We are currently living in strange times, with the unprecedented worldwide recession, the government in its death throes randomly flinging out ill conceived policies, growing unemployment and rising unrest evident all around us. And against this backdrop the enjoyment of a quality beer in a convivial atmosphere can sometimes seem relatively unimportant to all of us - even CAMRA members (on occasion) - but off course even more so to none drinkers and more worryingly the disconnected MPs, who are supposed to represent us.
Pubs and drinking are under constant attack from all sides with the recession and unemployment affecting the change in our pockets, the media portrayal of all drinkers as a problem requiring fixing, and the government considering taxation as a way to deal with binge drinking. Meanwhile the pubco’s are cutting and running from struggling lessees in their droves, while the humble local pubs struggle to deal with the ongoing impacts from the smoking ban and escalator taxes on the pint (not to mention numerous side effects from other ill thought government policies - entertainment licenses anyone?). And we won’t even mention Cains.
The pubs themselves in a struggle to survive look for where margins can be squeezed, through price increases, the removal of lined glasses, or cutting back the opening hours and the staff working there.
The 24/7 news culture goes for headlines of course in the battle for news ratings and 100,000 members enjoying a pint or three of Ruby Mild or XXXB is not attractive to them while kids drinking vodka bottles on street corners or youths in town falling over or fighting makes good tele if poor journalism. Unfortunately the very thing that sells the Daily Mail, or fills ITV news programs is currently how government policy is researched and actioned.
All this goes to make this real ale fan feel a little like the boy with the finger in a dyke. But we are 100,000 strong now as members, and there are many more non-members out there who feel the same. We all have fingers and we should feel like we can do something.
As CAMRA we try hard to fight for policies that protect or help nurture the industry - and the output - which we so love. We have had some good successes one of which LocAle fits well with the zeitgeist of sustainability and the general increasing desire for local produce. Many of these local brewers are small and while some may be perfectly formed now can quickly become damaged through ‘small’ tinkering of government be it national or local and where are they going to sell their beer when the pubs shut down?
So as an individual where do you fit in; where you can help, which part of the dyke are you going to save? There are many options worth considering some of which may involve a little work, but even that should be enjoyable. To show your support to CAMRA and the real ale industry you could;
- Volunteer to work at a beer festival, or assist in its organisation
- How about writing a piece for the MerseyAle or the website
- You could become a Pub Ambassador for your local or favourite pub
- You could help distribute the MerseyAle
- Write to your MP or Councillor on matters relating to pubs and breweries
- Just drink out at you local (that’s an easy one)
- Write to your newspaper
- Support your branch at the CAMRA meetings and go on one of the frequent trips
- Keep the faith and spread the word.
Remember if you feel like you don’t have the time to help just stick with the drinking real ale at your local or favourite pub.