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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

CAMRA's noxious culture of entitlement

Long ranty post alert – apologies in advance, but this all needs saying…

One of my character flaws (I promise you I only have two, maybe three max) is that I can sometimes come across as arrogant. I never feel arrogant on the inside, but things I say or do can sometimes make it look as though I am.

When it happens, it’s not because I think I am superior – quite the opposite. It’s because I feel insecure and need reassurance. I over-compensate. Curiously enough, as I’ve become more successful as a beer writer, my ‘arrogance’ has declined as my inner confidence has grown.

The same is probably true of many other people who come across as arrogant. I guess it’s a kinder explanation than thinking that these people truly do believe they’re God’s gift.

But sometimes, I’m not so sure.

This is something that’s been tickling my brain since the scheme of pub discounts for CAMRA members was announced. It’s become quite controversial. Tandleman, as ever, gives a very reasonable argument in defence of CAMRA. (If only more of its prominent members were like him, there would be far fewer rucks like the one I’m about to prompt.) He claims that any organization is free to negotiate discounts for its members. If they put the effort in, and they succeed, fair play to them.

I can’t possibly disagree with that argument - I've worked in offices before now where HR have negotiated a staff discount in local shops – so why is it that the CAMRA discount winds up so many?

It’s this.

I was in the Sheffield Tap a few weeks ago, nursing a half of Thornbridge St Petersburg at the bar. In came two middle-aged guys with – and I swear I’m not making this up – plastic carrier bags full of VHS videos of locomotives, which they were swapping with each other. They went to the bar, ordered a couple of beers, and said, loudly enough for all the pub to hear, “We should get a discount in here!”

“Why’s that?” asked the barman.

“Because I'm a CAMRA member! And we spread the word about places like this!”

Now. Solipsistic as I am, I can only judge this by my own actions and experience. I’m Beer Writer of the Year. It seems that what I say carries a certain measure of influence in some misguided corners of the world. Sometimes in the Sheffield Tap the staff recognize me and insist on buying me a drink or giving me one on the house. If they do, I thank them as graciously as I can (being a Yorkshireman it’s hard, but I try) and accept.

I hope it's not too arrogant of me to suggest that I "spread the word" about pubs more widely than Mr Deltics 1975-82 on VHS.  But I have never - in my life - walked into any pub and either demanded or expected a free or discounted drink because of who I am, or what I do. If I did, I would expect and deserve to be called a complete and utter fucking twat by anyone who witnessed it.

But with some CAMRA members there’s this sense of entitlement. It has nothing to do with head office having negotiated a commercial discount; it’s about this or that individual believing they deserve special treatment simply because they are a CAMRA member.

They know that a local branch can choose to make or break a pub over some perceived slight that has nothing to do with the quality of the real ale on offer. Similarly, CAMRA’s brewery liaison officers know they carry a great deal of influence. I’m sure many branches and many BLOs do their jobs conscientiously and responsibly. But I hear regular stories of others who let the power go to their heads.

When the bloke in the Sheffield Tap said his piece, he said it with a threatening tone. “We spread the word about places like this” was delivered with the protection racketeer’s implicit threat that ‘the word’ could just as easily be bad as good if his demands weren’t met. The Tap needn’t worry – no word this pathetic little man could spread would have anything like the power of the positive buzz coming from the vast majority of decent, sensible people – CAMRA members and non-members alike – who are raving about the pub.

So all this was buzzing around my head when we sat down to a free dinner in the National Brewery Centre last week. Master Brewer Steve Wellington had chosen a beer to go with each of the three courses we were served, and he stood up to introduce and explain each match.

Every time he took the microphone, the specially invited CAMRA members on my table heckled him, bellowing “P2 stout! Give us some P2 stout!” Now, this is a remarkable beer. But it wasn’t available. The first time they demanded it, Steve explained that there was none available because it hasn’t been brewed for a while. This didn’t put them off.  The first time it could be excused as good-humoured banter.  As the evening wore on, it just became fucking rude.

The final course was served with Kasteel Cru Rose. Like most beer geeks, it’s not a beer I care for that much, but Steve had his reasons for matching it with the dessert. Not a single one of the CAMRA guys would even touch it. They were disgusted, insulted, seemingly forgetting that this was not a CAMRA dinner, and that CAMRA has not financed the £700,000 reopening of the brewery centre. A private leisure company had, and Molson Coors – license owners of Kasteel Cru – had.

The demands for P2 stout grew louder. Finally, Steve went out into the driving rain, ran across to his office and found five bottles from his personal stash. He placed them on our table, and the CAMRA members, without a word of thanks to Steve, proceeded to divide these bottles among themselves, not offering to share them with anyone else. The guy sitting next to me told me that I could have some of his if I could get the bottle opened. Why he felt he was in a position to decide whether I was entitled to drink some of Steve Wellington’s beer speaks volumes.

When I opened the bottle and poured it for him, he grunted, “This had better be bottle-conditioned.”

While we were enjoying a dinner that had probably cost the NBC in the region of eighty quid a head, for CAMRA members to show such visible and audible disgust at the beer choice of a brewer they and everyone else has huge respect for, to barrack and heckle in such a way, and to display such a sense of entitlement when they got what they had so rudely demanded, was not just grossly disrespectful; it was the behaviour of sugar-rushed ten year-olds at a birthday party.

I hope that every decent CAMRA member reading this is appalled by the behaviour of people who were there in their name, representing them. These were not some junior local branch hangers-on; they were senior members with significant responsibility for pursuing the aims and objectives of the organization.  But they acted just as obnoxiously as the inadequate trainspotter in the Sheffield Tap.

