Why don't I belong to the Campaign for Real Ale?
Well, first off, I'm a member of the Chesapeake Bay Branch of the Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood instead. (They meet next Thursday at Mahaffey's in Canton, by the way.)
Second, I investigated a bit into the societies a while back, and to sum up what an English real ale buff said to me about CAMRA: "CAMRA has evolved into a political action group, trying to implement change, occasionally by brute force if need be. SPBW just go and drink the beer and smiles."
But if I ever still entertained any thoughts of joining CAMRA, this blogpost by Pete Brown (referred to me by Tom Cizauskas) would put me off of it once and for all.
Read the utterly appalling story. Go on, I'll wait. I can't sum it up in one paragraph or quote.
If I ever actually experienced this degree of behaviour from fellow real ale enthusiasts, I'm not sure whether I would openly tell these w*nkers over the microphone to "sod off" (or much more colourful variations on the theme), find some cans of Bud Dry or Natural Light and spray them with them, throw bottles at them, or renounce all beer forever and go back to drinking craft teas and mineral water exclusively.
CAMRA in the U.K. is developing, or has developed, a serious image problem, the exact same problem that beset "trainspotters" years ago (as lampooned in everything from Monty Python's Flying Circus' famous "Camel Spotter" sketch to the movie "Trainspotting", and which led many rail enthusiasts like me to loudly elaborate on the difference between enthusiasm versus the Asperger's Syndrome that afflicts the worst spotters). That image problem still besets most political-action groups today: the cause of the enthusiasm may be noble, but the extreme actions or words of a few do almost-irreparable harm to the cause as a whole, casting bad karma over the initial cause.
Don't believe me? How about the fact that CAMRA has inspired its own occasional cartoon series in Britain's Viz Magazine (a British version of Mad Magazine, if you will): The Real Ale Twats (each link a separate example)? How about the images of American "Tea Party" protesters as neo-KKK racists, or leftist protesters as socialists or anarchists?
Until, or unless, CAMRA addresses such boorish and regrettable behavior amongst its membership, I want no part of it. I would not blame a pub or brewery owner one iota if he responded to such behaviour by cutting off real ale to them. "Oh, yer have a CAMRA membership card? 50p more for putting up wit' yer!"
The worst part? I'm a railway enthusiast--enough so to be "part owner" of THREE of those Deltic diesel locomotives mentioned in the actually-not-hypothetical tape title Pete mentioned............ and a couple of other Deltic enthusiasts in my e-circle DO talk about meeting up at the Sheffield Tap.............. [*cringe*]
(Deltic Diesel Real Ale logo from the Cottage Brewing Co. of Lovington, Somerset--not really Deltic turf, but I'm not complaining about an all-real-ale brewery run by obvious rail enthusiasts! And as a probably unnecessary disclaimer, the DPS co-sponsors an annual Real Ale Festival with over 150 (!!!) real ales at its Barrow Hill Roundhouse locomotive centre...... if you're over there, it's coming up 21st/22nd May, noon-11pm both days........)
(And to my British readers: Good luck with that election............)
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