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Thursday, 23 June 2016

British Guild of Beer Writers AGM 2016

Last night I attended the Annual General Meeting of the British Guild of Beer Writers. I have been a member of the guild for nearly two years, but this was the first formal meeting of the organisation I have been along to.

The AGM took place at the historic George Inn, which is just off Borough High Street and just a short hop from London Bridge station. The 6.30pm start gave me just enough time to get home from work, change my shirt and then hot foot it down to Tonbridge station and jump on a London-bound train.

The meeting was held in the Winchester Room, which is at the far end, and on the upper floor of this lovely old coaching inn. This was the first time I have been upstairs at the George, and it was nice to experience a bit more of the pubs history, at first hand. For those not in the know, the George is the last remaining example of the many coaching inns which were once present south of the river, and is the only remaining galleried inn in London.

The George Inn
The building dates from 1677, and has obviously seen many changes and witnessed many comings and goings in its long history, but today it still offers hospitality to visitors in the form of good food and drink, although it no longer offers lodging for travellers or stabling for horses. The George was originally constructed with two wings and a rear, which flanked a central courtyard, but unfortunately the section on the north side, along with that at the rear, was pulled down in the 19th Century by the Great Northern Railway, who used the pub as a goods depot. Today only the southern section remains. The George Inn is owned by the National Trust, who lease it out to Greene King; and it is the latter company we have to thank for their hospitality last night.

Before describing the meeting, a word or two about the Guild. The British Guild of Beer Writers was formed in 1988 to help spread the word about beers, brewing and pubs. Its 250 members include some of the country’s leading beer media experts, including journalists, authors, producers, photographers and illustrators, as well as humble beer bloggers like me. The Guild also numbers supporters from many of the breweries, companies and suppliers associated with the brewing trade, and many of these organisations and individuals are corporate members.

The only remaining galleried inn in London
I would estimate there were around 40 of us who took our seats in the Winchester Room; but not before we had grabbed ourselves a beer. There is a small bar just outside the room, and last night Greene King provided cask ale in the form of the rather good Mighty Moose IPA 5.6% ABV, along with a number of bottled beers from the Belhaven Craft Beer Range. These included a Pilsner, a Scottish Oatmeal Stout, an Oak-Aged Blonde Ale and a Scottish Ale. I tried several of these over the course of the meeting, but unfortunately the Oatmeal Stout had ran out by the time I went to get a bottle.

And so to the meeting, which was presided over by Guild Chairman, Tim Hampson, Treasurer, Paul Nunny and Secretary Adrian Tierney-Jones. Also present were many luminaries from the world of beer writing, including Good Beer Guide Editor, Roger Protz, leading beer historian, Martyn Cornell, London’s Best Beer, Pubs & Bars author, Des  de Moor, CAMRA Founding Member, Michael Hardman and much published beer writer, Pete Brown. There were a number of fellow writers and Bloggers who I have got to know over the past couple of years, including  Peter Alexander (Tandleman), Matthew Curtis, Bryan Betts and Ed Wray.

Adrian receiving his presentation
Actually, I was only introduced to Ed in person, last night, although I have been following his blog Ed’s Beer Site for many years. It was good to put a face to the name and to talk to Ed about his days at Old Dairy Brewery and his current work within the brewing industry.

There was a ballot to elect seven ordinary committee members to join the chairman and treasurer in steering the guild towards a new future. This is because the BGBW is changing this year from a private member’s club to a limited company. There was also a change on the top table, with Adrian Tierney-Jones standing down as secretary after 11 years in the role. During his time as Guild Secretary the membership, scale of activity and reputation of the Guild has grown out of all recognition, which is a tribute to enormous amount of hard work that Adrian has put in over and above his day job.

In order to take the Guild to the next level the committee have decided to recruit a secretary to work one day a week for the organisation, but before Adrian officially stepped down, Chairman Tim Hampson led the tributes and thanks for all his hard work over the years and presented him with a bound set of Alfred Barnard’s “The Noted Breweries of Great Britain & Ireland”.

With the formal stuff over, the meeting ended and we got stuck into a rather nice finger-buffet, along with more beer. This was obviously where the bulk of the socialising took place, and it was good to catch up with people and to hear about some of their experiences as writers in the multifaceted world of beer. As I mentioned earlier, it was good to meet up with Ed Wray for the first time, but it was also good to chat with Bryan, Matthew and Peter. Tandleman had just got back from a holiday in Albania, and was dressed as though he had literally just stepped off the plane!

