|Squaring up for a fight|
Personally I am bored to death with this issue, which really only vexes people who spend too much time in the world of beer (yes, I did actually write those words), but if we are going to discuss it, let's not set up fake arguments to inform our conclusions.
He asserted that some people claim 'craft beer' is a marketing term with no relevance. Really? I've never heard that in any conversation I've been involved in. It is certainly not something real ale drinkers on the ground are likely to say - only industry insiders, by which I include beer journalists such as Pete Brown.
The article then goes on to assert that "[Pete Brown] then ... shut down real ale fanatics’ defence that the brew only came in kegs and craft beer was just sold in bottles or cans." It's not clear whether the heavily loaded term 'fanatic' is Pete Brown's term or the Morning Advertiser's, but such language is uncompromising and certainly not suggestive of being open to discussion and debate. More relevantly, I have never heard anyone make such an assertion, not have I read it in anything written by a lover of real ale. I get the impression that real ale drinkers are fully aware that craft beer comes on tap as well as cans and bottles, so I regard the premise behind the conclusion to be flawed. I have heard the perfectly sensible argument that the term craft beer can be applied to some real ales. Not all, of course: no one would seriously describe cask versions of Tetley Bitter or Greene King IPA as craft.
We real ale drinkers are apparently are hostile to craft because, he asserts, of its American origin. Again, not an argument I've ever heard expressed. I am fully aware that some real ale drinkers regard craft as the new keg, and it is not entirely unreasonable for drinkers who remember with a shudder beers such as Double Diamond, Trophy and Red Barrel to be extremely wary of what they judge to be the attempted rehabilitation of something they utterly loathed. They had good reason: real ale was insidiously being replaced by keg in the 1960s and 1970s, even to the extent of getting rid of handpumps so that you couldn't tell whether a beer was real or not until it was served. I was a student for four years in the Warrington area, then a town with three breweries, and we knew of only one pub that had handpumps; what real ale there was almost always came through electric pumps that were identical to those used for keg. Pete Brown came of drinking age in 1986 and the microbrewery revolution took off while he was still in his twenties, so he cannot fully appreciate why the term 'keg' is a such dirty word for many more experienced drinkers.
He asserts that Americans don’t discount real ale as "boring and British", and that the contrary is the case. I've not heard anyone assert that Americans do think that, but I have read British craft beer aficionados make exactly that point about real ale, so perhaps he should direct some of his criticisms in their direction. In the CAMRA circles I move in, craft is rarely mentioned: there isn't a real ale Taliban at work determined to root out all deviance from the path of real ale purity. When it is mentioned, it is more along the lines of "Fine if people want it, but not for me", which is pretty much my attitude. It seems to me that it's only people in the bubble of the industry and beer journalism who see a significant schism between true believers and heretics. They're too close to the subject - or perhaps like rock journalists in the late 1970s who all converted to punk overnight, decrying the Genesis albums they'd been praising 6 months earlier, they're anxious not to appear old fashioned and fuddy-duddy.
If Pete Brown was trying build bridges, he hasn't succeeded, but having come across his antipathy to CAMRA types previously (even though he actually joined in 2012), I'm not sure he was trying to. In general, I detect a certain impatience that some of us refuse to be persuaded by the arguments of those who regard themselves as experts. They seem to forget that customers can spend their own money on what they like, and if they don't wish to buy craft beer, they don't have to. Drinking beer - whatever form it takes - is meant to be a pleasure: it is not an evangelistic duty, nor ultimately is there any right or wrong. In my local which sometimes has up to 11 real ales, there are plenty of drinkers who choose lager or John Smiths Smooth. I would never berate them - it's what they want, after all - so why should we real ale drinkers be criticised for our choices?
I also like tea and drink quite a lot of it. I occasionally drink coffee. Personal choice, not tea fanaticism.