My wife and I attended our first CAMRA event last night. Let me put this in context; I like beer, my wife likes beer. I waste my time with this website that reviews the worst pubs, telling the punters which to avoid and why.
I’ve travelled, lived and studied in North America, the Far East and Europe so my tastes run from Bohemian Pilsners, via American craft brewers to developing a particular fondness for East European porters and stouts. We live in the centre of a large Northern city. We have a friend who has a real ale pub right in the middle of town. He’s in the running for our CAMRA local pub of the year, and in the spirit of gerrymandering we thought we’d join up and vote for him.
Having watched a Hornby train destroy much of Corrie we decided to risk a CAMRA wander. It’s destroyed my life. I now realise that I have a script inside me, as desperate to get out as the Alien in John Hurt’s stomach. It’s going to be called The Tickers and it’s going to be as big as The Office. I can’t rest until it’s been written.
Picture the scene, a real ale bar filled with team CAMRA. Checked shirts, bad hair, drooling over the Jaipur. Drinks are ordered, not with any apparent desire to enjoy the experience. A series of halves are parked on the bar. Aromas are savoured, clarity is checked. A finger is dipped into a freshly drawn half, then rubbed on the inside of a cheek [the for mouth for tasting, not the arse for scratching, though the latter would not have surprised me]. A pub full of people apparently passionate about beer, yet displaying all of the warmth of butterfly collectors discussing humane killing.
Now we’re not teenagers, in fact, God help us I’m over 40, yet I was a mere child in this gathering. Not only a child by calender, but a child in attitude, dress, demeanour, mannerisms. Mrs Pubwatcher will tell you that I dress like a Grandfather. Team CAMRA dressed like his gardner. I’ve always regarded CAMRA as something of a middle-class pass time, something confirmed by the accents asking for a sample of every hand pull beer on the bar before settling on the first one. However, if some poor soul had walked into the middle of this gathering and looked rather than listened they’d have assumed it was a gathering of tramps, slowly eking out their halfs to make them last all night.
Beer is about enjoyment, relaxation, noise, laughter. It’s about taste, pleasure, and friends. Where did it all go wrong ? They must have been normal once. They must have laughed once, they can’t always have dressed like the wurzels.
Moving into Attenborough mode we stepped back and watched the complete lack of enjoyment associated with every sup. Wilde said that the cynic knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, well this gathering seemed to understand the specific gravity of everything, but tasted nothing - other than to decide whether the hops were Kentish or Saaz.
WHO CARES ! Beer, and drinking ought to be about pleasure, taste. A social and a sensual experience, yet team CAMRA seemed to engage in the drinking equivalent of spending time under the duvet with Claudia Schiffer using a ruler and compasses to compare the radius of her left and right nipples.
Yet we’ll be back. It was one of the oddest nights of my life, but next time I ll be prepared. I can’t resist the prospect of creating a living Bateman cartoon in the style of the man who...... This one will be the man who ordered a pint of John Smiths during a CAMRA wander. Of course the best part will be the reply from our bar’s patron ‘what the fuck for’ ?