I left, shortly after 10pm, as with the concluding part of a four day audit, at work, conducted by the US Food & Drug Administration, due the following morning I needed to keep a (relatively) clear head. I enjoyed my introduction to the Guild and its workings, and to meeting some new faces.

I have already pencilled in a few dates in my diary, including the organisation’s annual pre-Great British Beer Festival get-together which, this year, takes place upon the Tattershall Castle paddle steamer, and the Guilds Annual Awards Dinner, at the beginning of December.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

I Predict a Riot

I Predict a Riot
I am certain others have written on this topic before, in fact I remember an article by beer-writer, Pete Brown several years ago on the very subject; but what I’m about to write about was brought home to me last night, when my wife and I attended an outdoor gig by the excellent Kaiser Chiefs.

The concert took place at Bedgebury Forest, close to the Kent-Sussex border, to the south-east of Tunbridge Wells. Bedgebury is home to the National Pinetum; a collection of over 10,000 trees growing across 320 acres, which includes rare, endangered and historically important specimens.

As such it is the perfect venue for outdoor concerts, providing the weather holds, of course! Fortunately it did yesterday evening and whilst it was a little chilly, the rain held off. The Kaiser Chief’s performed brilliantly and had the crowd singling along to hits such as Ruby, I Predict a Riot and Oh My God.

Overview of the site, before it started to fill up
We thoroughly enjoyed both the concert and the open air setting in the middle of the forest. We took along plenty to eat, in the form of a picnic, but as I was driving I forewent the pleasure of a few beers in favour of coffee and water. Forestry Commission rules do not permit glass or metal containers, so any drink brought in, including beer, has to be in a plastic container anyway, but there was a bar on site, which I couldn’t help having a quick look at.

The bar, and the abysmal choice of beers on sale there, is the subject of this post and it is a huge thumbs down to the event organisers and the catering company employed. Beer lovers had a choice of either Carling or Worthington Creamflow, served up, of course in a plastic glass. I didn’t see what the cider offer was but I’ve a feeling it was Strongbow.

Enjoying the setting
I realise this choice, if you can call it that, didn’t directly affect me; but there must have been hundreds of people who arrived as passengers, and were therefore able to enjoy the odd beer or three. To be offered just Carling or Worthington Smoothflow, is nothing short of an insult.

These days good beer doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to cask. With decent beer available in key-keg, there is no need to worry about set-up times, and any unsold beer can be kept back for another time. So to be limited to two of the very worst national brands, in a county which is home to over 30 independent breweries is a disgrace, and shows the contempt some of these so-called caterers, who seem to have the outdoor event scene pretty much sown up, have for their customers.

As Pete Brown said three years ago, on the very topic about the poor choice of beer at major festivals, “To go to a festival and be confronted with a range of drinks that any pub in the country would consider too narrow is anathema to the whole experience, and leaves a lingering bad aftertaste.”

I whole-heartedly agree

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Windsor & Eton "Tap-Takeover"

Our local Wetherspoon’s outlet in Tonbridge, the Humphrey Bean, has held a number of “tap-takeovers” during the past few years, where beers from the likes of Oakham, Sambrooks, Rockin’ Robin and Thornbridge have been show-cased. Earlier this week it was the turn of Windsor & Eton Brewery. I was alerted to this event via a message from a friend on WhatsApp, so after dinner I headed down to the “Bean” to catch up with said friend plus another member of our group, in order to check out what was on offer on the beer front.

I discovered four Windsor & Eton beers on sale, namely Eton Boatman, Knight of the Garter, Conqueror and a beer brewed specially for the Queen’s 90th birthday, called "90 Glorious Years". I started with Knight of the Garter before moving on to “90 Glorious Years”. With one of my regular check-ups at the Eye Clinic due the following morning, I thought I’d better moderate my drinking, especially as I didn’t want to turn up all “bleary-eyed”. I therefore stuck with just the two pints, enjoying the opportunity to catch up with a couple of friends as much, if not more, than the beer itself.

My friends, who had arrived before me, also gave the Eton Boatman and the Conqueror a go. The former is a 4.2% Golden Ale, whilst the latter is a 5.0% “Black IPA”; a style which is an oxymoron if ever there was one! My companions both liked it, saying it was much smoother than a stout, without the harsh bitterness often associated from the use of highly roasted malts. They also said it was pleasantly hoppy in character; hardly surprising given the inclusion of Summit and Cascade hops in the beer. Both agreed though, that one was enough.

