CAMRA Eye

18 01 2011

I attended my first CAMRA branch meeting yesterday despite having been a member of several years.  I went along with my sister, Cider Tart Lambda, who is the branch Cider & Perry officer and Cider Tart Gamma who is my better half.  I’d never been to a meeting before for a number of reasons; I’ve never felt the urge to become actively involved beyond handing over my hard earned cash or to become embroiled in the perceived, and actual, petty politics that always rears its head in any organisation.

But anyway I went along to have a nosey and also because the meeting was being held in Gateshead’s recently refurbished Central Bar which I had enjoyed on previous visits.   I was expecting maybe 20-30 diehards to be in attendance but there were easily double that number and we had to blag some stools from an adjoining room in order for the Tarts to sit down.  I recognised perhaps 80% of those present although a few I hadn’t previously realised were branch members.  Plenty of younger (30’s and lower) folk were present which, I guess, also surprised me although I can’t rightly say why.

Was there any evidence of the previously mentioned politics? Sure, but it rather reminded of a school yard version of PMQ’s.  A bit of name calling, giggly pointing and pantomime heckles which were all a bit sad and it certainly wouldn’t change my mind about getting involved.  However, in spite of all that the meeting was informative and a valuable source of news concerning up and coming events.  The pubs of the year were also announced for the local regions with no changes from last year noted which means the Bacchus remains Tyneside’s POTY (with an increased majority – congratulations Andy).  Not a bad choice but in my opinion there are better out there (sorry Andy).

The format of the meeting was a little strange in that there was no open discussion allowed which the chairman later explained to me is done to ensure that meetings don’t just turn into a protracted knockabout between 50 people.  I’m not sure how this then enables members to actively engage in policy formation but perhaps the whole thing will become clearer if I attend subsequent meetings.  And there is the question; will I attend any further meetings? I think I probably will although I don’t think I would go out of my way to make sure I get to them.  I found some of it quite interesting and some of it quite depressing but I’m long enough in the tooth not to judge things totally on first impressions even if they are usually right.

For the record I had two pints through the night.  First up was Allendale Wagtail which I had not come across before and to be honest I wish I hadn’t.  It was a flat, lifeless pint of brown nothingness which is a great shame as Allendale usually produce some cracking ales.  Next up I went for safety and a pint of Thornbridge Kipling my beer of the year 2010 and it was all I needed to erase memories of the brown muck preceding it.

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