Just as we are at a high point for beer in the UK, so are we at a high point for beer appreciation. Like anything that elicits passion and opinion, the beer world is riven with various factions. CAMRA are unquestionably the old guard, and as of today, there are two new kids on the block - Craft Beer UK, and CAMRGB, the Campaign for Really Good Beer.
CAMRGB (website here) were first out of the blocks by my reckoning, and I like their cheery, naive (or is it faux-naive?) approach. It also helps that their logo is reminiscent of the Cuban flag, but that's sort of by-the-by. They clearly state their aims on their homepage, and it's difficult to disagree with any of them. In fact, that's the problem - it's so commendably all-inclusive that it's hard to know who will say "hell yeah, I like beer and fun, this is something that I can really get behind!". Or more pertinently, who could disagree with those sentiments? It's so warm-heartedly bouncy and eager that to dislike it would be to dislike a puppy. "Sodding puppy, with it's floppy ears and big paws, and wide-eyed innocence... aww, go on then, come here and have a cuddle". There's a saying that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything - I wonder, how does the epithet end if it starts "If you stand for everything...."?
At the other end of the scale, we have Craft Beer UK (website here), who set out their stall very clearly. The c-word is ever-present - not that one, you dirty-minded beast, but the more nebulous term, craft. In their "About" section, Craft Beer UK attempt to set out their stall, arguing that "the term 'craft beer' has been used in the UK to refer to artisanal brewers who focus on quality over quantity and brew good beer", a definition that is somehow simultaneously so broad and so narrow as to be meaningless. Is there an innate nobility in brewing less beer? Are Sierra Nevada somehow less craft for being the world's largest consumer of whole cone hops? You can work out the answer to that, I'm sure. Even more worrying is the fact that Craft Beer UK will admit breweries to their roster on application, but with an element of peer review (see this tweet and their stated membership policy). This slightly undermines their claim that craft beer is something more than "beers that I like" (see Phil's post on craft beer, and my comment of the FUBU brand for more analysis of this).
Just as neither of these organisations needs any endorsement from me, neither should they take my opinions too much to heart. It's great to see people getting behind beer, and unquestionably the drinking public of the UK might benefit from a heightened awareness of their drinking options. But I do worry that neither of these organisations is bringing enough to the table. My experience is that many people still have a bit of trouble with the notion of what exactly constitutes real ale, so trying to bring a nebulous term like "good beer" or "craft beer" into the public arena may ultimately do more harm than good. That's not to say we shouldn't try, but as the title of the post asks: *Who Will Watch the Watchers?