I enjoyed my Knight of the Garter a 3.8% easy drinking Golden Ale, brewed with American Amarillo whole leaf hops giving a distinctive fresh citrus aroma reminiscent of cut grapefruit. “90 Glorious Years” wasn’t bad either; slightly darker in colour, and that pleasant earthy hoppiness which can only come from English hops.… either,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,...h.hops in th eber.t, without the harsh bitterness often associated from the use of ighl
Being a Monday, the “Bean” was quite quiet, with even the Belgium v Italy Euro 2016 game not providing sufficient attraction to pull in the customers. For me though, it made a pleasant change to be out on a Monday evening, and like I said it was good to catch up with friends; one of whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of months.

Windsor & Eton was formed by four friends who came together to bring brewing back to the heart of these two famous Berkshire towns. The brewery was launched on St Georges Day 2010; seventy-nine years after the closure of Windsor’s last brewery.  
Since then, Windsor & Eton have gone from strength to strength, offering a range of well-crafted and inspiring beers in cask, keg and bottled form. The company now turns over £2.5 million and employs around 30 people. Major customers include M&S, the House of Commons, Ascot Racecourse

The Humphrey Bean is Tonbridge's JD Wetherspoon outlet. Transformed into a pub from the town’s former Crown Post Office, the "Bean" is not one of the company's most imaginative conversions. The smaller section at the front is where the post office counters once were, but the much larger section to the rear was formerly the sorting office, and still maintains its shed-like appearance.

To be fair, it is bright and airy, with plenty of tables, and includes a raised area on the left-hand side. This section leads through to an attractive land well laid out garden, which looks out across the River Medway to Tonbridge's imposing 13th Century castle.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

In the Club

There’s been some debate recently as to the merits, or otherwise of including clubs in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. As I stopped buying the guide several years ago, and  even longer ago stopped from having any input to it, I have no strong opinions one way or the other, but before going any further I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of clubs.

It’s hard to pin-point the reasons why and if I’m honest I can’t even remember exactly where and when I first became aware of the existence of your typical “Working Men’s Club”. In my mind, at least, clubs have always been regarded as something of a northern phenomenon, but I don’t think I ever set foot inside one during the four years I spent as a student in the Manchester area. Instead, it was my return to Kent which introduced me to the world of clubs; a world I took an instant, and long-lasting dislike to!

In essence, Working Men's Clubs are private social clubs which first appeared during the 19th century in industrial areas of Britain, such as the North of England, the Midlands, Scotland and parts of the South Wales Valleys. Their prime aim was to provide recreation and education for working class men and their families, in the form of a “controlled environment in which to socialise and drink”. (Where have we heard that before?)

Typical Working Men's Club interior
However despite their lofty educational ambitions, most working men's clubs are purely recreational. Today they provide an affordable way for local people to meet, enjoy live entertainment and play games. Typically, a club would have a room, with a bar for the sale and consumption of alcohol. Games such as snooker, pool or bar billiards are also pretty much the norm, as are televisions which are primarily for sport entertainment.

Most clubs will have a larger room, sometimes referred to as the concert or entertainment room, and here there will be a stage and a layout of tables, stools alongside more comfortable chairs. These rooms are used to provide night time entertainment, mainly on the weekends such as, live music, cabaret and comedy, but bingo and raffles are also popular activities. Many clubs are also known for their charitable works, and some these days will also provide food.

Eyes down!
In recent years, declining membership has seen many clubs close down and others struggle to remain open. In fact, despite the pleasure clubs afford to so many people, over the last three decades the number of Working Men’s Club (WMC’s) has halved from 4,000 to 2,000, and clubs continue to close at an alarming pace.

Some groups have attempted to raise the profile of individual clubs, pointing to their historical legacies and their community roles, but despite this the WMC’s are struggling to find their place in contemporary British society.

This situation is mirrored where I live in Tonbridge, with the Royal British Legion and the Constitutional Club now the only establishments remaining in the town. When I first moved here, 30 years ago, Tonbridge could boast its own Working Men’s Club, plus a club which belonged to one of the large printing companies (White Friars Press), which were once prominent in the town. Printing, as an industry, has vanished from Tonbridge and with a dwindling of retired employees remaining on the books, the White Friars Press Club closed its doors for the last time in the autumn of 2010.

