In an interview with The Morning Advertiser, Protz confirmed this year’s guide (the 45th and the 24th of his editorship) would be his last.
“Next week (14 September) we are launching the new Good Beer Guide; it’s the 45th edition – I’ve done 24 of them, it’s my last one,” he said. “The early Good Beer Guides had very few breweries in them – there were 105 in the first edition, there are now over 1,700 in the UK. Everyone was brewing mild and bitter, and nothing else. Now you look at the choice available and the change has been unbelievable.”
Protz confirmed he intends to continue writing full time and has no plans as of yet for retirement.
The 78-year-old first joined CAMRA in 1976. He edited the Good Beer Guide from 1978 to 1983, before coming back for a second stint to edit every edition since 2000.
CAMRA should embrace keg beer
In a wide-ranging interview, the beer writer also urged CAMRA to accept and support modern ‘craft keg’ beer, and said the major threat to good beer came from the influence of “big lager brands” buying up craft breweries.
“I think they (CAMRA) have to embrace modern keg beers,” he said. “A lot of them are very good. Too many CAMRA members think there are two types of CO2; good and bad. No, there's only one CO2. I went to Beavertown Brewery in Tottenham Hale last year, and I thought their Bloody 'Ell beer is one of the nicest beers I've drunk for a very long time.”
“Unless CAMRA can attract younger people, it will gradually lose its core,” he continued. “Next year's annual conference will decide whether we are going to embrace other types of beer. I make the point that I edit the Good Beer Guide, it's not called the ‘good real ale guide’.”
“The threat to good beer is not craft keg, it is factory beer; Stella, Budweiser and Coors Light and the companies that own them who are now starting to muscle into the craft market. There's enough quality around but my worry is that the big lager brands will move in on the craft sector and my concern is that the beers change when they are taken over by big breweries. It's all about cutting costs and using cheaper ingredients.”
Beer festival volunteers lauded
Despite his criticism, Protz insisted CAMRA remains “as relevant as it has ever been”.
“People misunderstand CAMRA as an organisation,” he said. “Last weekend, I went to the hop festival in Faversham, [Kent], there was a CAMRA stand there with beers from local breweries. They were there for two days, run totally by volunteers who gave up their weekend to do that.”
“I think people don't understand just how hard CAMRA members work to promote beer. I don't think people understand either the amount of organisation that goes into a beer festival; they've been planning them for six months in advance in many cases. You've got to order the beer, organise the food and the entertainment, get all the certificates from health and safety. It's an incredibly demanding job done by people who get no money from it.
“The critics of CAMRA don't understand that, without CAMRA, people like BrewDog wouldn't exist because there wouldn't be a market for it. Without CAMRA, we'd all be drinking lager and keg beer and nothing else.”