From their point of view, there had been a perceived slight in the speeches when CAMRA had not been thanked adequately for their role in the brewery centre being reopened. Personally I don't think there was any such slight. But even if there had been, it didn’t excuse this behaviour. And the perceiving of a slight in the first place is yet another manifestation of what I’m talking about. (As soon as the reopening of the centre was announced, CAMRA members were phoning up demanding free/discounted entry.)

This culture of entitlement is – as far as I can see it – arrogance in its truest form, a genuine belief that simply by being a CAMRA member you are somehow superior, more deserving than other paying customers.

Of course, not everyone who is a CAMRA member behaves this way (I'm not even suggesting every CAMRA member at the dinner behaved this way). 

But everyone who does behave this way is a CAMRA member.

90 comments:

HardKnott Dave said...

That was brave, but so true. Well said Pete.

Coupey said...

It's exactly because of this kind of thing that I won't join CAMRA, MENSA or any other self-selecting organisation. A superiority complex is a very unattractive trait.

On a brighter note, I'm moving house later this month and the Sheffield Tap will be my new local :)

Barry M said...

Sounds like pretty disgusting behaviour.

I'm curious though: did Mr Deltics (I had to google that, thankfully it seems) 1975-82 on VHS get a discount?

thewineyard said...

How do people like this expect the struggling Pub industry to keep itself afloat if they go in demanding cut prices everywhere they visit? Seems pretty daft that some of the beer trade's supposedly biggest supporters are so unwilling to pay a reasonable price for what they enjoy.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Well said Pete, it's the same problem I come across round here, they seem to think they have some sort of divine right to say what the pubs should and shouldnt do.

it was only a couple of weeks ago a couple of the local numpties were slagging of thornbridge jaipur and goose island's honkers because it was too strong and not english enough...WTF???

Laurent Mousson said...

Appalling indeed.
There's no reason anyone, bar staff, publicans or brewers should have to put up with such rubbish.

I guess the right reaction for pubs faced with such sad cases demanding discounts on grounds of membership of whichever organisation, would be to demand to see those individual's membership cards, and to duly note down name and membership number "for our records". And in order to document such incidents and possibly complaint about them as precisely as possible to the HQ of the organisation concerned.
Just the noting down of name and membership number should a deterrent enough, as indeed the word would be spread very quickly that the staff in said hostelry are not letting punters get away with such behaviour.

At higher level withing any organisation whose members dare behave like this, it then should be common sense to look into the matter seriously when cases are well documented and indeed enforce standard clauses about members' behaviour bringing the organisation into disrepute.

Indeed that entails shedding a few black sheep along the way and them taking a few disgruntled mates with them, but in the long run, we're talking merely enforcing minimal social behaviour standards among one's numerous membership, which can only be beneficial in terms of image...

Tandleman said...

"for CAMRA to show such visible and audible disgust at the beer choice of a brewer etc.)

These people you hint are senior CAMRA members (not CAMRA -that the organisation and there is a difference). If so they should be publicly named and on the night they should have been thrown out on their ear, as should the two morons at the Sheffield Tap.

They don't speak for me or the vast majority of members, who rather than be abusive would have been grateful for an invitation to such an event.

I may chip in again as the contributions come in.

Pete Brown said...

Oh, Tandy I tried so hard not to make the 'CAMRA' versus 'some CAMRA members' distinction! You (right) pulled me up on the one instance where I failed, and I've now changed it.

Barry, Mr Deltic didn't get his discount. He left after one half pint. He didn't say whether or not he enjoyed it.

Cooking Lager said...

Ha Ha, well done and well put.

Barry M said...

I agree with Tandleman: name and shame! :D *rubs hands at prospect of fight*

Kristy said...

Great post Pete - very well said.

As you point out not all CAMRA members behave this way but a large number do and shout the loudest which is why no one is surprised that CAMRA members would behave this way.

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

Last weekend several CAMRA members from Bristol came to the Bridge in Dulverton and one of them kept slagging off the place (which is in the GBG), because it wasn’t as good as it was a few years ago when it was a dive and the beer was rubbish. Another member, perhaps embarrassed had the grace to congratulate the landlord on his Otter Ale, but mr idiot grumbled about why it was so expensive, which it isn’t for this neck of the woods. I was told this later on in the afternoon by the landlord, he wasn’t happy with them. You are right, it’s the begrudgers with a sense of self-entitlement that really stick in the craw. They probably do traffic warden reenactment days at false level crossings as the Deltics pass.

Melissa Cole said...

Good lord, it's almost like saying 'do you know who I am?'.

Although, on a lighter note, best response I ever saw to that was a super-bolshy blinged-up idiot with three women hanging off his arm shouting that immortal phrase at the head of an event.

The guy heading up the club night calmly got on the radio and said very, very loudly: "Medic to the front door, medic to the front door - we've got a man here who doesn't know who he is."

Someone should treat these numpties with the same cold contempt.

Great post.

Bods said...

As a CAMRA member, I am rightly appalled. I really am. Not acceptable behaviour at all. And it's sad that you had to write this post :(

Roger Protz said...

Pete, This is a travesty of the truth. I was at the Burton dinner so I assume, as I was on your table, that I am one of the CAMRA members mentioned by you. The demand for P2 was a good-natured joke. John Arguile, from Derby CAMRA, has a dry sense of humour and I think you misjudged his humorous request for the beer. We didn't demand it and didn't expect Steve to go out in the rain to find some. He came back with the bottles with a big grin on his face -- clearly not in the least upset. The notion that we would deprive the rest of the table of the chance to drink the beer is absurd. Steve put them down at my end of the table and my intention was a simple one: pour a drop and pass it on, like good port. You've constructed a giant mountain out of a non-existent molehill.
John Arguile and myself, to a lesser extent, have worked our socks off to get the brewery centre re-opened and I don't think we deserve to be denigrated in this fashion.
As for the Sheffield Tap incident, I can recount hundreds of cases of people acting in this fashion who turn out not to be CAMRA memmbers at all.

