The (Actually) Great British Beer Festival

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been somewhat of a pain in CAMRA’s arse over the years. You can count on me to loudly call out bullshit when I see it, in fact it’s become somewhat of a running joke: “Molyneux, what have you done now?!” But you can also count on me to give credit where it’s due, and this year’s Great British Beer Festival is absolutely deserving of the praise it has been receiving over the past few days.

From the start, there was a general feeling that this year was going to be different. The news that beers in keykeg would be present seems to have piqued people’s interest, for one thing. It signalled that CAMRA was taking a step into the modern world, and that mood carried throughout the rest of the festival. Take this year’s charity of choice, for example. I never thought I would see Great British Beer Festival attendees being able to donate to Stonewall and wearing stickers that state “Some people are trans. Get over it!”

From the Crafty Beer Girls meet up at the Boadicea Bar to Catherine Tonry’s statement in her opening speech that “for 2019, diversity has defined our festival”, the trade day experience for me was a breath of fresh air. But of course, the headline issue of the year was CAMRA’s decision to not feature sexist or discriminatory beer names and pump clips. In the context of the broader ‘craft beer’ industry, it’s not a particularly earth shaking or unusual decision – I mean, duh, why promote prejudiced attitudes and alienate masses of your potential customers?! – but for CAMRA, it is kind of a big deal. The response to this decision has been largely positive, but to those who are complaining about cartoon tits not being on display at a beer festival, perhaps view them elsewhere. I suggest that you start with your internet browser, in the privacy of your own home. To those who constantly use their voice and their boundless energy to make the case for equality in the industry that we love, thank you. You are seen, and you are appreciated.

CAMRA has made a strong statement of its intention to actively support equality, diversity, and, well, human decency. For a long time I didn’t want to be associated with the organisation as I felt it did not represent my views. My membership lapsed years ago. But you know what? This has made me hopeful. I’m putting my money where my mouth is, and re-joining. I hope to see some of you at the socials in Manchester.

Well, this being a piece on the festival, I suppose I should mention the actual beer! Siren’s Castilian Lemon Cheesecake, Runaway’s Kaffir Lime and Thai Chilli Wit, and Elusive’s Shadow of the Beast were my beers of the festival. Yes, they were from the keykeg bar. I also had a nicely conditioned half of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, because you know me, I love that beer.

I should also extend a congratulatory handshake to the folks at Surrey Hills for their Champion Beer of Britain winner, Shere Drop. Here at the Trafalgar in South Wimbledon, it’s one of our permanent lines. We think it’s a damn fine bitter, and the lovely people at Surrey Hills should be proud. I still prefer their Collusion collab with Cobbett’s Real Ales, though ;) Many thanks to the volunteers on the cider bars who helped me to find the driest ciders in the building, and, in fact, to all of the volunteers who worked so hard to put on a fantastic festival.

Well done all. I’ll see you next year.

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