Is CAMRA Run By Puristans Or Precisionists?

monkey4That is surely an unkind thing to say but recently I read a fascinating book about the first leader of the good if extreme folk who settled Boston, Massachusetts in the early 1600s. In that book, I came upon the distinction between “puritanism” and “precisionism” which boiled down to the distinction between the passionate approach or a technical approach to matters of correctness in faith… and the precisionist’s need to be correcter than the next guy. I was reminded of the distinction when I read Martyn’s strongly worded post this morning about some unfortunate things said by Colin Valentine, the chairman of the UK’s Campaign for Real Ale:

Excuse my intemperate language, but I’ve just been reading some total lying crap by the chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale about beer bloggers. Apparently we’re the “bloggerati” (eh?), and we’re “only interested in new things”, and for beer bloggers, Camra’s “40 years of achievement means nothing, as the best beer they have ever had is the next.”

Sitting at a distance across an ocean and up a rather large river, I have wondered about the point of CAMRA’s pronouncements from time to time. At one level, it’s really just like an automobile club offering discounts to members and lobbies for sensible things like pouring full measures. But the organization is also argumentative and seems to lack its senses of humour and perspective. For example, CAMRA is as much anti-keg as pro-cask. And now it appears to be anti-beer-blogger.

To be honest, I couldn’t care less what Colin Valentine thinks, says or has for breakfast as he represents a financial interest in the brewing trade that is as established and self-serving as any brewery or pub chain or industry publication. He also no doubt has an abiding faith in the correctness of doing so. But, regardless of correctness, Valentine has a huge stake in making sure CAMRA continues to be considered the authoritative voice on things beery within the marketplace of ideas. And if Dredgie is correct – and I am not quite sure he is – beer bloggers are the new vanguard of modern beer media. Which means a threat to CAMRA.

Which brings me back to those first Bostonians. Who in the beery discussion are the puritans and who are the precisionists? And who are neither?

What A Perfect Day For A Meta-Meta-Discussion!

An interesting comparison today between two communities of beer bloggy types. With a hearty hat tip to Stan, I see, Mark Dredge in England considers the hobby of amateur writing about professional beers and brewing to be incredibly important. Sure, he is yet to come down after a successful conference he just helped organize but he seems honestly sincere so that is good. Yet… “Things are changing,” he says. Changing? What have I been doing for eight years, I wonder in reply.

By contrast, across the North Sea, Knut reports, the eve of the Copenhagen Beer Festival is upon us… as is a massive slagging fest amongst beer hobbyists about ripping people off in the name of a supposedly greater cause. My Danish is limited to teak side tables so I had to use Google translator to learn this:

But now comes the full story. For Tuesday there was a communication from the Danish Beer Enthusiasts land board, where you actually like 100% with I had already made it clear that the consequence would be that publication. Because treatment of now is completely ludicrous compared to what is Danish Beer Enthusiasts primary purpose – to promote the beer case.

I am not sure of what all that means but Knut advises Peter Myrup Olesen accuses the organisation the Danish Beer Enthusiasts of not following up on promises of sponsorship and of stealing content from his site to use both online and in their printed magazine. Having had a taste of infringement myself (not to mention the difference in views between myself and a sponsor as to what $100 earns them) I have every sympathy.

The good and the bad laid bare before us. Like most things, especially things involving money, good beer and good beer writing attracts its fair share of each.

Important Conference Sources Fact Update: apparently at the UK conference “…Pete Brown said posts should be no more than 300…” words. I like Pete plenty but, seriously, that’s a load of crap. Pete writes far longer posts quite often. My rule of thumb? Don’t forget the letter “e” in any post.

… and a note from the Dutch contingent: a certain level of incredulity from the Netherlands if Google translates for tone. I like this bit:

And your mouth is exactly what not to do as a blogger. You find something, you have an opinion, you let us hear. Tell everyone what you think about everything around you. Is anything good? Shout it from the rooftops! Is something not good? Yell as loud. If you are afraid to lose all your free beer then you do something else. Only if you’re critical, your opinion is relevant.

Interesting point. Am I afraid of losing all my free beer? Fortunately for my ethics, few brewers get samples to Easlakia. I wonder what it would be like and I would be like if I lived the easy life of an urban center beer blogger wallowing in cheques and love letters?

In My Day Unschooling Was Called Being Rich

I was fortunate in my education, having the opportunity to go to university with people whose last names were shared with grocery store products, beer brands or our political betters. As often as not, they got tagged poor little rich kids and with good reason. Well, apparently, this opportunity to be adrift in the world is now available to all:

The family practices unschooling, which encourages kids to explore the world and learn to find their places in it outside the confines of school. Proponents say it raises self-aware, inquisitive and worldly young adults who care about learning and have pursued passions they wouldn’t have otherwise found on the scheduled treadmill that is school. A new “unschooling school” is slated to open in Toronto this fall, a private learning centre where five-year-old students will mix with 18-year-old students and learn whatever they want to learn.