Despite their legacy and role in the nation’s social history, I still find clubs (Working Men’s or otherwise), soulless and lacking in atmosphere. Their supporters would say that’s because I am not a member, and they would be right, as the fact that admission is limited almost exclusively to members’ means that most people belonging to a club will at least know some of the other members. It is this which gives the clubs their social cohesion and provides a feeling of belonging.

Tonbridge Working Men's Club (Nigel Cox) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Fine if that’s your thing, but as far as I am concerned I don’t want to join the club; preferring instead to spread my choice of watering hole to wherever happens to take my fancy. On those occasions where I have visited a club, (usually when there’s something connected with CAMRA taking place), not only do I find the whole rigmarole of “signing-in” a real performance, I also see it as something which sets a club apart from the all encompassing inclusive nature of a pub.

Then there’s the décor, with many clubs resemble a rather faded airport departure lounge, and with fixtures and fittings which seem little changed from the 1970’s, why would I want to spend my time in such ghastly places?

CAMRA’s interest in clubs stems from the fact that many now offer a wide range of interesting cask beers, often sold at subsidised prices. This at least is a much welcome change from a few decades ago, when all that you could find in a cub were national keg brands and well-known international lagers. I accept that many club stewards put in an inordinately amount of extra work, far in excess of what might normally be required, in order to offer a decent range of cask ales, all in tip-top condition. 

Including clubs in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide therefore does show recognition for the work these club stewards put in, but I wonder how many ordinary buyers of the guide, visit clubs which are featured in the guide? It’s OK to say for the guide to state that the club will admit card-carrying CAMRA members, but most GBG users are ordinary members of the public, and do not fall into this category. Also, my experience is that many clubs are far from welcoming of strangers.

CAMRA goes as far as holding an annual Club of the Year competition – COTY; although I dislike that acronym nearly as much as POTY – Pub of the Year! Many branches struggle to find, let alone nominate suitable candidates, but running this contest at least gives a CAMRA committee or two something to do.

The only club I have experience of, is the Tunbridge Wells Constitutional Club, where my local West Kent Branch hold their AGM. There is a nice quiet meeting room upstairs, along with a private room on the ground floor, next to the bar where the inevitable post-meeting buffet takes place. The club itself though, seems painfully quiet; although Saturday afternoons in late November might not be the time when people venture far from their homes. I hate to say it, but it reminds me of “God’s waiting room”, and by the time the meeting has concluded, and the buffet consumed, I cannot wait to leave and to head for a proper pub.

Perhaps political clubs like the Constitutional, and their Labour Party equivalents, still have some form of a future. The same could be said for the Royal British Legion. It is interesting that the latter organisation has now dropped its requirement for prospective members to have, or have had, some connection with the armed forces or the emergency services. So in effect, although continuing to raise money for the Legion, the RBL has turned into just another social club with about the same appeal of the others I have previously described.

To sum up, give me a pub any day. Somewhere I don’t have to be a member, and somewhere I can just walk into when I fancy a drink, something to eat, or just want to meet up with a few friends.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Pantiles and all that jazz

The famous "Pantiles"

The other evening I nipped over to Tunbridge Wells for a social organised by my local CAMRA Branch (West Kent). The event was billed as a “Pantiles Walkabout”; signifying it was a mini-pub crawl of a few of the pubs which are grouped around the historic Pantiles area of the town. It was a warm summer’s evening; one of the first evenings so far this summer where one didn’t need a jacket, so it seemed perfect for a spot of al fresco drinking.

The rest of Tunbridge Wells obviously thought the same, as the whole Pantiles area was buzzing, with many pubs packed out and no outside table space at which to sit and enjoy a beer. Worse still, plastic “glasses” were the order of the day.  To explain further, Thursday evenings thought the summer, are set aside for a series of “Jazz on the Pantiles” events, with live music being played from the bandstand opposite this famous colonnade of shops, restaurant and pubs.  This, combined with the very welcome warm weather, is what had brought people out in their droves.

The vast majority of the crowds thronging the area were under 30, and included a disproportional number of rather attractive young ladies. However, that was obviously just my perception of it, as our brains, via our reticular activating system (RAS), only show us what we want to see, and filter out other “less important” information. I’m certain therefore, if I was a member of the opposite sex writing this, my RAS would have shown the complete opposite, and I would be raving about the number of fit young blokes.

Outside the Ragged Trousers
I digress, and what ever their gender it was good to see so many people out and about enjoying the warm summer evening, although my observation was there didn’t seem to be that many of them listening to the music. This included us; not because we dislike jazz, or other forms of live music, but rather because we were thirsty and hankering after a pint!