Sid Boggle said...

But it does seem to be becoming more widespread. I know Utobeer in Borough Market receives regular requests from customers for a CAMRA discount.

I dunno - if this is the sort of behaviour the new super-CAMRA is engendering, then sounds like they need to take urgent action to put their house in order, or be taken down a peg or several...

Velky Al said...

Very well put piece. It would seem that the MD of Marston's was on the ball when he used the phrase "gobby hobbits".

Surely it is outright hypocrisy of these CAMRA members to even be at an event organised by a company which makes many of ills of which they accredit the necessity of their organisation?

Rabidbarfly said...

Well put Pete, I had that once at The Rake and haven't had it since. Maybe that was because they've heard that I had told that individual to go forth and multiply when he 'demanded' his discount.
Outrageous behavior! Most of the CAMRA members that frequent The Rake whilst 'weirdy and beardy' as some of them are, have never behaved that badly. Name and Shame em!

The Pub Diaries said...

This carrier bag. Was it Kwik Save by any chance? These card carrying Pub Saviours (in their own minds) would be strange creatures with or without their £20 a year. As a card carrier myself I prefer to quickly flash the barmaid (my card that is) and make no fuss… Now and again they may shout to the guvnor whether they can accept the card and I go a shade of crimson… might as well be in the chemist again buying "that cream"

Alan said...

O would some power the giftie gie us
To see ourselves as others see us.

Laurent Mousson said...

@ Roger :
"As for the Sheffield Tap incident, I can recount hundreds of cases of people acting in this fashion who turn out not to be CAMRA members at all." - Fair point, that's why I'm in favour of pubs demanding membership cards to clear up such cases and ideed passing on documented cases from actual members if there are any to HQ for serious scrutiny

Cooking Lager said...

As Roger Protz's recollection of the evening is quite different, can I ask whether you told the beardies on the night that you found there behaviour rude?

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=201037720596

Jools said...

I joined CAMRA last year because I wanted to feed my need for information about beer and brewing.

Now, I'm not your stereotypical CAMRA member (OK so I have facial hair and, yes, I wear flip-flops but I live in Newquay and it's the law here) but when I tell friends I'm a member I get the same, typical response (a smirk usually). CAMRA needs to work on it's image and I agree that telling those trainspotting-tosspots what station to get off at would be a start.

I've only asked about a CAMRA discount once and that was upon entry to the Hook Norton Brewery tour. The friendly chap's lightening reply was "No, you can take your own pictures". Based on the speed of his response I took it that my request was not the first he'd had. Mind you, comedy-wise, he's never going to worry Frankie Boyle.

And whilst I'm here, who won your cask ale competition last year? (http://petebrown.blogspot.com/2009/04/cask-ale-caption-competition.html)

My entry was EASILY the funniest!

James F said...

Pete, i'm glad you you had the balls to make this post. The level of arrogance of these train tickers is unbelievable, do they truly believe anything they do or don't say about the truly ground breaking Sheffield Tap could have the slightest bearing on the remarkable success of this place? They really are pathetic little tadpoles in pivo/thornbridge's huge pond. The irony of the situation you described is laughable if anything I would be glad to pay MORE to drink in such a high calibre public house not to argue the case for a discount based on their bigoted view that they are the only people who drink real ale or have an opinion worth listening to!!

Needed saying Pete, well done!

Pete Brown said...

Roger - thanks for commenting. It's only right that the other side of the story should be aired here.

Also, I'm not implying you misbehaved personally - hence my little disclaimer towards the end. But I still maintain others on the table did.

I'll accept that things may have looked a little worse from my end of the table than they actually were. But 'travesty of the truth'? I can't agree with that.

There are only three possible reasons why my account might bear no resemblance to what actually happened:
a) I was tripping and had no connection with reality
b) I simply wish to provoke another feud with CAMRA
c) I have a poor understanding of human nature and completely - and genuinely - misread the situation.

I can assure you that (a) is not the case. I've never taken hard drugs in my life - I'm too scared.

Despite what some may think , (b) isn't true either. It may have been true once, but I'm on record repeatedly having said we need to present a more united front as beer lovers and beer makers. I'm not a hypocrite. Spats do make good copy, true, but I only said this because it needs to be said, and I find the whole thing regrettable. I say it in the hope that it might prompt some soul searching and internal questioning within some parts of CAMRA.

Which leaves us with c). Can I not tell the difference between good-natured banter and rude, boorish behaviour? Well, think how it looks to an outsider. At the first cries of "P2 stout!" I smiled. Hell, I almost joined in! But as the evening carried on the whole situation started to look very different to those who weren't in on the 'joke'. Did I misread it? If I did, there was more than one other person who completely misunderstood it in exactly the same way I did. When boorish lads are told to calm down in public, their defence is often "Hey, we were only having a laugh!" Usually they mean it - but they're not aware of how their 'laugh' looked to other people.

Am I still making too much of this though? I wouldn't have posted this if Thursday night was an isolated incident that had no correlation with anything else. But as I said, this is a wider issue. As you can see from the rest of the quotes here, I seem to have articulated something a lot of people have experienced recently but perhaps have been unable to articulate (why on earth should one poster think I'm 'brave' for writing this?). Is this behavioural trait a collective mass hallucination? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Bullys always their behaviour is a good natured joke.

