Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Artificial froth

This article in the Guardian looks like mischief-making to me. It's dragging up a dispute from a local beer festival months ago to create an misleading narrative of CAMRA as hidebound fuddy-duddies preventing the growth of exciting new craft lager breweries.

The story of that earlier spat is briefly: CAMRA told Freedom Brewery at short notice that their beer couldn't be sold at the Burton beer festival because it was to be served by CO2 pressure.

The writer Oliver Thring would like to make the story more interesting, so resorts to selective quotation.

The quote from CAMRA has them — apparently — denouncing Freedom for "a mixture of naivety and arrogance." Freedom supposedly complain they were unable to reach agreement because CAMRA represent ale and they brew "the L word".

Now I don't for a second believe that the writer phoned up both sides and they only had one sentence each to say. I strongly suspect he took, in both cases, the most seemingly controversial statement out of a longer conversation and stacked them up against each other to make his story look more exciting.

The dispute was never about lager versus ale — it was about extraneous CO2 and the bizarre last-minute intervention that prevented Freedom's lager being sold at the Burton beer festival.

Freedom should have known CAMRA's position on extraneous CO2. So should Burton CAMRA. There should have been a resolution of the issue weeks before the festival; instead the problem was incredibly badly handled and made CAMRA look like idiots.

There's no need for a ban. CAMRA festivals regularly serve lager by gravity or air pressure. I have no idea why this was not acceptable to Freedom. It's a non-issue. CAMRA is not anti-lager. Many of its members are; that's because they're small-minded idiots and it's nothing to do with CAMRA policy.

10 comments:

  1. Is it appropriate to serve lager under gravity or air pressure? I'd argue not.

    I was at the LOBI do at the White Horse and had some nice lager. I seem to remember Mr Tring was also at the event. I think he has a point.

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  2. They serve the first barrel at the Oktoberfest, the one tapped by the First Minister of Bavaria, by gravity, and it seems to be good enough.

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  3. WD - you need to get yourself off to Bavaria (and Franconia in particular) if you think it's not appropriate to sell lager by gravity.

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  4. Lager shouldn't be fizzy. I am happy to repeat this as often as necessary.

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  5. What Barm, JC and Tandleman said. I think half of these debates assume that lager is fizzy yellow stuff - as may be the case in the UK and Ireland - but if you go to the lager homelands you get a different view of what lager really is, or can be. I'm happy to drink it with a good dose of CO2 or without, as long as it tastes good, and there are a lot of really good lagerbiers over here in Germany.

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  6. I think it's daft to say CAMRA are anti-anything. They are (I hope) simply pro-real ale. I'm sure CAMRA as an organisation doesn't officially hate any other types of drinks (I hope again!)...although it seems some of their members do.

    Times are changing and beer festvials are too, at the last two I've been to there's been a majority real ale section, a continental tent, an area for kegged (but very good) beers and lagers and a bottled section for American/Belgian/World beers. Something for everyone and I like it this way.

    I don't know the exact details of the Freedom situation but it seems to be that CAMRA are right to stick up for their rules but there's no reason why there can't be a place for lagers like Freedom at beer festivals - and the handling of the situation has made the whole thing look a bit silly.

    Why do we have to argue about cask/keg/bottle/conditioning etc. Each to their own, let's all enjoy the ales we like and celebrate the fantastically social drink that is beer. To borrow from Adrian Tierney-Jones: beer, ale, whatever.

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  7. Definition of fizzy? 1.5 vols? 2 vols? 3 vols?

    Notwithstanding the fact that there might be great lager served under gravity, and will stand corrected on that point, I'm not advocating "fizzy" in the 3+vols it sometimes is here.

    I still think that most of the cask lager I've tried lets the side down. The lagers I tried at the LOBI do were good. Most had a reasonable but not over the top carbonation level. I think they would not have been as good under gravity.

    Still, I clearly need to go to Bavaria, that much seems certain.

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  8. I've served imported keg beer under CO2 pressure at CAMRA beer festivals in the past and will no doubt do in the future. Don't see the issue as long as people get decent beer the way it's meant to be served. Then again we could be dangerously close to yet another sparkler debate, there... ;-)

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  9. No problems with CAMRA if they were consistent but they want it both ways. Active support for Budvar Budweiser; active discouragement to UK Craft lager brewers.
    I think they need to get their policies aligned.

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