ALE Summer 2003 No. 311

The Brown Stuff: Beware the Enemy Within!

In the bad old days there were beer deserts everywhere, large breweries had gobbled up all the small opposition, we were forced to drink dead beer, fermentation killed off and wonderfully easy to handle, perfect for the lazy landlord. Hallelujah! Along came CAMRA, the most successful consumer organisation known to man, and they bullied the big breweries into going back to the way beer should be served. Real Ale is the only way, and none of your northern rubbish of putting a "fizzer" on the tap to liven up the beer: any landlord worth his salt will tell you that you only have to hard-spile a beer that seems flat to bring it back up to its best.

The years have gone by, and small breweries have once more flourished, but what of the "big boys"? Well we rejoiced at the passing of the brewer who had tied houses, laughed in the faces of anyone that would inhibit the natural progression of the freehouse and felt that the shackles of feudalism had well and truly passed into history.

The days of the brewery appearing on a pub sign seemed to have gone for ever, mind you: Watneys in Norfolk realised many years ago the value of taking their name from the pub sign and often managed to lure me unsuspecting into one of their ghastly pubs! However, it was not long before a pattern started to emerge that concerned Mr Brown: these new freehouses were selling beers that seemed to be from the same stable, and from the cinders of the old brewery-type trade emerged the Pub Co!

Now these people are more sinister than you can imagine: we opened a stable door and unleashed a tiger! They have no interest, save lip service, in brewing beer; all they are interested in is profit. They give a nod to the demands of the public beer-wise but do not really have the drinker at heart; all they want is to extract as much from the drinker and as cheaply as possible. Boy, how they must wish they were in charge when CAMRA started their assault on public attitudes and bullied the people who make the beer into doing the job in a traditional manner!

Things are worse than you can imagine. It is no secret that Mr Brown and associates would love to buy a freehouse. Real ale, fabulous wines and great high-quality simple food will be the order of the day. The main problem is that the pub co with no real heart for the traditions of the Great British Boozer jumps in with wads of money to tie things up further. I was gazumped last year by 100,000 by a pub co that was selling a pub, another pub co put in a lower bid than mine and got it. I reckon it was down to the fact that back handers were going around. I have been trying to buy another local freehouse, hopefully it will go through, but a pub co has jumped in and the pressure and bribes of the seller's legal fees being paid have somewhat changed the ball game. Nobody ever said life should be fair, but my occasional butt of heads with the big boys ends up with me having the bloody nose.

I will fight on, but we should be aware of the enemy within and at all costs stop them in their tracks. Independence is the name of the game, long live free enterprise!

Jerry Brown


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Cambridge & District CAMRA