The beer and pub trade are represented by a number of bodies, two of the main ones being SIBA and CAMRA.  SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) represent the business side from the perspective of the non affiliated brewers, campaigning on their behalf on duty, access to pubs and promoting the needs of its members.  It also has a more important function via its Direct Delivery Scheme which gives its members access to the thousands of Pub Company owned premises via a centralised distribution system.  Their Local Beer Champion scheme is one which promotes the sales of local breweries beer, and thus supports businesses in the local area, something which is even more important in recent years.

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) in their own words “is an independent, voluntary organisation campaigning for real ale, community pubs and consumer rights”.  However it can be argued that in campaigning for real ale, they are promoting the products of the real ale breweries and the cask brewing trade as a whole, thus giving them a trade dimension to their remit.  Their consumer credentials are in no doubt however, the Great British Beer Festival and the Good Beer Guide are leaders in their respective areas, and their national – regional – local branch structure ensures that normal members can have their say and keep the organisation focused on the need of its members

Both of these are worthy organisations and should get our support, however the overall campaign for the promotion of quality beers from independent brewers has somewhat gone off the rails recently.  You note I drop the term real ale here, this is down to the fact that there is a far bigger world of beer out there now, craft beer is here to stay, no longer does beer need to be supplied in a cask to be deemed worthy of your taste buds and attention.  Keg beers can be just a good as their cask equivalents when supplied by brewers who lavish the same amount of care and attention to their beers.  Also if the term “beer” is good enough for a nation that shares the same love of brewed products as we do, namely Germany, it is good enough for me, as it seems to be for CAMRA when naming its books and events.

The big mistake in my eyes is the backing of the “Let There Be Beer” campaign by these two bodies and the refusal to withdraw that support once it was shown to be a promotional campaign for big brewery beers whilst chucking its scraps to a handful of real ale breweries, mostly at the larger end of the market.  I can sum up the ethos of the campaign in three words and a quote, the three words being “I’m Tim Lovejoy” and quote being “Kronenbourg 1664…made with selected malts and exclusive yeast…has an aromatic hoppiness and a subtle bitterness…gives it the unique aroma and taste which sets it apart from other beers”.  Most people who appreciate quality beers would call Kronenbourg 1664 “a bland generic big brewery lager” if they were being kind.

The campaign has not introduced quality beers or real ales to the public in anyway, has polarised the public through its use of Tim Lovejoy and been universally panned within the beer industry unless the party has a vested interest like the trade press who depend upon the big brewers advertising and sponsorship of events or the constituent brewers themselves.  SIBA and CAMRA have gone strangely quiet about their support of the campaign, probably hoping everyone forgets they endorsed it at the launch.  It is almost as if they are embarrassed by the whole thing, as they should be.

This is not the only issue affecting one of these associations, CAMRA also are making themselves seem to be out of touch by the continual refusal to embrace the large number of high quality keg beers made by many of our micro breweries.  I know they are the Campaign for REAL ALE, but times have moved on since they were formed and keg beer was typically Watneys Red Barrel, Party 7s and others of similar quality.

There is a need to focus on pushing the best quality beer regardless of packaging, and to get this message out we need to forget about involving the big brewers, they only succeed in watering down a campaign.  They may bring the money with them, but the desired message is drowned by the same money.  Let get these small and medium sized breweries out into the public consciousness and get people drinking the best quality beer, that is what CAMRA and SIBA should be concentrating on, in turn benefiting those breweries they represent.