Roger Protz said...

The reason why the majority of the responses are in your favour is not difficult to divine. As I found with my blog, especially with my spat with BrewDog, there's no shortage of people who seem to have an animus against CAMRA. Remember such comments as "CAMRA scum"? The reason why CAMRA has 112,000 members, has the ear of government and is listened to with respect by all serious beer lovers as well as politicians and law makers, is that we have the muscle of a strong, growing and influential consumer movement that has saved Britain's unique beer style. Why that gets up some people's collective nose is a mystery to me.
I repeat: I was at the dinner, I know what was said, and I know what Steve Wellington's reaction was. If you were so outraged, Pete, why didn't you speak up at the time? I do recall you eager hand stretching out for a bottle of P2.
Would aynone like to call me a liar?
And may I say how deeply grateful I am to fellow members of the British Guild of Beer Writers for joining this nasty bandwaggon.

Curmudgeon said...

This underlines the point I made in response to ATJ's "beer tribes" posts that there are rather more CAMRA members than you might think (and often in senior positions in the organisation) who take the ignorant and dogmatic view that they won't touch anything that isn't cask- or bottle-conditioned.

By refusing a drink that had been provided by their host on those grounds (which might not have been the world's most wonderful beer but wouldn't have done them any harm) they were showing a gross lack of respect to his hospitality.

Velky Al said...

For some reason the phrase "no smoke without fire" comes to mind here.

I have met plenty of CAMRA members and most are genial, knowledgeable and a pleasure to spend some time with downing pints. However, and this is purely anecdotal, in my experience the gobshite wing of CAMRA are truly obnoxious and annoying, decrying any form of beer other than "real ale" and disregarding the brewing traditions of countries outside the UK.

Whilst they may be a minority, like Militant Tendency in the 80s, they are overly strident and vocal, and sometimes downright ignorant of anything other than real ale, as such I am fairly sure they can't be counted among the "serious beer lovers".

From what I have read and heard about the event, it sounds more like a fairly typical bunch of Brits out on the lash, like the obnoxious stag party groups we used to get in Prague every weekend, so perhaps the issue here isn't CAMRA, but rather boorish Brits?

Sid Boggle said...

For the record, Roger, I've been a member for 11 years, never asked for anything because of it, and if some of the newer members think there's an entitlement that goes with their subscription, then that needs to stop. It'll hurt CAMRA's reputation on the ground.

It's clear there are some people out there earning that animus by their actions. They could give a toss, but the movement ought to.

Alan said...

"And may I say how deeply grateful I am to fellow members of the British Guild of Beer Writers for joining this nasty bandwaggon."

I too am shocked at this clear breach of solidarity within the Guild and hope this is all dealt with at the next meeting with a good mass caning. What sense is there having a Guild if there aren't serious punishments for disloyalty?

Barry M said...

"We didn't demand it and didn't expect Steve to go out in the rain to find some. He came back with the bottles with a big grin on his face -- clearly not in the least upset".

If only he'd had a wireless microphone on him as he trudged back in the rain :D

James said...

Interesting spat. CAMRA certainly polarizes opinion. I wonder if there's a third person who sat at the table that could come forward and corroborate one or the other version of events?

Paul Bailey said...

As I wasn't present at the aforementioned dinner, not being even a remotely senior figure within the Campaign, I won't come down on either side of the two main protagonists in this debate, even though I have my own private thoughts on the matter.
However, I do have to agree with both Curmudgeon and Velky Al's comments about narrow-mindness, dogma, inflexibility and obnoxious Brits.

John said...

Roger, if you continue to throw up the shutters everytime there is critcism of camra then you are giving the impression to millions of potential members that camra has no faults and cannot be improved. We both know this is not the case-your retorts are almost childlike rebuffing ANY critique of camra justified or not, part of the improvement process is acceptance of faults and implementing measures to put them right and not continuing to defend the indefensible, your like a criminal defense lawyer who knows their client is guilty yet still vehemently defends them. Come on Roger no-one is perfect least of all Camra. You and camra could be so much more but your reluctance to change and modernise makes you look almost papal in this modernised world-and as with the catholic church you are becoming less relevant by the day...

The Big Dog said...

Thanks Pete. Your article gave me some food for thought, and I even penned my own related article.

Not being from the UK, I don't have near the familiarity with CAMRA as you do, but my impression has been that what they are trying to do is positive overall.

I hope you don't let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch (girl).

Later!

Stono said...

well exactly why on earth should one poster think your 'brave' for writing this? I mean why is it brave to recount a particular experience you had in a pub or at a dinner, CAMRA members arent going to excommunicate you or blacklist you from events, recommend not reading your books or something, theres not some secret militant wing who will camp outside your house and protest. You are entitled to your views even if CAMRA as an organisation, and certainly through my own experiences as a CAMRA member, would disagree with that kind of profiling.

I cant pretend that no-one like that belongs to CAMRA, just as I cant pretend not all non CAMRA member beer geeks are all magically affable company, Ive even met some pretty arrogant landlords in my time, but any self selecting organisation reflects to some extent all aspects of a society good or bad, all Id say is that it only takes 1 person to create a bad impression, it takes ten or more to then counteract it.

The Big Dog said...

Oh, by the way, here is the link to the article I wrote (if you get bored with all the commotion you've caused!)

Culture of Entitlement

Rob Nicholson said...

I'm lost for words...

rich! said...

