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Great British Beer Festival

CAMRA investigating Marble GBBF ‘blacklisting’ allegations

By James Beeson , 09-Aug-2017
Last updated on 11-Aug-2017 at 11:13 GMT2017-08-11T11:13:59Z

Snub: none of Marble's bottled or cask beers were at this year's GBBF
Snub: none of Marble's bottled or cask beers were at this year's GBBF

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has confirmed it is investigating after Manchester brewery Marble penned an open letter to the organisation alleging its beers had been “blacklisted” from The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF). 

Marble’s director Jan Rogers described herself as “confused” by how CAMRA had sourced the beers for the festival’s Manchester Bottle Bar, and said she felt the organisation “no longer represents us”.  

Rogers called into question CAMRA’s suggestion that all of the beers for the festival were selected by a national committee, stating she had been told by a local CAMRA brewery liaison co-ordinator that they had advised GBBF which bottles should and shouldn’t be available at the festival.

“In The Morning Advertiser article, you ‘emphasised that all beers for the festival are chosen by a group of national volunteers and not by local branches’,” she wrote.

“This seems to us, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, a cover-up that we have upset our local CAMRA branch and been blacklisted due to this. Whether or not this is true, the confusion over your policy is manifest and does not seem to us to represent a fair playing field.”

“It is unfortunate that we feel that we have to point out that CAMRA no longer represents us, with regards to progressive beer production, clarity of purpose, and inclusivity of all groups in society.”

Numerous issued raised

Responding to the allegations in an email to Rogers, CAMRA head of communications Tom Stainer said the letter “raises numerous different issues” that the organisation would be investigating, but warned “this this could take some time” due to the GBBF taking place this week.

Marble has had "a positive and symbiotic relationship” with CAMRA for a very long time, according to Rogers.

“The Marble Arch has been continuously in your Good Beer Guide for the past 20 years. We have been given many awards, including Champion Bottled Beer of Britain in 2014, for Chocolate, by CAMRA,” she said. “We have also been involved in sponsorship of various CAMRA festivals and supported local CAMRA publications through advertising.”

'Strained' relationship with CAMRA

However, the brewery’s relationship has become “strained” this year, according to Marble’s head brewer James Kemp.

“Unfortunately, a Marble staff member was victim of a sexist remark by a CAMRA volunteer at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, in January 2016,” Rogers explained. “Instead of going public about this (as some other people involved in a similar incident did) we thought it best to email the organisers to try and seek resolution.

“We felt great headway had been made with this but are now wondering as to whether this was a sop, and we have meanwhile been blacklisted due to our stance.”

The letter concludes with Rogers stating that the brewery no longer wishes to host two award nights that had previously been suggested by CAMRA.

On Monday (7 August) Kemp said of the exclusion:  “Essentially, what they are saying is that our standard is not good enough to be there. That's the message I take from it.”

Marble's letter to CAMRA in full

To Tom Stainer, CAMRA Head of Communications

Thank you for responding, via The Morning Advertiser, to our concerns about not being invited to present beer at GBBF this year.

Whilst we were surprised that CAMRA operate a policy of rotating cask beer breweries rather than a policy of championing the best at their bars, we accept that it is CAMRA’s policy and we have no right as a producer to question that.

However, we are still confused over your policy on sourcing bottled beers.

In order to clarify the points underneath, I feel I should point out that we have had a positive and symbiotic relationship with CAMRA for a very long time. The Marble Arch has been continuously in your Good Beer Guide for the last 20 years. We have been given many awards, including Champion Bottled Beer of Britain in 2014, for Chocolate, by CAMRA. We have also been involved in sponsorship of various CAMRA festivals and supported local CAMRA publications through advertising.

Also, and unfortunately, a Marble staff member was victim of a sexist remark by a CAMRA volunteer at Manchester Beer and Cider Festival, January 2016. Instead of going public about this (as some other people involved in a similar incident did) we thought it best to email the organisers to try and seek resolution. We felt great headway had been made with this but are now wondering as to whether this was a sop, and we have meanwhile been blacklisted due to our stance.

The confusion comes over your policy on bottled beer sourcing:

1)      The first we heard that GBBF had a speciality Manchester Bottle Shop at GBBF was when @MancBeerFest advertised the fridges being filled, on Twitter.

2)      When we queried if they had any Marble, they tweeted ‘bottle conditioned only’ – a more abrupt response than we were expecting.

3)      What we took from this was that only bottle conditioned beer was to be at the festival, as this has always been your policy. We felt it correct to go back and point out that we produce bottle conditioned beer.

4)      In fact, we had let the local CAMRA know in Dec 2016 that Lagonda bottles could not go forward into CAMRA competition as they were being commercially bottled and hence not bottle conditioned.

5)      We did at the time state ‘This doesn’t mean we’ve stopped bottle conditioning all together. When we feel it truly benefits the individual recipe we will still hand bottle and bottle condition. Our entire Gothic range... has undergone this treatment. From our experience, we have discovered it is our bigger beers that benefit from the method.’

6)      The CAMRA response was friendly, not abrupt, ‘Thank you very much for your email and your honesty.’ There was nothing in the email to indicate that as we had stopped bottle conditioning some beers, CAMRA policy dictated we were no longer eligible to present any of our bottle conditioned products at festivals in future.

7)      There has been no further public response from @MancBeerFest

8)      Instead we have been contacted directly by the local CAMRA Brewery Liaison Coordinator who has stated ‘In regards to the bottles we pulled off the list of breweries who produce regular bottle conditioned brands... This list was purely advisory tho.’ (sic)

9)      Ie, local CAMRA has, in some format, been involved in advising on which bottled beers should be available at GBBF. No brewery that produced force carbonated beer as well as bottle conditioned beer was put through on their advisory list.

10)   However, In The Morning Advertiser article you ‘emphasised that all beers for the festival are chosen by a group of national volunteers and not by local branches.’

 

This seems to us at best disingenuous and at worst a cover up that we have upset our local CAMRA branch and been blacklisted due to this. Whether or not this is true, the confusion over your policy is manifest and does not seem to us to represent a fair playing field.

It is unfortunate that we feel that we have to point out that CAMRA no longer represents us, with regards to progressive beer production, clarity of purpose, and inclusivity of all groups in society.

It is with regret that I’m advising you that we do not wish to host the awards nights that CAMRA has suggested for Pint (Silver) from Chorlton Beer Festival or 20 years in the Good Beer Guide for the Marble Arch.

Yours

Jan Rogers (Director Marble Beers Ltd)

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