We had arranged to meet at the Ragged Trousers; a converted shop situated almost in the middle of the colonnade, but like many of the pubs it was absolutely rammed. I spotted a couple from our group who had managed to get served, but with lengthy queues at the bar we decided to try our luck elsewhere. 

Unfortunately the Duke of York, a fine old pub belonging to Fuller’s Brewery was equally crowded, so we gave up on that idea and headed for the Sussex Arms. Being tucked away in a maze of alleys, our reckoning was the Sussex should be a bit quieter.

The Duke of  York
It was to a point and not only did we managed to get served almost straight away, but we found a few seats and a table – result. The only downside was the plastic “glasses”, but these are insisted upon by the local constabulary, and with people wandering around with drinks in their hands, and clambering up and down steps, I can perhaps understand why. Having said that, I absolutely detest the things and anyone who claims they don’t have a detrimental affect on the taste and perception of the beer is either talking b*ll*cks, or works for a company which supplies these abominations. 

Think I’m kidding about the taste of the beer? Well, it was visually impossible to assign meaningful beer scores to the Long Man Best Bitter and the Taylor’s Landlord, which were the two beers I drank at the Sussex. Also on tap were Tribute and Proper Job from St Austell, plus a beer from local newcomer Ashdown Ales. I also noticed the improved lager offering at the Sussex, with Czech Budvar and Staropramen on the “T”-bar, with the latter proving particularly popular with punters.

Being a warm evening I would have preferred to have sat outside, but all tables in front of the pub were taken. Besides, it was quite nice tucked away in the corner watching the comings and goings, including of course the aforementioned young ladies.

Eventually though the comings began exceeding the goings and the pub started getting uncomfortably full. Equally, to a man, we all had the desire to drink beer from a proper real glass, so we decided to head a little way back into town. By following the maze of alleys and narrow side streets, we passed into the historic and rather quaint, but extremely pricey, “village” area of Tunbridge Wells, our destination being the Grove Tavern, ably kept by Steve the landlord, who is also one of our branch committee members.

The Grove Tavern
Steve himself was behind the bar to greet us when we walked in; an unusual sight as Steve has a number of experienced staff to look after the bar, whilst he concentrates on his other job of installing software and fixing peoples’ computers. It was good to see him though, and it was nice from our point of view at least, to find the Grove relatively quiet, as it is often quite difficult to find space to stand, let alone sit.

Wainwright, from Lancashire brewers Thwaites, was my beer of choice, although Harvey’s Best and Taylor’s Landlord were also available. The Wainwright was in good condition and, of course, tasted all the better from being drunk from a glass. I think this was the first time I’d sampled this beer in draught form, but whilst refreshing enough it seemed to lack something, and this was particularly noticeable following on from the Taylor’s Landlord. I’m therefore not really sure why people rave over this beer, but Steve the landlord seemed pretty pleased with it, and said it was literally flying out the door.

I only stayed for the one pint. With a busy work schedule the following day, plus a concert in the evening, I took the opportunity of the Grove’s proximity to the station, to slip away and catch the 22.39 train home. It has been an enjoyable evening, especially as we were able to welcome a new member to the branch. However, next time we arrange a Pantiles Walkabout, we’ll check the calendar more thoroughly and choose a quieter evening!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Castle Inn, Chiddingstone - Update

Several weeks ago I wrote a short post about the sudden closure of the historic Castle Inn, in the National Trust owned village of Chiddingstone, near to Tunbridge Wells. The closure was something of a shock to both locals and visitors alike; especially coming as it did at the start of the busy tourist season.

The actual reasons for the closure are still unclear, but this week Nigel Lucas, who was the previous tenant of the Castle, broke his silence with a short piece which appeared in the local free newspaper, the Times of  Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge.  Mr Lucas had run the pub for 47 years, having originally arrived there in April 1964. From what he writes, he obviously enjoyed his time at the Castle, even if the work was, at times, “exhausting.”

He did describe the National Trust as “never the most generous landlords”, but then went on to excuse this because of their charitable status and the requirement to make the best use of their funds. He stated that “It became increasingly difficult to negotiate reasonable rents for what is in reality a small village pub without a car park.”  

The final straw came when the Trust tried to increase the rent from £47,500 to £60,000, which he says, “For a small country pub was not feasible.” Eventually he ended up surrendering the remainder of his lease for far less than it was worth; a real slap in the face after nearly half a century of dedication and hard work.