"big grin on his face" - technically, that's known as a shit-eating grin.

that said, I liked the "get their membership number and complain about them" idea. I'd suggest, though, that ticket-punching the membership card would be better. And making it known (in a "banned in one, banned in all" way) that this was what was going on.

I can just see the phone calls to CAMRA HQ - "ello, I've lost my card?" - "Ah, 7184532 - no, you've been punched at two pubs, haven't you?"

Rob Nicholson said...

@Roger:

>that has saved Britain's unique beer style

I have two issues with this statement. Firstly, is quite rightly written in the past tense "has saved", not "is saving". I draw CAMRA member's attention to the recent motion about CAMRA direction.

Secondly, the people who have saved this beer style are the breweries, not CAMRA. Sure, we've highlighted the issues and encouraged many a brewer to startup, and raised awareness with members of the public but single handedly saved real ale? That is arrogance I'm afraid.

There are always two sides to every story but CAMRA must never lord it up (right phrase?).

We've discussed at branch level if there is anything that we can do to help pubs as a business? We've stalled because we perceived we'd be teaching granny to suck eggs which is actually true. None of our active members a) run a pub or b) brew beer.

Therefore to attempt to do so would be met with the disdain that it deserves.

Rob Nicholson said...

Actually, I'm obviously not lost for words but nearly fell off my chair well I read further down and read Roger Protz response.

@Sid: "there's an entitlement that goes with their subscription, then that needs to stop. It'll hurt CAMRA's reputation on the ground."

Unfortunately CAMRA is already part way down that road. Many a member is enticed into CAMRA with the Wetherspoons vouchers giving them discount beer. Those CAMRA members at the member's weekend (which doesn't include me because of Mr. Volcano) will know this was of much debate. I don't think the debate is dead either as I'm personally uncomfortable with the arrangement.

Eddie86 said...

I've only had one experience of it, and I'm fairly sure it was the same person who left a review on a certain BITE site, stating that the staff weren't very friendly over the beer festival, especially the older woman. I believe it to be one and the same because he asked at the main bar if the discount offered at the festival (round the back) was offered at the main bar.

Mum checked with me - it wasn't - I had 20 firks to shift on the fest bar, but we gave him the discount after he moaned a little about how expensive we were.

As for the evening itself, I recall your tweets on the evening making me chuckle.

Pubs giving discount? I've thought about it - in theory if you attract more CAMRA members the pubs rating on NBSS should improve and we'd do better in the POTY local awards.

One of my locals, who I regularly speak to about promotions or events, asked me why complete strangers should be given a discount, when the loyal locals pay full price all year bar happy hour on a Sunday.

I couldn't answer.

I'm now trying to find a legal way to give the regulars a discount.

On the accommodation front though, the best offer I've ever trialled has been the £10 off a room per night for CAMRA members. Even when they've been offered a better deal eg 3 nights for the price of 2. No idea why.

Rob Nicholson said...

@Stono: "all Id say is that it only takes 1 person to create a bad impression, it takes ten or more to then counteract it. "

Equally, it takes years to establish a relationship and seconds to destroy it.

John Clarke said...

Clearly there are two versions of what happened here and as someone has already said it would be useful to get an account from someone else who was at this meal.

There is one comemnt of Pete's I would perhaps take issue with more than any others, namely:

"But everyone who does behave this way is a CAMRA member"

Really? Do you know that for a fact? Or are you just confusing fact with opinion here?

Anonymous said...

Entitlement is not the only noxious thing coming from camra trainspotters-its usually accompaniedby opinionated hallitosis!

mentaldental said...

I no not if Pete's description is more accurate than Roger's or vice versa but... Pete's does seem to be more likely and what I would expect. And there is CAMRA's problem. Despite all the good work they have done they have far too many knobs and twats in their membership and as usual these are the ones who give the most lasting impression of the whole organisation.

Semi Dweller said...

Thanks for relating this absurd tale. Surely these folk should know there's a rich selection of railway material available on DVD these days.

While I'm sure CAMRA is making great strides towards being more accessible there is still an all too prevalent sense of them-and-us about them. I distinctly remember an occasion at the Great British Beer Festival, when buying my ticket, being roundly denounced by a cliched CAMRA ticket seller for carrying a book, the distinct tone being that books and beer didn't mix; to be fair it was a copy of "Three Sheets to the Wind", so there might have been a bit of political edge there.

More fundamentally, the notion on anyone's part that there should be some sort of entitlement to special treatment, wherever it stems from, isn't welcome anywhere.

Tandleman said...

mentaldental. As you say, you don't know. Nor do you give any evidence for your views about CAMRA. If you can, do. If you can't, why chip in? It just appears unoriginal and gratuitous.

Jeff Pickthall said...

I think we may have just experienced two examples of classic CAMRA arrogance:

1. Roger's declaration that "[CAMRA] is listened to with respect by all serious beer lovers." Really? What about me? Am I not a "serious" beer lover? Are my many non-CAMRA-minded friends not "serious" beer lovers? Use of the word "all" is mendacious.

2. Roger also says "growing and influential consumer movement that has saved Britain's unique beer style". This declaration that CAMRA is entirely responsible for "saving" real ale deserves a very large pinch of salt. It is an entirely unverifiable claim that exists counter to huge volumes of knowledge about how markets behave. In my most skeptical moments I consider CAMRA to be symptomatic rather than causative of the saving of real-ale.

I often spot these kind of self-aggrandising claims coming from CAMRA sources. Ever the skeptic, I can't let them go unchallenged.

Tyson said...

