a fair amount of power, either by lobbying or by being an actual business movement.
In the case of CAMRA, it is now reaping what it sowed when it came out with its rather rigid definitions and core aims.
Seemingly shunned by the “craft” generation; in fact used a marketing tool to push against their old, establishment ways and make way for the new, brave, young beery scene, it is also lambasted by its core base for trying to move too far from its original principles but also by doing this, steps on the toes of others with similar aims. (Blogs & views about this collected here, by Boak & Bailey).
On the other hand you have craft breweries; which some who drink, or worse still worship and sploodge all over themselves about, forget that they are all businesses. Businesses that are in direct competition with those of a similar vein fighting over the very, very small dregs of an ever decreasing pint. Businesses whose aim is surely to grow as big and successful as possible?
There are those that buy into breweries in good faith, as a friend would, lending another money to get a venture off the ground. There are small business loans taken out left, right and centre to fund. There is crowd-funding and of course there are “share” sales, which can lead to attending AGM’s which always remind me of scenes John Carpenter’s They Live.
Support can also come from merely regularly drinking their beers and raving about them on social media, or merely just drinking their beers. In essence the better beers and by rationale the better breweries should always succeed. But in recent times we have seen new breweries sprouting up with big cash outlays and, more importantly a marketing budget.
Conversely and perfectly acceptable in all other forms of business, there have been numerous buy-outs of well know microbreweries by international brands. Of course the main and valid worry with these kinds of buy-outs is that the product invariably changes and whereas it may be available more widely it is the quality of the product that suffers.
There is also an aspect of this movement that would rather brand a buy-out as a sell-out. What this highlights is that, duh, some people are jumping on the beer bandwagon to make quick money (though there are far quicker ways to do this) and that those that have the initial investment to succeed are more likely to thrive that those that have to build up more slowly and the worry is that if this is just a trend then the bubble will burst and a lot of microbreweries, no matter how good their beers are, will go to the wall.
People have idealised what craft beer and real ale are. You can only call your product craft, real, artisan, boutique, etc for so long before the bigger guys with the bigger marketing budgets utilise and exploit it.
You have two movements, both born of grass-roots and local principles, that have spread nationally and even internationally and both of which have seemingly convinced their members that they are something they are not and are about as far removed from the “little guy” that they portray themselves as you can get, though a case for this being more accidental rather than design can be made.
Of course all of this just over complicates what beer actually is and instead turns drinking it into some kind of morality play. In the end we are all still underdogs and what we should really rally against is anything that is trying to change our enjoyment of a very short life but dictating what you drink, what you eat, what you say, and it is ultimately these moralists, these overlords, that should be opposed.
Hmmm, this piece got away from me and I don’t know where…
Thanks for reading.