Tag Archives: CAMRA

August 2016: Culture, Beer and Pokémon Go

As we come to the end of August, and I suppose (sadly), the end of the summer, I thought it would be good to reflect on my activities over the last month.

June and July were characteristically busy, with an EPSRC Panel Meeting, exam boards and External Examining at NTU in June, and a conference in Lyon (see previous post) in July. I also spent some of July starting preparation of a new module I’ll be teaching in the Spring Semester 2017, on Digital Forensics. When August arrived I was ready for a break, and I was in London (with Angela) for most of the week of 8-12 August. The main event of the week was my annual visit to the Great British Beer Festival, but it was not only a week of imbibing (!), as I will describe. On 8 August we travelled to London, and booked into the Tavistock Hotel, which has become our main ‘base’ in London (although the County Hotel is still good for overnight visits, as mentioned later). We had tickets to see ‘The Go-Between’ at the Apollo Theatre, and when we got there we were upgraded to better seats, which was an unexpected bonus. Michael Crawford, who was due to play the main role, was indisposed, but the understudy did a great job. It was a musical version of the book, and very effective too. The GBBF took centre stage for me on Tuesday (although Angela went to the Sicily exhibition at the British Museum, followed by a musical based on the Titanic story at the Charing Cross Theatre, before joining me at the GBBF in the evening). On Wednesday morning we went to the Tate Modern to see an exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. I was glad to see it, but found that I liked some of her work more than others. After the exhibition, I headed to Olympia for the GBBF, and Angela went to see the Sunken Cities exhibition at the British Museum. It was very nice that Angela was able to join me at the GBBF on both Tuesday and Wednesday evening.

Regarding the GBBF, it was as good as ever, with an interesting beer selection, and good food provision. I won’t put my list of beers tried here, but they have been recorded, and are also on my Untappd account, for any fellow beer connoisseurs reading this! My only disappointment was that the Champion Beer of Britain (CBOB) announcement wasn’t made at the opening ceremony on the Tuesday afternoon. Instead we just got the list of finalists, and the results were relayed to us in the evening after they had been announced at the awards dinner. This was a great disappointment, because the Tuesday afternoon session is the Trade session, attended by many from the brewery and pub trade. They don’t all stay for the evening session, and so won’t have been present for the announcement, which when it came was a bit of a non-event. I hope very much that CAMRA return to the previous tradition, as it was a great start to the festival, and something that made the Trade session special.

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Going back to our week, Angela returned to Keele on Thursday, taking our suitcase (for which I was very grateful). I attended the Thursday afternoon/evening session at the GBBF and stayed at the County Hotel on Thursday evening. On Friday morning I went to the British Museum to see the Sicily exhibition, as this was due to finish on the coming Sunday. It was very good, and I learned some new things, including the fact that the Normans ruled Sicily for a while! It was then time to return to Keele.

I then had a week of catching up on administrative tasks, but on the following week, on 23 August I was back in London for a meeting with my old postdoc supervisor, Richard Catlow, about a 70th birthday meeting I am organising for him next year, followed by another night in the County Hotel. The following day I managed a bonus trip to see the Sunken Cities exhibition at the British Museum, a couple of weeks after Angela. It was simply amazing, and runs until the autumn, so I recommend it if you have a chance to go!

Finally, in the title of the post I mention Pokémon Go. Having heard a lot about it since it was launched in July, I thought about giving it a try, with encouragement from Angela. So I installed it on my phone on 7 August, and have been playing it ever since. It fits in with my enjoyment of travel to different places, and is actually quite educational, since many of the Pokéstops are at places of interest! Angela then joined on 21 August, so we are both dedicated ‘Pokémoners’ now! I suspect I will be writing a further post on the specific subject of Pokémon Go before long.

CAMRA’s Revitalisation Consultation exercise: the view of a long-time member

CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) is currently indulging itself in a navel-gazing exercise that it has called its ‘Revitalisation Consultation’.  You can read all about it here if you’re interested. Meetings are being held all over the country with the aim of consulting members about what they think of the organisation, where it’s at, and what it should be doing.

I attended one of these meetings last night, at the White Star pub in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s a Titanic pub, and not one I had been to for nearly 4 years. It had certainly improved a lot since my last visit, and for the record, the Raspberry Wheat was sumptuous.  The meeting itself lasted 2 hours with a beer/comfort break. There was a good discussion, led by Michael Hardman, a founding father of CAMRA, assisted by CAMRA staff. It was a ‘good’ discussion in that lots of points were raised, but there was plenty of nonsense in the mix. The meeting used clickers to record peoples votes, and that worked well. Maybe I should reconsider using them in my teaching?

