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Two weeks ago, I was in the heart of Adnams country enjoying a few pints and surveying a few pubs with my local CAMRA branch. In Southwold and the adjacent village of Walberswick (or for that matter any tourist spot on the Suffolk Coast) you’ll be incredibly lucky to find anything other than Adnams. This in itself is no bad thing; Adnams beer in good condition is always decent. I personally hold them in the same esteem as I hold Fullers and Elgoods. Family brewers who despite being big players in the world of Real Ale; still generally make good beer.
One member of my CAMRA group is an old stalwart of the Campaign. A man who has attended every Norwich Beer Festival and has been a CAMRA member almost since its inception. His opinions on beer and pubs are hugely respected by many including myself. He is open minded; he recognises CAMRA’s flaws and he is always keen to here new ideas. Whilst we were enjoying a pint in Walberswick he made a very pertinent point which got me thinking: it was regarding the Champion Beer of Britain.
He was of the opinion that the Champion Beer of Britain ought to be brewed by one of the ‘family brewers’. That way it could be more widely distributed and accessed by the wider public. It would be available in pubs up and down the country that way. He was sceptical of smaller brewers being awarded the title of Champion Beer as he questioned their ability to distribute the beer throughout the UK. He also questioned whether they could sustain brewing the beer to the same quality control over a period of time.
Now, overall I don’t agree with this. If a smaller brewery makes a high quality product then they should be rightly commended. However, I feel he had a point with regards to the Champion Beer’s distribution. The 2015 winner was Tiny Rebel’s Cwtch. One of our CAMRA group said that they had seen it at a pub in Norwich once in the previous year. But that’s it! I am sure that you could obtain it quite easily in Wales but should such a commended beer be made more widely available?
Brewers undoubtedly have a lot on their plate in terms of getting their beer to different places. There is of course quality control to think about. But it does leave the question; should a winner of such an award be more accessible? And if so how can this be achieved? Should CAMRA play a role in supporting the brewery by perhaps ensuring every CAMRA festival has the beer available? Could someone like Wetherspoons play a part?
I would love to know your thoughts.