Having hated and thrived and having kids who have been battered and boosted at school, the running away approach has no appeal for me. A pal once old me that no one is worthless, they can always serve as a bad example and schooling has confirmed the value of that. Learning to be able to tell a good idea from a bad one, a thoughtful adult from a dull one and a project worth attention from one deserving disdain are all lessons learned through school. Filtering the meanings of these things imposed upon the kids is what happens for us at home. Letting a kids learn whatever they want to learn is like letting them eat whatever they want to eat.

Royal Military College’s Arch Ceremony 2011

One of the things I love most about my town is the ability to have met and get to know some folk at Canada’s Royal Military College. It sits across the harbour from my window at work and the fourth year cadets organize the annual charity vintage base ball game. Today was the final day of their graduation process and I got over to the college to witness the final ceremony, the march through the arch.

We came early as family members gathered. Brass showed up and soon the bagpipes were heard leading this year’s class down towards the memorial that names each of their colleagues since the 1870s who have given their life. Above is a hat. It was thrown to my feet by a newly minted 2nd lieutenant who got a little over enthused. Usually your hat goes on your sword when you pass under the arch. I got it back to him.

A nicer bunch of young men and women you will never meet. Canada’s pride.


Your Friday Bullets For Queen Victorian’s Birthday!

May Too Far. May Two Four. May Two For. I have to admit I was sorely tempted by a bottle of Pimms at the power house after work yesterday but, unlike last year, the weather is not yet co-operating so far – as far as I can tell at least. Pimms needs a certain type of stinking hot. What else can make a burly man make a drink with strawberry chunks and cucumber spears? Grey with showers and sunny breaks in the low 70s? That’s not really enough. Even with the prospect of mowing, gardening and maybe a little concrete work, Pimms is for summer not spring.

  1. • I decided to make manual bullets as “ul” is no longer rendering for some reason. Like it?
  2. • One is tempted to say this is obvious but one would have to get off the sofa to make the point.
  3. • This is a really interesting case. On one hand, life is a gift from God. On the other, we have no control over when your number comes up either.
  4. • Very interested in when this book comes out.
  5. • We went to a baseball game in about 1973 with my Boston cousins. I was ten. Got there in the light and left in the dark. It was at Fenway. It was summer. Tiant pitched. Sox won by one. Sat just to the right of this picture at the top of the bleachers. This tool may let me narrow down the day just on the facts I remember.
  6. • Last week’s Doctor Who was one of the best. Here is a Q+A with the author of the scrpit.
  7. • Fabulous. Sinking the Libyan fleet is a fabulous idea. I believe my right fielder may have had a hand in it. Living in a military town has twists. My pitcher apparently called in the Snow Birds last night. Arch day today at RMC. Hope to get pictures.

Four minutes to do. Luxury. A leisurely pace this morning. Tonight? Hedges shall be trimmed. Oh yes they will. Fear me, hedge. Fear me.


Your New Vocal Suburban Overlord Update

So, now that there’s a majority there appears no need to couch any words. OK, not like Damian Goddard or anything but there seems no need to walk lightly:

  • – no tax breaks for cross border shoppers. Mr. Flaherty seems to be saying that some taxes are good taxes. Please tell Steve. Unlike hostage policy, no harmonization.
  • – Platform says “a re-elected Stephen Harper government will eliminate the deficit by 2014-15.” Now, my actual pal Chiz says: “We will do the strategic and operating review and we will book [those savings] once the review is done. That will get us to balance a year earlier, but is not part of the upcoming budget.” Given that income splitting waits in this, any delay is not inspiring.

Nothing like a gotcha and it’s early days yet but there is a sort of openness possible now, no need to spin with four years of clear sailing before them and us. Where will it take us? A chance to “show that our ideas are actually quite common among the Canadian electorate”? Maybe. But the idea that we don’t have to parse every sentence like a question on a high school English test on a topic studied on that sick day you had will come as a relief.


What To Write About Now That There’s A Majority?

I have been writing this thing for over eight years now and, except for the beer stuff, it’s been largely driven by the facts and opinions surrounding the weakness of the Federal government. Way back then Paul Martin killed off the Liberal Party by slow drip poison starting almost a decade ago by dividing the party against Chretien and Harper declared the corpse cold with last week’s election. So, what to write about now? Doctor Who for starters. Just look at this statement today from the show’s top executive, Steven Moffat:

It’s heart-breaking in a way, because you try and tell a story, and stories depend on surprise, stories depend on shocking people, stories are the moments you didn’t see coming – those are what live in you and burn in you forever. If you are denied those, it’s vandalism. To have some twit who came to a press launch write up a story in the worst, most ham-fisted English you can imagine and put it on the Internet … I just hope that guy never watches my show again, because that’s a horrific thing to do. It is exactly like that boring man in the pub, who waits until you’re nearly finished your joke and jumps in with the punchline, and gets it slightly wrong. You hate that guy, you just hate those guys too – can you imagine how much I hate them? … It’s only fans who do this – or they call themselves fans – I wish they could go and be fans of something else!

