This year Liverpool CAMRA held a beer festival and as ever it was brilliant. Loads of beer, the wonderful crypt location – (almost) beneath the Metropolitan Cathedral, fab music and lots of very happy customers. It was as good as the year before, and the year before that. And no doubt it will be as good next year.
This year Liverpool Organic Brewery held beer festivals in Waterloo (twice), in St George’s Hall and in the Black-E. All were fab and all three locations were great for beer festivals – St George’s Hall for Chris’s sake!
It has been strange how some people – both in CAMRA and pub landlords – react to the LOB beer festivals. I’ve heard views that as it is a money making enterprise the volunteers shouldn’t volunteer – that they should be paid instead. Many of the CAMRA committee stalwarts don’t attend – although oddly they seem able to bite the bullet if they get an invite to the trade session or get given a freebee.
Part of the view is that they are seen as a challenge to the CAMRA festival. There is no reason the festivals can’t sit together and indeed compliment each other. Of course things could change if the timing of the festivals were to clash or be too close together.
But the point of CAMRA is to campaign for real ale: there is an easy clue in the name. The origins of the organisation go back to a time when there was a real fear for the very survival of our favourite drink. Now – without being complacent – we are living in a great time for real ale and in Liverpool we are lucky to have great pubs, an expanding range of breweries and our pubs are selling an ever changing range of quality ales from all over the country. Oh! and there is that expanding range of festivals.
So CAMRA – we are here to campaign for real ale. Exactly how can it be seen as negative that we have more festivals than ever? In my opinion it is showing how successful CAMRA have been – okay there may have been some assistance from enthusiastic brewers, improved quality assurance, and the pubs who love selling us the stuff – the very existence of these festivals should be seen as a trophy for CAMRA – an emblem of success.
As for volunteers being paid. Well, ask anyone who worked at the festival. We were paid in the same way CAMRA pay the volunteers (note that word) in being able to sample the ales they were selling. All I met who had worked them loved it (despite the sad lack of cheese in the Black-E Festival!). LOB – or whoever else organises a beer festival – ultimately wants to make money – be it for commercial reasons or, in the case of Liverpool CAMRA, to pay for the magazine and the odd campaign expenses (plus whatever cash central CAMRA demand).
The festivals are great and it’s nice for people to have an increased chance to go to them – how many people couldn’t get a ticket for the crypt but at least had the opportunity to go to St George’s Hall or Waterloo? It’s not like CAMRA can insist that they have the sole right to run a beer festival in any given town – though I suspect a few people would like it to be so. The volunteers love them and as long as the customers love them too they will be here to stay.
They are an opportunity to go and sample the very stuff you wanted to save and profess to love.
So people wake up, smell the coffee then get down there and enjoy them – and don’t worry about the poor put upon volunteers.