Outrageous slur on CAMRA
His piece carries the inflammatory title "CAMRA's noxious culture of entitlement". It begins by reporting on an incident in the Sheffield Station Tap when two train spotters came in, ordered beers and said in loud voices that they should get a discount as they were CAMRA members "and we spread the word about places like this." This by any measure is appalling behaviour but the first question a counsel for the prosecution would ask is: "How do you know they were CAMRA members?" Over the years I have on several occasions heard people claiming to be CAMRA members when moaning about service in a pub or at a beer festival who turn out to be either not members or who lapsed some time before. In general -- and I have more than 30 years' membership behind me -- I do not find that CAMRA members demand discounts or behave badly in pubs or other public places. The campaign does not support bad behaviour or demands for discounts. In extremis, a few members have been expelled from the organisation for bad behaviour -- and that includes a member of the National Executive.
Warming to his theme, Pete says that some CAMRA members have the power to make or break pubs. As the editor of the Good Beer Guide, I know that members take the selection of pubs for the guide with enormous seriousness, down to votes -- including postal votes -- at branch meetings. They are objective in their selections and realise they must be objective even when some publicans will be deeply disappointed when they are excluded from the guide.
(In passing I would add that I have suggested to the relevant members that the Sheffield Station Tap must be included in the next edition of the guide even if it breaches the rule that a pub or bar must sell beer of the highest quality for six months before it can be considered for inclusion.)
Pete's main complaint concerns a dinner last Thursday at the National Brewery Centre in Burton-on-Trent to celebrate the re-opening of the site and to thank those who campaigned to save it. I was present and sat on the same table as Pete. Each course of the dinner was matched by a beer chosen by brewmaster Steve Wellington, who runs the White Shield Brewery and will soon move to a new plant within the brewery centre. Pete claims that CAMRA members on the table repeatedly heckled Steve when he described the chosen beers with the demand for P2, the strong stout brewed in the White Shield Brewery. Pete says the heckling became louder and was "fucking rude". According to him, Steve Wellington was forced to go out into pouring rain to find some bottles of P2.
This is a travesty of the truth. John Arguile, a CAMRA member from Derby who has played a central role in saving the brewery centre, was sitting next to me and politely asked Steve if any P2 was available. When Steve next got up to speak some us chanted in a humorous manner "We want P2". It may have been schoolboy humour but it was not rude, fucking or otherwise. Steve then explained to us that his office was locked but he would attempt to find a key and see if any bottles of P2 were there. He did indeed go out in the pouring rain -- all praise to him -- and returned with three bottles of P2 (Pete says five but I think three), roaring with laughter as he received applause from us.
Pete then says we attempted to commandeer the bottles at our end of the table. Not true. I would not be a party to such behaviour. I poured myself a small glass and handed the bottle on -- I think to Pete himself.
All of this amounts to calumny against CAMRA. I'm not aware that Pete objected to our behaviour on the night and he would have been hard-pressed to have done so as his report does not match the actual events. I'm not aware that Steve Wellington was upset -- on the contrary, he took the demands for P2 as as the kind of genial banter that takes place at such events.
It's especially upsetting that John Arguile should be drawn in to this as he is a quiet and unassuming person who has worked so hard to save the brewery museum and deserves better than this.
By the way, the brewery centre offers a 20% discount for CAMRA members. The campaign did not ask for this. Perhaps the owners of the centre appreciate CAMRA's role in supporting and helping save the centre that celebrates the historic home of pale ale brewing.