I'm with JC and others-we do need to hear more views from people who were actually there. Too many people are taking it as gospel and commenting thus. If true, condemnation is in order, but let's hear more first, please.

Danfgough said...

Having worked with Pete, Roger, steve and also encountered John Arguile, as well as working with CAMRA as member and supplier I have to say that there is clearly mis-understanding on both sides here, but I feel that Pete's version of events is closer to the truth!

I agree the KC Rose wasn't the most appropriate beer to serve but it would have been chosen for food matching reasons. The whole point of beer and food matching is to prompt discussion. To not even try the beer is a collosal fail from 'so-called' beer lovers. Afterall, Kasteel Cru does fit within CAMRAs constitution as a beer brewed in it's point of origin. A beer festival I sent it to along with some White Shield certainly didn't turn it down!!

As for the P2 debacle, Steve is a talented brewer, a gregarious host and a professional. His sole objective would have been to see the opening go without a hitch and to celebrate good beer. I therefore don't think it is a stretch to believe that Steve would go and fetch more beer to calm some (well meaning) rabble rousers. I also would imagine his reaction out of earshot was wholly different to his smile
in the dining room!!!

Finally, about CAMRAs role on 'saving' the museum, Im sure they put in a lot of work on the committee but it is also true that the committee made no progress in the 18 months I was aware of it. There was also a number of sources saying that several camra representatives on the committee were in favour of rejecting the offer from Planning Solutions when it came along. How does that help 'save' the museum.

I am a CAMRA member and am very pleased to see the membership rise as it shows an increase in interest in real
ale. However, like all member organisations it has it's issues and must evolve to continue to be relevant.

Tyson said...

Danfgough. No offence, but again you weren't there. Speculation is fine, but it is just that.

HardKnott Dave said...

"Roger's declaration that "[CAMRA] is listened to with respect by all serious beer lovers." Really? What about me? Am I not a "serious" beer lover? Are my many non-CAMRA-minded friends not "serious" beer lovers? Use of the word "all" is mendacious."

There are even CAMRA members, like myself, who are applauded by the righteous attitude of some other members. The more someone has their foot in the beer industry the more likely they are to share the view that CAMRA has a bad image.

The real problem is that CAMRA does not have a good image with serious beer lovers, irrespective of the truth. I refer to beer lovers, rather than ale lovers, by the way.

For what it's worth, I wasn't at the dinner, but I have made my own inquiries of people who do know what really happened. Although there is an element of misunderstanding it would seem the truth is closer to Pete's account than Roger's.

To suggest that an organisation that I am a member of has a right to behave with arrogance because it has over 100,000 members only makes me want to leave the organisation.

Pete Brown said...

John Clarke - that last line was a rhetorical flourish and I should probably clarify what I meant by it - I wasn't saying by any means that everyone who behaves in a boorish manner is a CAMRA member. I was saying that everyone who demands or expects special treatment just because they are a CAMRA member is a CAMRA member. By definition. Of course, I could be wrong - there could be people going around pretending to be CAMRA members and demanding special treatment on that basis. I don't know for sure that there aren't, but it would seem to be an odd thing to do.

I'm drawing a line under this one now guys. There were other people on my table who agree with my version of events but feel unable to speak out. I think the reaction to my post from some quarters tells you why. There may well be other people there who fully support Roger's version of events.

Obviously, I don't think I'm wrong about this, but there probably is a question of degree as to how accurate I am. I certainly stand by my version - that's how it seemed from where I was sitting.

If my account is more than a misunderstanding, if it is the "travesty of the truth" Roger suggests it is, I'm sure we can look forward to him and his colleagues sharing their impressions of how good a match - or not - the Kasteel Cru rose was was with the glazed lemon tart accompanied by macerated berries and finished with Chantilly cream real soon.

Roger has blogged about my "outrageous slur against CAMRA" over at his place. In the interests of fairness you should go and read it, make up your mind if one or both of us are out of order here, and then we should probably let it lie.

So, what about the new Thornbridge Halcyon eh?

Stephen Beaumont said...

I'm amazed that it took until Danfgough for someone to make mention of Pete's description of the CAMRA faithful scorning the Kasteel. As noted, it represents the height of bad manners to refuse to even try your host's proffered food or beverage -- barring a serious allergy, of course -- and demonstrates complete ignorance as to the ways in which food and beer can and often do interact, something CAMRA has been promoting of late in various publications.

I am no great fan of Fruli, but once essayed it with some chocolate cake to a tremendous result, proving that a beer-food combination can indeed add up to much more than the sum of its parts. So, and I ask this with genuine interest, what of this portion of Pete's recounting of the night, Roger? True or false?

crownbrewerstu said...

the new Thornbridge Halcyon is FUCKING awesome!!!!!!

crownbrewerstu said...

oh and your blog looks great BTW

Reluctant Scooper said...

You owe me one new shirt, Pete. I've just spent the last ten minutes squirting tea out of nose and all down my front, laughing so much. Funniest post I've read in ages.

As for Halcyon; just seeing the pumpclip makes me want to do a sex wee.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Haclcyon kicks arse!! surely one of the best beers known to man?

Mr G. said...

I had Halcyon at the Leeds Beer fest recently and it was very lovely. I went to the counter for some Jaipur, but it was sold out (always is by the Friday night). I was mocked heartily as a lout for starting the evening on a 7.7%er, but little did they know - so well balanced for such a strong beer. Fantastic.

Kristy said...

Clearly my opinion is meaningless given that I'm not a "serious beer lover" (I think Kasteel Cru Rose is delicious and perfect with a glazed lemon tart) but Halcyon is amazing - love the new bottle label and the beer is amazing - if I knew how to do a sex wee I would

Anonymous said...

