What Is the Point of Wirral CAMRA?
~~A recent article (titled THE WIRRAL BEER DESERT – A point of View from Wirral CAMRA Members) by three members of Wirral branch of CAMRA was published in the spring 2014 edition of MerseyAle. The full article can be read online at the link below.
I will try and address the key points of the article.
1. Wirral CAMRA: Many Wirral pubs are tied to a pubco, and therefore restricted in the range of beers they can purchase, and very often the range and quality they offer are not to the consumers taste. The number of freehouses, who are able to source their beers from whichever brewery they choose, are a rarity.
Peerless Response: The issue of pubs being tied is relevant to all regions nationally not just Wirral. However, most pubcos over the last couple of years have upped their game and now allow purchase of a range of beers. In M&B pubs in Wirral I have recently seen ales from Liverpool Organic as well as microbrews from around the country. In JDWetherspoon beers are supplied from Peerless, Northern Brewing, Frodsham, George Wright etc, as well as a massive range of beers from outside the area. It is also the case that Punch, Enterprise, Greene King, Admiral, Spirit can all buy beers via the SIBA DDS scheme which most brewers are members of. I can certainly confirm that the volume of Peerless ales supplied to Wirral pubs has increased significantly over the last 2 years. To say that the national brands are not to consumers tastes is incorrect. What you mean is that you don’t like them! These brands are the mainstay of the pub trade and whilst most CAMRA members would certainly chooses a well brewed real ale from a microbrewer, many drinkers delight in going to a local pub and knowing they can have a pint of Black Sheep, Directors, or Bombardier.
Other great Wirral pubs such as the Irby Mill, The Telegraph, The Magazine, Gallaghers, The White Lion, all have ever changing guest ales.
I agree that freehouses are a rarity but this is the same in all regions. Locally the Fox & Hounds and the Wheatsheaf at Raby are fine examples of freehouses which support locals with a fine choice of ales.
2. Wirral CAMRA : Quality of beer is frequently a problem due to restricted sales; cask beer, once tapped normally will have a shelf life of no more than 3-4 days. Lack of sales creates a vicious circle in that the poor quality causes consumers not to wish to drink it.
Peerless Response: This is true but again not just specific to Wirral. I have in recent weeks had dodgy pints in Liverpool, Chester, Sheffield and Wirral. Landlords nationwide are struggling with the effects of high rents and also to the fact that beer duty has increased by 40% over the last 4 years. As they struggle to maintain a living it is no surprise that some will try and wring another couple of days out of a cask rather than pour it down the drain. The answer is to support your local pub. If you get a bad pint ask for it to be changed. Try having a quiet word with the landlord and suggest the beer is ready to be changed. Doing these simple things should be part of being a CAMRA member.
3. Wirral CAMRA : Many Pubs seem to purchase their beer solely on a cheaper price, without consideration to the desires of their customers. Very often this produces a poor range of beers that does not suit their customers palates or less popular high strength beers.
Peerless Response: I can tell you that price is a consideration for all pubs. Beers that are popular nationally such as Thornbridge Jaipur can come with a hefty price tag and mean that landlords have to charge a premium. Instead of whingeing, talk to the publican and ask to see his forthcoming choices for guest ales. Many pubs would be only too happy to receive feedback. Beers that don’t suit palates? Again this is a personal issue for the authors. Your reference to high strength beers makes no sense if landlords are buying solely on price, as they are always more expensive to buy.
4. Wirral CAMRA: Wirral pubs, with some exception, fail to offer their beers at reasonable/competitive prices causing a further reduction in beer sales.
Peerless Response: This is a massive generalisation. Are you really saying that Wirral is more expensive pub for pub than those in Liverpool or Chester? Beer prices vary enormously due to the type of pub and the range available. I just do not accept that Chester has cheaper beer than Wirral, even JDWetherspoon charges more in Chester than it does in Birkenhead.
5. Wirral CAMRA: Certain pubs are over-ambitious in the number of hand-pumps they have on their bars. If the turnover of their cask-sales is low, too many hand-pumps will simply mean that certain (not all) of the beers fail to be served to a satisfactory standard, and causing reduced sales. Better to restrict the number of hand-pumps to the level of sales, thus ensuring increased turnover and improved quality.
Peerless Response: Again, this is a universal problem not a strictly a Wirral issue. Running a pub is a tricky business and getting it right is difficult
Wirral CAMRA’s final statement suggests that if you live in Wirral and want to enjoy good cask beer, at a good price, you have to move to Liverpool or Chester. One of the authors of the article is Dave Goodwin who has long experience in CAMRA having served at National Executive level and is currently Chairman of the Wirral branch. Dave has also worked for Brimstage and Wapping breweries and should understand the industry well enough not make such comments.
Dave – you should hang your head in shame and resign. Your position is untenable.
The CAM in CAMRA is for Campaign. Wirral CAMRA has done precious little in recent years. Liverpool branch by contrast works tirelessly on a variety of industry campaigns.
I believe the purpose of a local branch is to support local pubs and breweries, hold an annual beer festival and occasionally produce a magazine with news and updates. Wirral Camra has not managed any of these activities in recent years. I say to Wirral CAMRA members, now is the time to vote out the current committee. Wirral CAMRA is pointless.
Peerless Brewing, Wirral
Ex CAMRA Member