CAMRA national executive hopeful: we exist to promote real ale

By James Beeson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Way ahead: Corbett-Collins says CAMRA's revitalisation project has the potential to take the organisation forward
Way ahead: Corbett-Collins says CAMRA's revitalisation project has the potential to take the organisation forward
The Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) revitalisation project is in danger of “muddying the water,” according to its national young members coordinator Ashley Corbett-Collins.

In an interview with The Morning Advertiser​, Corbett-Collins, who is also standing for election to CAMRA’s national executive, said that although the project had the potential to take the organisation in the right direction, he “probably wouldn’t agree with” proposals to widen its remit to promote “all good quality beer”.

"I think it [the revitalisation project] is really fantastic in that it has engaged membership and lit the fire under everyone,” he said. “One of the things CAMRA has suffered from in recent years is an indifference from the public, licensees and volunteers themselves, and things have kind of plodded along.

“I think it does have the potential to take us in the right direction. Some of the proposals are very good, and some of the ideas I probably wouldn't agree with."

When pressed on which proposals he was not in favour of, Corbett-Collins said: “Things like when we talk about promoting all good quality beer; the way in which that is being interpreted at the moment sounds like muddying the water rather than taking us in the right direction."

“A lot of people are very caught up on the word cask,” Corbett-Collins continued. “I support real ale, whether it comes in a can, in key kegs, bottles or whatever. We should focus on real ale, not cask ale. We shouldn't stick our noses up and say that other beers that aren't real ale are bad beers, but what we have got to do is promote what we think is the pinnacle of craft beer, and that is real ale.”

Real-ale venues first

Other proposals contained within CAMRA’s revitalisation project include recognising and supporting a wider range of venues that sell good beer. Corbett-Collins initially suggested he would not be in favour of supporting venues that did not serve real ale, before appearing to backtrack.

"We need to promote real ale, that is what we exist to do,” he said. “If someone choses to drink real ale in a pub or a taproom or even in a cafe, we need to support those venues; On-licensed outlets that serve real ale are the venues that need our support.

When asked if this meant he did not agree that CAMRA should support non-real-ale venues that have a strong reputation for beer, Corbett-Collins said: "Some people see it as too black and white, and assume that because we don't openly support a venue or a type of beer then we are against it.

“Venues like that, which do predominantly serve non-real ale, do deserve support and should be included. We should support all venues, as they have the possibility of introducing people to good beer, real ale or not, and they are the kinds of people who we should be trying to get involved with the campaign.”

On the subject of diversity, a hot topic within the beer industry in recent months, Corbett-Collins acknowledged that CAMRA needed to do more to make people from all walks of life feel welcome within the organisation.

“Sometimes, and I have been guilty of this myself as a white male, you don't realise things that affect other people and can make them feel unwelcome,” he said. “You talk to other people it does affect, and you realise that as an organisation we haven't been doing enough. On our most recent membership leaflet, there were no people of colour; simple acts like that make people feel like CAMRA isn't for them, and by changing that to include them can make people feel like the organisation is welcoming to them.

“The make up of our meetings is very different to what you see in a bar on a Friday night. All types of ages, races, faiths and ethnicity enjoying beer in the pub, and then you go to CAMRA meetings and you don't have those people there, and that is a huge problem.

“We need to make those people feel welcome, and do more to cut down on issues of discrimination or sexism, both within the organisation and the wider trade, and make sure that going forward people who love beer, love pubs and love bars think that CAMRA is the organisation for them."

Discrimination and devalued cask

To combat discrimination, CAMRA’s national young members coordinator said he wanted to see more done to empower victims, but warned against banning members without a full disciplinary process taking place.

"I support the disciplinary process,” he said. “I think what we can do more of is make people who feel they are victims of this, feel more empowered to start that disciplinary process. We can't ban people the moment there is an allegation, but what we need to do is make sure that the process is followed and correct, and those instances can be wiped out from the organisation."

Tiny Rebel co-founder Bradley Cummings, who is also standing for election​ to CAMRA’s national executive, has suggested banning JD Wetherspoon vouchers, arguing that they are responsible for devaluing cask beer.

Corbett-Collins agreed that cask beer has a value perception issue, but insisted it was a product that could exist across a wide price range in a similar way to wine.

“What we need to introduce is the idea that cask comes at different prices,” he said. “There are brewers who can produce beer for £2.80 and everyone involved gets a fair price, but there is a market for £5 pints as well.

“It is like wine; you can buy a £4 bottle and it will do the job on a Friday night, or you may try a £20 bottle on a special occasion, and people do not bat their eyelids at that. Cask beer should be the same and we need to embrace that."

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