But, at the end of the day, is this consultation necessary? In my view CAMRA still needs to carry on much as it is. Yes, it should update its communication with members, improve use of social media etc. But as someone who joined in the late 70s (1977 or 1978), my view is that no, the battle for real ale has not been won. Just because it is so widely available in so many pubs doesn’t mean we can be complacent. And what about the ‘craft ale – craft keg’ debate? Well, I posted about that very topic last year; you can read my thoughts here. My conclusions still stand. CAMRA should not accept craft keg – it doesn’t matter how ‘interesting’ it is, or if it is made by a self-styled craft brewer. At the end of the day, keg is keg!

Of course, there was a lot more to the consultation than this. We discussed pubs, beer prices, and the detrimental effect of supermarkets. These all affect beer drinkers, I agree. But I firmly believe CAMRA should not change fundamentally.  We will see what happens in the coming months – the exercise has some time to go, and then any recommendations will be considered by the executive, and finally voted on at the AGM in April 2017. I will attend if I can, because I am concerned that long term members like myself should not be ignored in the quest for progress.  As with so many other things, we live in a time of change!

GBBF 2014

This year’s Great British Beer Festival was held from 12-16 August at Kensington Olympia, and as in recent years I attended for 3 days from the Tuesday to the Thursday, including the Tuesday trade session. The festival was well-organised, and once again the volunteers did a great job.

Last year I didn’t have time to write more than a summary post about my visit, but this year I have a bit more time so I can list the beers I tried, mention some favourites, and say something about the winners of the CBOB competition.

To start with, here’s my list. Comments on the beers were made on my Untappd account (see http://untappd.com/user/robajackson).

Fuller’s Summer Ale (my usual starter), 3.9%
Belhaven Festival Ale, 3.8%
Blakemere Cherry Baby, 4.0% (my joint favourite)
Coastal Summer Blonde, 4.4%
Durham Apollo, 4.0%
Just A Minute Golden Dawn, 4.3%
Pitfield Raspberry Wheat, 5.0%
George Wakering Gold, 3.8%
Maldon English Summer, 4.2%
Twisted Oak Spun Gold, 4.5%

Havant The Foggiest (!), 4.5% (One of the best named beers)
Irving Albion, 4.1%
Oakleaf Quercus Folium, 4.0% (Another good name)
Portobello White, 4.8%
All Gates Gin Pit, 4.3%
Canterbury Pardoner’s Ale, 3.8%
Dunscar Bridge True North, 4.1%
Newby Wyke Kingston Topaz, 4.2%
Peerless Jinja Ninja, 4.0%

Golden Triangle Citropolis, 3.9%
Jo C’s Norfolk KiWi, 3.8%
Castle Rock Black Gold, 3.8% (my joint favourite)
White Horse Camarillo, 4.5%
Adnams Topaz Gold, 4.0%
Geeves Captain Gingerbread, 4.3%
Dorking Gold, 3.8%
Hepworth Summer Ale, 3.8%

The list has been divided into days, and suggests a slight falling off in stamina by the third day, but this was more because I had to leave in time to collect my bag from the hotel and catch a train home! Also, with a couple of exceptions, I’ve kept to below 4.5%. I find this to be necessary for the sake of endurance!

My favourites, as mentioned on the list were Blakemere Cherry Baby and Castle Rock Black Gold. The latter looked like a dark mild but tasted like a golden ale; an intriguing combination! The former was wonderfully sharp and fruity; an English take on a Belgian Kriek!

As for the results of the CBOB competition, full results are here, but the overall winners were:

Gold: Timothy Taylor Boltmaker, 4.0%
Silver: Oakham Citra, 4.2%
Bronze: Salopian Darwin’s Origin, 4.3%

I didn’t try to sample any of these at the Festival as once the results are announced they are usually hard to get. However, I’m not a great fan of Timothy Taylor beers anyway! Oakham Citra is a favourite of mine which I’ve had before, and I’ll be looking out for the Salopian one in the months to come.

Looking back on the Festival, it was as good as ever. This year I brought some light snacks with me each day, which was a very good move. The food stalls are varied and good quality, but not exactly cheap, so this reduced overall costs as well.

Finally, for comparison in the future, a word about the cost of the beer. I was drinking halves or thirds, but the price per pint was typically between £3.50 and £4.00 (depending on ABV), which is good for London, where I was being charged between £4.00 – £5.00 per pint in pubs, even for relatively low strength beers. I love London, but perhaps it’s as well that I live in an area where I rarely pay more than £3 for a pint!