A wise man once told me there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.

While I feel that the correct version most likely is the latter, it *is* telling that Pete has acknowledged "that things may have looked a little worse from my end of the table than they actually were," while Roger has stated time and time again that Pete is simply wrong.

PivnĂ­ Filosof said...

Since I'm not British, nor do I live in the UK, I really don't care much about what CAMRA does or doesn't do, has or hasn't done, will or will not do. It's simply none of my business (BTW, I consider myself as a "serious beer lover").

Needless, to say, I wasn't present at this dinner, but I don't have reasons to doubt Pete's words because I don't see why he would like to slander CAMRA.

But that is not all so relevant to me. What is really disturbing is Roger's attitude towards this whole thing. He's right to be upset and he might have seen things differently, but all that "we have the ear of the government, etc" "we have saved real ale" and all of the other self righteousness is frankly disgusting and to a certain extent it shows that all those who have here critisised the organisation and some of its members are onto something.

dunn said...

I'm still waiting to hear how the Kasteel Cru rose was...

Reluctant Scooper said...

I do hope there will be some Kasteel Cru Rose on offer at the Burton twissup next weekend. Not just pongy ale.

Roger Protz said...

Yes, let's move on. I've had another say at my place but that's the end of it. One point: there were only 2 CAMRA members on the Museum Task Group, John Arguile and me. We supported the deal for Planning Solutions to take over the site. The only alternative was to set up a trust to run it and then get National Heritage Lottery funding. That could have taken years with no guarantee of success; we were all aware that a large lump of heritage funding had recently gone to the Potteries Museum in Stoke, which is close to Burton. The museum is now open. Three cheers.
One final, final word: I have many faults, but I don't lie.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

And now for a Yank rail enthusiast's reaction to this blogpost:

http://beerinbaltimore.blogspot.com/2010/05/why-im-not-camra-member.html

Kristy said...

You want Kasteel Cru Rose Scoop you can have enough to bathe in!!!

Tim said...

Wow - as far as airing dirty laundry this is as good as a pair of skidmarked stained undies.

But we all know about CAMRA arrogance etc. Noone is surprisedd.

@Tandleman - So CAMRA's views are different from it's members? I feel you are wrong, and actions speak louder than words

Tandleman said...

Timbo. I think my views on this are clear. People who act like the alleged behaviour should be chucked out on their ear.

It is clear that in any organisation that individual members will sometimes act against the organisation or its policies. If that is harmless - fine - if not and it is offensive - see above.

Ed said...

I'm not normally one to turn my nose up at free beer but that Kasteel Cru stuff really is foul.

The Pub Diaries said...

It's time to climb off the fence - http://thepubdiaries.blogspot.com/2010/05/climbing-off-fence.html

Motor said...

In most all cases, beer is supposed to be fun, not a university subject. Sure, if one likes taking notes and building a diary, good, but don't crap over a beer that your tablemate is enjoying. Maybe beer appreciation is at the "teenage" stage where all's awkward. If so, I look forward to the adult stage. Again, beer is about fun, or better, enjoyment. Appreciate what's in front of you, and if it's a style you don't like but the person who gave it to you is enthusiastic about it, be nice about it. Too many new to the game like to show their "knowledge" by being dismissive about most everything because it doesn't meet their newly-acquired advanced tastes.

The Pub Diaries said...

I maybe turning into Mr Deltics: http://thepubdiaries.blogspot.com/2010/05/climbing-off-fence-back-tracking.html

RedNev said...

As a CAMRA member of around 25 years, I don't recognise such bad behaviour as in any way typical. But there are rude people in any group you care to name. I don't agree there is a culture of entitlement in CAMRA generally; either that, or the members I come across in the North West are particularly saintly. You have generalised about an organisation of over over 100,000 from the behaviour of perhaps half a dozen contemptible gits. I probably would have remonstrated with both the train spotter and the louts at the dinner. Did you?

Tim said...

@RedNev - I think it's fair to say that Pete was talking about several high profile/ranking CAMRA members. If you liken the situation to the analogy of a snake, the body always follows the head.

RedNev said...

Tim: I don't think it's fair to say that at all ~ that's just your assumption. And your analogy is faulty ~ if, like me, you have belonged to many campaigning organisations over the years, you'll know that the snake does not always follow the head.

I'm rather dubious about these anecdotes that Pete Brown has employed to illustrate his gripe with CAMRA.

Pete Brown said...

You're 'rather dubious' about my anecdotes, Nev? Be very careful here - what do you mean by that? If you're calling me a liar, that is a very serious accusation.

Three points:

One, why would I make this up? What motivation could I have for writing all this, upsetting people and getting into a massive spat with Roger that I really didn't want to do, if my 'anecdotes' were not true?

Two, if it's not representative of CAMRA behaviour, why is this the most commented on post I've ever written, with the vast majority of those comments being supportive? Why do so many people - some of them CAMRA members themselves - say they have witnessed similar behaviour, if what I am describing is not representative of a very loud and visible minority (I NEVER said anywhere that most members were like this) section of CAMRA membership?

Three - why have several other people who were at the dinner contacted me privately to say they agree with my version of events, but daren't say so in public, because they're scared of opening a spat with CAMRA themselves? Kind of proves the point I'm making, doesn't it?

RedNev said...

We had a CAMRA meeting last night, after which the licensee kindly gave us a large plate of sandwiches. I jokingly commented (with your posting in mind) that no sandwiches = no GBG entry. The CAMRA committee members laughed at the ludicrousness of the suggestion: never in a million years would such a thought cross their minds. Needless to say, had there been no sandwiches, it would have no difference to this pub's GBG chances.