Mr Lucas’s final words were, “Shame on you, National Trust, this is no way to treat one of your jewels. Everything has to come to an end, but it didn’t need to end like this.”

In reply Richard Henderson, the National Trust’s Assistant Director of Operations, who looks after Chiddingstone, commented: 

“We received Mr Lucas’s letter and I have since spoken with him. I am now working to address his concerns.”

“We want the pub to be a success in the village and have in recent years made changes to the tenancy at the Castle Inn to ensure its long-term place in Chiddingstone. We are now actively searching for a new tenant and are delighted to have had initial interest from several parties, which we will be following up.”

“As we’ve said before, we’re committed to finding the right conservation-minded tenant to care for this historic pub, which takes time. But we believe this care and attention is a vital part of our work to preserve its future in the village.”

Without knowing the full details of the case it is impossible to comment further, apart from saying that charities are obviously big business these days, and are always looking for the maximum return on their investment.

However, with an historic pub like the Castle there needs to be balanced approach between preserving the undoubted character of the establishment and meeting the demands of a modern business. A sense of realism should also be maintained, particularly with regard to the rent levied on a pub which is virtually inaccessible by public transport, and with no car parking facilities.

You can read the full article, which appeared in the Times of Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge, here.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Still not getting it!

I was flicking through the pages of “What’s Brewing” yesterday morning, and a couple of things caught my eye. For the uninitiated, “What’s Brewing” is the official newspaper of the Campaign for Real Ale. The paper can trace its origins back to the early 1970’s, not long after CAMRA was formed. This cleverly-named publication has seen several changes over the past 40 years, but it is still mailed out to members each month; just as it was in the very early days of the Campaign.

The main headline in this month’s edition, and the one which really attracted my attention, reads “Pubs key role in reduced figures for alcohol abuse”. According to the article, research by the Local Alcohol Profile for England, (whoever they might be), has revealed a significant fall in the number of hospital admissions related to harm caused by alcohol. The fall is across all age groups and applies to both sexes.

Good news, of course, but the article then goes on to link this fall with the findings from research group carried out by Oxford University. This different research concludes “Pub-goers are likely to drink less if those around then are behaving in a measured way and are, as a result, likely to be less tolerant of socially inappropriate behaviour”. 

Nothing new there, but this is where CAMRA’s chief executive Tim Paige, throws his hat into the ring by stating, “This is why it is especially important we continue to support pubs across the country, to ensure everyone has a local within easy distance of their home or workplace”.

So far, so good, but Tim then goes on to spoil things by stating “We at CAMRA believe there should be greater acknowledgement by government, of the distinction between those who drink in moderation in responsibly-managed social settings, and those who abuse alcohol – most often bought from supermarkets and drunk at home”.

I really thought CAMRA had moved beyond this, but it would appear not, and it is back to the same old rhetoric about supermarkets selling beer at a cheaper price than water, and unless you purchase your drink in a pub, and consume it there under the watchful eye of the licensee, you are abusing alcohol and are at serious risk of harm. Really???

I wrote about this very thing just over three weeks ago, pointing out that many of us drink at home for personal, family, financial reasons or just the plain fact that there isn’t a decent pub within walking distance. I don’t want to go over the whole article again, but speaking from personal experience I drink far less within the confines of my own home than I do when I’m in the pub.

Tim Page - CAMRA CEO
By trotting out the old chestnut that pubs provide a “safe and controlled drinking environment”, whilst implying that a person’s private residence does not, is not only disingenuous, but is also playing into the hands of the anti-alcohol lobby, who of course would like to see all drinking banned.

Now I had the pleasure of meeting Tim a few weeks ago, at the “Consultation Meeting” I attended in relation to CAMRA’s “Revitalisation Project”, and he came across as a pretty level-headed sort of chap. I am therefore more than a little surprised to see him coming out with such a statement; especially as it is fundamentally flawed. 

You are obviously not listening Tim; or if you are you are only hearing what you want to hear. If CAMRA continues down the road of alienating the large, and still growing, section of the population who, for whatever reason prefer to drink at home, it will be doing itself a grave disservice. Furthermore it will provide ammunition to those lobbying for minimum pricing for alcohol - an issue which had almost faded away, but which now seems to be rearing its ugly head once more.

Alcohol is alcohol, and to make out that pub bought booze is somehow more virtuous than a few bottles bought from a supermarket is akin to talking out of one’s rear end!