What a bizarre thing to say. “My show”? “Vandals”? “Go and be fans of something else”? There is, of course, an underlying problem causing the need to discuss the show this year as it become more and more under Moffat’s control. It makes no sense. I made this point over at James Bow’s blog. James has sensibly been writing about centrist politics and pop culture for longer than I have – and done a far better job. I know. I have let the team down, falling into that trap of believing that Twitter and Facebook have made blogging irrelevant. Sure no one reads this stuff anymore but is that any reason to pack it in?

Anyway, less about me and more about Moffat. People are starting to compare the show with that disaster of the post-9/11 culture, Lost. Moffat seems to think convoluted is a fix all replacement for clever. Sadly, this is mostly the case with not only the long arc of the story he controls but the scripts he personally assigns to himself and the new characters he introduces. Most embarrassing is this thing “The Silence” which seems to feed Moffat’s need to one up the Daleks as the main baddies all time. But they make no sense. Other characters must have run into them over the past 48 years. Other baddies must be subservient to them. Oh, but all forget that they have seen them one they turn away… that’s a great fix. Hopefully, there is a Dallas solution at the end of this and the foreshadowed “it was all a dream” scenario plays out.

Confusion plus a general shift in all underlying premises developed over a 48 year run of a TV show. Yawn. Self-indulgence. A return to the slow death of the John Nathan-Turner years as far as I can tell. That was the last time someone decided to remake the show and move it from a fun relatively easily resolved romp.


Where There Is Beer There Is Peace Revisited

2832When I was growing up, Ethiopia was one of those nations with the hallmark of being incessantly near collapse. Civil war unending. The famine. Now there is beer:

The Beemnet bar is one of those places in Addis Ababa which attracts Ethiopians of all ages. Increasingly locals are going here for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks – a sign of the country’s increasing purchasing power. On Friday and Saturday nights, the terrace and bar is packed with people drinking beer and trying out their new dance moves before heading to a club after midnight. Beer is becoming increasingly popular among the growing Ethiopian middle class. In fact beer consumption in Ethiopia – Africa’s second-most populous country, is expected to grow by about 15 percent every year for the next five years. According to a report carried out last year by Access Capital, an Addis Ababa-based research group, this growth in consumption is very much in line with Ethiopian population levels and economic growth rates.

As in the Mid-east, in Sri Lanka and in the southern Sudan, this rise in beer production and consumption in Ethiopia is a hallmark of peace. Even as – or is it because – they seem to prefer the “jumbo” size glass.

A little oddly, the US Embassy did a study of the Ethiopian beer market in 1998 at the time the breweries were denationalized. It notes that it was the Czechs and Slovak Velvet Revolutionaries back in 1993 who created the Bedele brewery Heineken recently bought, outbidding Carlsberg. You can allegedly find the beer in Canada, a nation not known for its fondness of monkey gibbon… or lemur… well, it’s very likely a Coquerel Sifaka branded beer. [Update: unless the connection is about Zaboomafoo!]

All That Base Ball Was Really About That Pitcher


I indulged in my other odd hobby yesterday. 1860s – 70s base ball. Two words. No gloves. No sliding. The ball springs off the bat with about as much zip as an Edam cheese would. Underhand pitching and bats that are like swinging a 2 x 4 fresh from the lumber yard. I put the thing together with friends. We took on graduating cadets from our Royal Military College as well as a mixed team of upstate New Yorkers from Canton and Rochester NY. The final was a 3-2 victory for the Americans. The team that became the Atlanta Braves beat Kingston on the same field 138 years ago… by a slightly larger margin.

And after it all, we retired to the brew pub. There is only one in the City so that’s what we call it. Over twenty folk wanting to relax over a few beer and get to know each other. Lively talk about the sad state of regional teams like the Bills and the Leafs, discussions about the different gun law ending with the trump card of a cadet explaining the fire power he’s been trained to use. And the beer. I hadn’t realized that oatmeal stout was not available in pitchers so I had a pint and bought a pitcher to share of the pale ale, both brewed by Montreal’s McAuslan Brewing. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a pitcher. Sounds sad, doesn’t it but life with the many rug rats does have its realities. What did I like about having one? The conviviality. The vessel was meant for sharing. Slopping pours topped up this glass and that. As talk ebbed and flowed from the Bills to bazookas.

Easlakian Vintage Base Ball Madness Strikes!

A lovely day was had by all. Kingston St. Lawrence Vintage Base Ball Club loses 3-2 to a NY Selects team from Canton and Rochester NY in the final of the RMC tournament. RMC 1 lost to the Selects 7-6 in the first round while the KSL took RMC 2 by 17-3. I got a single.