I said I was dubious, which is not the same as accusing you of lying ~ if I'd thought that, I'd have said so. It has struck me many times how often journalists seem to have apposite examples to quote to illustrate a point. I have never seen the kind of behaviour you describe, even though I joined CAMRA in the early 1980s, and I go to pubs in more than one town between 3 & 7 times per week. The explanation might be quite simple: perhaps you exaggerated for effect, or perhaps it happened exactly as you described and CAMRA members ARE better behaved here in the North West. I don't know why your experience is so different from my own.

To take another point you made: I don't understand why people are afraid to challenge this bad behaviour. Letting people get away with such bad behaviour only encourages more of the same. I would have challenged them to shut up and probably dissociated myself from them. To tolerate it and then merely blog about it later solves nothing.

As for the number of comments you've had, knocking CAMRA in a posting is a sure way of getting a big response, but that doesn't prove your point. It simply shows that quite a few beer bloggers like knocking CAMRA. How far they represent the views of the general public or even of the general drinker is another matter entirely.

I am not a defender of CAMRA right or wrong and I have fallen out with my Branch in the past, not for this kind of bad behaviour though. I just say what I think is right, and if you are doing the same, we'll just have to accept that our experiences of CAMRA members' behaviour are different.

John Clarke said...

"You're 'rather dubious' about my anecdotes, Nev? Be very careful here - what do you mean by that? If you're calling me a liar, that is a very serious accusation"

I have to say Pete that is a bit rich - surely by religiously sticking to your version of events you are effectively levelling the same charge at Roger Protz.

Pete Brown said...

John, read my comments (and those of others) properly.

Anonymous said...

I have been the assistant manager of a splendid, award winning real ale pub in the N.E. for over 8 yrs and am now of the opinion that the vast majority of CAMRA mememers are complete fu@ckin tw@ts. They do nowt for the business/turnover/profit/ margins. They come in once a week, buy a couple of halves and prevaricate for hours on end about the taste/clarity/aroma/
hoppiness/price etc,etc etc. then complain about the price & the fact that there is nothing ready in the celler (even though there is but i wouldnt give them the pleasure) and then fu@k off to the next pub to give it some of the same.

What REALLY annoys me is that once a year these pointless anoraks participate in their local CAMRA festival for a 4hr shift, pulling pints (very badly) and then spend the next 6months telling experienced members of the trade how they think things should be done...

If they really want to know how a proper pub is run then see how many of the chinless wonders would fancy doing a 16hr shift in the centre of Newcastle on a Tyne/Wear Derby day followed by cleaning the lines after midnight & then being back on duty by 9am the next morning.

Give me an an Irish stag do any day of the week over those wanabee (yet will never be) publicans!!!

Andrew Bowden said...

Anon - As a CAMRA member, I think you're tarnishing a lot of people with the same brush.

If I pop out to the pub I tend to be there for 2 pints min. Usually 3 or 4. if there's good food, I may eat there.

I am sure there's more CAMRA members like me than there are like me than there are like you describe.

Fishter said...

@Andrew Bowden: The problem is that the CAMRA members he's identifying are the visible ones. You (and so many others, like me) are invisible to publicans because we're just the same as other punters!

It's a bit like BMW drivers are knobs. They're not all knobs, but enough of them are that everyone else notices them.

Curmudgeon said...

From the point of view of many publicans, the only time they ever see identifiable CAMRA members is when they come in every couple of years for a "survey", buy rounds of halves, stand around in groups blocking access to the bar, don't return their glasses and then slag the pub off next month in their local newsletter.

It may well not be representative, but all too often that is the image that comes across.

Andrew Bowden said...

Well if the poster wishes, I could walk up to the bar every time I go in and say "Hello. I'm a CAMRA member. I don't want any special treatment - I just want you to know we're nice and we do like sitting in pubs, enjoying your beer"

I could. But I don't think that would go down well either.

Richard English said...

This is not Camra being rude - this is simply people being rude.

Having said which, many pubs that offer discounts to Camra members do not advertise the fact (which seems silly to me but that's a different matter). In the absense of any such indication it is reasonable for a member to ask whether there is a members' discount. If there is, fine. If there isn't, fine.

But as in all communications there is a polite way and a rude way to ask. Veiled threats such as have been cited here are part of the rude way to ask and I am sorry that there are such people in Camra but I feel sure they are in a minority. But in an organisation as large as Camra, even 1% is a lot of ignorant people.

Bill Martin said...

Mr Protz and others in CAMRA get hyper-defensive and quibble over the details because they know that the substance is true.

My nearest landlord was cast into the outer darkness by CAMRA because he keeps his beer fresh with cask breathers. His ale is top notch, but when the local CAMRA brigade (most of whom never used his pub anyway) found out, they actually turned up and made a scene in the bar, actually ordering him to remove the breathers or face the consequences. Naturally they were told to feck off. Since then they have been briefing against the pub even though they do the best ale in the area.

I won't be renewing my membership because I'm sick of the backbiting, arrogance and downright fascism displayed on a regular basis by a small but very vocal group of CAMRA gauleiters. Many publicans and brewers privately regard them as complete arseholes, but have to tow the line because trading conditions don't allow them to react the way they want.

No one loves cask more than I do, but I won't be told what to drink, or how to store it or how to brew it by some little Himmler from CAMRA.

If CAMRA don't face up to this but carry on attacking the messenger then they will be the authors of their own decline.

Anonymous said...

Seems like your just jealous and want to be CAMRA Member.