Thursday 21 March 2013

Now for something that needs saying..

Today, I have been finishing off my next 'Cider101' post about pasteurisation. It was done in draft, but as with most drafts I ever write it needed some things added, taken away and changed in order for it to make sense. On this occasion, it became an essay in its own right - no matter where I moved it or how I edited it I couldn't leave it in there. 

As I stand by it and think its worth saying; even if you disagree with it, I have pasted it here as a post in its own right. It starts as a comment on pasteurisation (you will have to wait for the full post:-) What I hope is that it starts a discussion.

CAMRA (and/or CAMRA APPLE). They don't like pasteurisation.  Something to do with dead yeast being an anathema to them... which is a beer thing. Apart from wondering why they would apply brewing principles to cider, the question you should really be asking yourself is this - what do they really know or care about it?

As they have admirably demonstrated very recently, they prove themselves to be the worst sort of supporter cider could hope for... one that consistently gives the resounding impression that it neither understands cider/perry nor really gives a monkey's about it... and that begs the question; why do they promote themselves as a (if not the) supporter of cider drinkers in the UK? I am coming to the conclusion that their existence is just getting in the way of a truly supportive cider consumers association being formed?! Perhaps it is time for them to move over and let people with a passion for cider and perry have a go.

I should have prefaced this with the fact it is my own opinion and based on my own experiences. However, allow me to evidence my last statement:

They constantly equate cider practices to beer practices (which is daft as cider is not beer!) and, quite frankly, don't show any sign of wanting to make the effort to actually understand cider making or cider as a drink (i.e. they don't understand it... nor seem to really want to). 

To demonstrate this at a practical level - just look at the many festivals that don't bother to check if ciders meet CAMRA's own rules... such as Strawberry ciders etc. The regional branches of CAMRA turn a deaf ear to the CAMRA APPLE committee as if they are irrelevant! Finally, and probably the reason for this criticism, their attitude and commitment to supporting cider in the 'beer' tax escalator campaign was (and I quote); "By beer we mean cider too." This blase attitude speaks for itself and was shown up for the nonsense it was at the last budget! As a twitterer put it so well, 'Well done for saving your pint... but what about mine?!'

Lets be more general and regional - How do they monitor cider producers (in the way they do brewers)? They don't. What about discussing pubs that sell cider and perry? They don't (you can get it on the agenda at branch level, but don't expect it to be given much time). Do they encourage local cider/perry? Well, on paper at least... not at branch level. They do run a competition... but there are so many competitions these days. Oh, they sell cider at festivals. But then all the major festivals sell wine too (and they aren't the consumer organisation for wine are they).

Let's face it, when one of their committee members suggests that the best approach to cider taxation is to "keep quiet about it" this rather proves that they neither understand cider duty taxation nor have done like for like comparisons with beer. The figures are available on the HMRC website in black and white - and it is known that, because of beers sliding scale of duty you have to compare average producers as well as average drinks. It just requires a calculator and a little mental effort

More disturbingly, it also begs the question why someone like this would want to be a committee member?

As a CAMRA member, I have long felt that there was limited value for money for the cider drinker outside of cider and perry being available at festivals (which I could benefit from even if I weren't paying subs). The Wetherspoons voucher incentive doesn't work for cider and What's Brewing only just about manages a token gesture towards cider (if at all - and normally in October). So, as the UK cider consumers group, cider drinkers are neither catered for or informed of developments within the industry. What is the point?

In all honesty, I figured that this was the best we could hope as a start - lets get involved and help to improve things at both branch and national level so that we get to a more positive and proactive consumer organisation - this was 'best done' from within the existing one. Sadly, following a number of attempts, I now seriously doubt there is any appetite for it - not just at branch level but among their national committee (both CAMRA and APPLE). And I really do hate clubs with committees for the sake of being a committee but without any practical reason. CAMRA APPLE is broken. That is neither a good thing for the industry or for those who drink cider. Those actually campaigning for cider, in the majority, are producers (it's a bit like SIBA and BBPA campaigning against the 'beer escalator' without the support of the consumers (CAMRA)... it wouldn't have worked.

Enough of the critique - its probably enough for them to expel me but sums up my feelings and I am sure I am not alone. I hope CAMRA at large can fix this. I would love to help, although changes would need to be radical (and those on the main CAMRA committees need to open their ears). It needs to get away from being the PFJ (for those who are not familiar with the 'Life of Brian' - to something prepared to be proactive and willing to listen/be wrong/learn/act.

Or, if CAMRA aren't that bothered by cider then close it and let someone else start something more effective.

As a footnote, I completely agree with Pete Brown that beer vs cider arguments are boring and depressing. I wish they would stop too (and I apologise if anything I have said has come across in that way). My anger isn't about that... in fact, its probably my own fault for having an expectation that APPLE would do more than talk and gaze at each others navels. 25 years of campaigning for cider and perry? Sorry if this isn't the pat on the back you were looking for!

Finally, a big well done to the brewers and brewing industry (including the main body of CAMRA) on finally getting beer the break it deserves! I haven't done the maths yet but I hope it makes life easier!


  1. Good rant !

    1. Thank you Mike. Personally, I am very pleased that I managed to work a clip in from Monty Python as a comparison. Any organisation that can be compared to something the Python's lambasted should be concerned:-)

  2. Only just come across your blog, but I have to say I agree with much of what you say above. Some of the nit-picking of APPLE makes even the most diehard cask beer guys look broad-minded. And, as you say, beer principles can't be read across directly to cider, as it's an entirely different product.

  3. I should point out that I am quite happy to take this post down, or amend it in future if there comes a time when APPLE have actually done something of use/value for the paid up members of CAMRA who are cider/perry drinkers...