I'm delighted to present the Wikio rankings again this month, if only because it means that everyone is guaranteed to pop in here for a sneaky peek. So before I reveal the rankings, let me abuse that position by saying a few words about the peculiar CAMRA-related argument that's been raging on the blogs for the last few days.
I'm amazed at everyone's reactions to that speech by Colin Valentine. I'm amazed in so many ways. Firstly, I'm amazed that Valentine felt moved to not only comment on the blogging scene, but that he felt so hostile about it. The reason I'm surprised is that overall, beer blogging is still a pretty niche activity, as is drinking 'craft' beer, and I'm amazed that he felt threatened enough to comment.
I'm not saying that I don't enjoy the 'craft' beer scene in the UK. Hey, I make my living from it, and believe me, I don't do what I do for the money, I do it because I'm fascinated by the seemingly endless variety of tastes and textures that beer offers. But do I think I'm any more important because of that, or for having written a book, or for having won a few awards? Of course not. I'm immensely proud of them, but I'd like to think that I've always had a slightly inflated of opinion of myself that was merely reinforced by these achievements.
I'm also amazed by so many bloggers' complete misunderstanding of what CAMRA is, and how it works. CAMRA is a consumer organisation, and is composed of members who guide the direction that CAMRA goes in. Even if you ignore the fact that CAMRA is de facto about promoting cask ale, everyone seems to have missed the point that CAMRA isn't a top-down organisation. Colin Valentine isn't some Dr. Evil at the head of an organisation, issuing edicts for his minions to follow, he's a mouthpiece for the organisation.
CAMRA is directed by its members, and the sort of people who turn out and vote for motions at CAMRA meetings are actually people like you and I - people who care passionately about something. Sure, the things we and they care about are worlds apart, but you know what? That's life. Not everyone will agree with everything you say. And saying 'CAMRA needs to change' is to fundamentally miss the point. CAMRA's never going to change unless its members want it to change, and if you want it to change, then join, be active, campaign, educate, but just don't expect to do that only by blogging. While electronic media may be a great force for communicating opinions, removing the publishing machine between the author and the reader, that doesn't mean that blogging is a silver bullet in educating people about beer. Preaching to the converted is easy.
Personally, I thought what Valentine said was pretty mean-spirited, and in an ideal world, he'd be censured by the membership. Curiously, the membership haven't called for him to be removed from office, perhaps because they either (a) agreed with what he said, or (b) weren't really listening that closely and don't really care. I'd warrant that it's mostly (b), with a bit of (a) derived from the way that he framed his comments and equated keg beer with craft beer. He's talking bollocks, of course, and should be taken to task about it. By who, mention no names, but follow my eyes... [*looks at the BSF bar*]
So what do you do? Publicly moan some more about how shit CAMRA are? Great work. You poked the sleeping dog and it bit you. Deal with it, but don't moan about it to me, because I'm not interested. Colin Valentine made some noisome remarks, but CAMRA didn't. If any of the broadsheets were one tenth as receptive to new beer writers as What's Brewing and Beer are, and paid as well or as promptly, I'd be delighted. And if the top 100 beer blogs had one tenth of the audience that What's Brewing and Beer has, I'd be delighted. Funny how nobody ever comments on what a great magazine Beer has has become in the last couple of years. In terms of nurturing new talent, and giving bloggers a 'real world' outlet, it's unparalleled. Which brings us neatly back to beer blogs, which is why you're all here, and how I've tricked you into visiting.
So anyway, here are the Wikio rankings for May. Remember - play nice, love each other, and drink good beer in all its many forms of dispense.