Saturday, 14 March 2009

Vile attack on CAMRA

Marston's chief calls real ale
campaigners 'stormtroopers'

As national Cask Ale Weeks approaches in April, you might expect unity of purpose among brewers of real ale. But Stephen Oliver, the managing director of Marston's Beer Company in Burton-on-Trent, has chosen to launch an intemperate attack on CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, in the trade paper Morning Advertiser (12 March).
His language -- "beardie weirdies, sandal-clad, whisker-stroking stormtroopers" -- is not only tired and lifted from the stale porridge of abuse in the 1970s but also contains the explicit implication that the campaign is some kind of Nazi organisation. "Stormtrooper" has only one connection in history -- and that is to the Hitler period in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. As far as I am aware, CAMRA does not exclude Jews or ethnic minorities from membership or ban them from its beer festivals.
Oliver's outburst is prompted by his belief -- wholly misplaced -- that CAMRA favours small micro brewers over larger companies such as Marston's. There is no truth to this absurd claim. CAMRA supports all brewers of cask beer. It has built good relations with such large national brewers as Greene King, Wells & Young's and -- perhaps it escaped Oliver's radar -- Marston's. His boss, chief executive Ralph Findlay, was the main guest speaker at CAMRA's annual meeting in Wolverhampton in 2007.
Oliver's rhetoric insults the vast number of CAMRA members who give up much of their free time to run the campaign's beer festivals, which number around 12 a month and culminate in the Great British festival (GBBF) in London in August. The tired old jibe about beards ignores the fact that in the past decade three National Organisers of GBBF have been women. The current national chairman of the campaign is a woman, Paula Waters. And CAMRA's chief executive Mike Benner is clean-shaven, well-dressed, and has a happy home life when he's not working hard to promote cask beer and save pubs.
Stephen Oliver cannot grasp the fact that without CAMRA, formed in 1971, cask beer would have gone the way of the dodo. Brewers were disappearing faster than the snows of winter and the remaining ones aped the new national brewers by switching from cask to keg production. CAMRA convinced many brewers to return to the cask fold and its success helped create the new wave of small craft brewers from the 1980s onwards. Along the way, it has given support to Marston's and its now unique "Burton Union" system of fermentation.
But Oliver was only warming to his subject. In his column in the Morning Advertiser, headlined "It's hard to keep the gobby hobbits happy", his concludes, "It's a golden opportunity [in Cask Ale Week] for serious show that to enjoy cask ale you don't have to have mislaid your razor, wear socks with your sandals or to have a beer gut the size of Rotherham".
It's also a golden opportunity for cask beer drinkers to demand an apology from a prat with nasty views who demeans the brewing industry with his attack on CAMRA. He should apologise for his remarks without delay and, in particular, withdrew the disgraceful slur about stormtroopers.


Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

"beardie weirdies, sandal-clad, whisker-stroking stormtroopers" --

Tired but true

15 March 2009 at 09:22  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...


Dont take things so serious.
He is trying to make his point of view and some of what he said is valid.
Why can you just note debate the point instead of demanding he apologise.

15 March 2009 at 09:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


one of CAMRA's stated main aims is to "Promote quality, choice and value for money".

Stephen Olivers "point of view" if you can ignore his intemperant language, is all about less choice, lower quality and reducing value for money, because he wants to bully his competition out of the market.

and CAMRA should rightly stand up to such bullies, in both senses, because its also the language of a bully to describe an organisation as made up of "gobby hobbits"

Id happily support a boycott of Marstons till he apologised, as I take offence at the stereotype and ridiculous name calling that he's descended to.

15 March 2009 at 14:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, he attacked the micros a couple of years ago and called them 'airing cupboard hobbyists' at their own AGM.

Just as a small part of his business is true to the ideal, so a small part of what he says is true. But only in a very limited way.

He's a twat. But he's very good at it.

Oh, and he's buying Hall & Woodhouse soon.

15 March 2009 at 18:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'"Stormtrooper" has only one connection in history'

What about Star Wars?

15 March 2009 at 20:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"without CAMRA, formed in 1971, cask beer would have gone the way of the dodo."

Speculation - inadmissible as evidence.

15 March 2009 at 20:51  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

Oh come on get a life. He is entitled to his opinion its good that someone makes this kind of challenge. Some people do not like real ale and you should try and convince otherwise but you must respect other people opinions.
I am finding a lot of real ale just to sweet for me. has the sweetness increased it tastes like it has to me. I find it more difficult to find what I like and keep going back to Duvel.

16 March 2009 at 23:18  
Blogger Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Totally agreed Roger, someone would think that a entity the size of Marston's might have a PR wing to muzzle such embarrassing outbursts.

Johnny Norfolk I think you are well wide of the point.

19 March 2009 at 03:25  
Blogger Johnny Norfolk said...

My concern is that people are no longer allowed to hold another opinion. Some Camra people are just so single minded they are like religious zelots.
I just think Rogers remarks were way over the top,and just stifle debate.

19 March 2009 at 15:40  
Blogger Tim said...

Roger, CAMRA don't seem to do much to encourage their members to 'integrate' with other drinkers. Part of the problem is the promotion of an US vs THEM culture whether it's intentional or not. Having a look at the CAMRA forums does nothing but confirm that the chap from Marston's is on the right track. One such snippet can be found here.

20 March 2009 at 13:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like a bit of a Ratner's moment to me. You'd think these "business geniuses" would have learned their lesson by now: don't piss off your customers.

25 March 2009 at 17:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnny Norfolk, not true, just offensive. Beer gut the size of Rotherham, was he having a pop at Keith Spencer. :(

19 April 2011 at 18:24  

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