Q and A


Originally Posted on Jun 15, 2016

Are you curious to know about the people behind the beers you buy? Or perhaps you want to know what inspires brewers to brew and beer bloggers to blog? Our “Q&A” posts are a light hearted way of getting to know people working in, and connected to, the beer and alcohol industry.
If you a beer drinker and a Twitter user you may well have seen the #camrgb hashtag.  Today’s post features Simon, the man behind CAMRGB.

Tell us about CAMRGB and how it came about   The Campaign For Really Good Beer began as a blog and was simply a place to vent my frustration at a certain other British beer campaign and its blinkered none acceptance of modern brewing styles and techniques.
But it soon became apparent that I had, however accidentally, pushed a button in the minds of many beer lovers and brewers and CAMRGB turned into a loose organisation of people who want to support all of our fabulous breweries and enjoy beer regardless of its dispense.

Where do you see, or hope to see, the site in 5 years’ time?   I’m happy with the organic way in which the organisation is growing. People find it by word of mouth and by happening on to the website or Twitter feed.
I’d very much like people to take ownership of CAMRGB, arranging events in their local area. We’ve had a few of these over the last couple of years – Most notably in Bristol and Manchester – where pubs and breweries all came on board to provide afternoons of drinking and food with lots of people making new friends all under the CAMRGB banner.
In five years time? I’ve no idea, but I’ve no plans for the organisation to operate any differently. I am determined that it remains a free to join group, but after that it’s anyone’s guess.

The craft beer movement seems to be going from strength to strength. Why do you think brewing has been such a great success in recent years?   I think there are a few things that have all combined to make Craft beer such a success.  Personally, I’m not keen on the term Craft Beer, though I understand why people would want a catchall term for something they enjoy.
The first thing is that beer is an incredibly accessible drink, a working class drink, a drink that is part of British culture. We’ve also seen breweries embrace new methods of marketing, and a realisation within the industry of just how important identity is.  Especially as people have moved away from the embarrassing faux 1970’s women-as-objects advertising of many of the breweries in the “Real Ale” world.  The newer, more forward thinking breweries understand that we live in a very different world and that women also enjoy beer but have often been put off by the Neanderthal marketing of some of our more “traditional” breweries.  Take breweries like Beavertown or Magic Rock for example. Their identities are strong and modern and very akin to the coolest record labels who, in creating their identity, helped form the identities of the people who bought their records. And finally, new brewers who have freed themselves form the shackles of the “Real” have opened up a whole new world of flavours and styles to explore.

You’re honest enough to say if you dislike a beer. Which beer would you say has been the biggest disappointment?   I believe wholeheartedly in honesty I everything and I firmly believe that the breweries who get bad reviews take it as constructive criticism.  I’ve certainly only been removed from the Christmas card list of a couple of breweries.

My biggest beery disappointment?  It’s actually not a single thing, but I get very disappointed in the amount of barrel aged beer that gets released into the public when it’s really not that great.  I understand that there’s a lot of money involved in storing a product for an extended period and that for many smaller breweries that makes it very difficult for them to not try and sell the beer they’ve made, but not every beer that comes out of a barrel is any good and I’ve had so many barrel aged beers that have been flat and thin and just plain wrong that my heart often sinks when confronted with yet another example.

And which would you say was the biggest surprise? Something you didn’t expect to be quite as nice perhaps?   My biggest surprise has been just how much difference modern canning has made to beer. I, like many people, was unsure what to think of canned beer, but it only took popping open my first can of Sierra Nevada Torpedo (pretty much my favourite beer of all time) to realise just how much fresher modern canned beer could taste. 

What do you see as the latest beer styles to look out for in 2016?   A few years ago it was Black IPAs, then we had all the barrel ageing (which is still going on) and we’re currently coming out of the back end of everyone making lagered beer.
Gose and sour beers were hip for a while and now we seem to be going through a phase where everyone is making Session IPAs, lower ABV beer with huge hop hits.  And I can only see more of that coming through this year, so I’d rather say look out for more canned beer as that seems to be where the quality in drinking is coming from.

Many breweries are experimenting with adding unusual flavours to their beers. Are there any you think work well together and are there any you would like to try?   I particularly like beer with rhubarb in it and have had a couple of different styles using this ingredient. It often seems that Saison styled beer suits these kind of extras, though I was particularly taken with Northern Monk’s Parsnip & Black Pepper Dunkelweiss which sounds incredibly pretentious but tasted amazing.
I did have a chat with a couple of breweries about collaborating on beer but when I mentioned that I’d like to try brewing a Radish Stout they didn’t seem too keen.

What is your favourite beer, wine or spirit?   My favourite beer of all time is Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, plain and simple, as it has everything I look for in a well made beer.  A good alcohol warmth, that candy sweet thing you get from American IPAs which is all about the barley they use, and a super face tingling hop hit.

What do you think makes a great beer?   It’s all about balance. I love all sorts of beer, from Best Bitter to Lambic, and for me the best beer just feels right. A big blast of herbal citrus hops need to be balanced with a good solid round malt body, but often this isn’t quite there and the result is that the beer either disappears to quickly from your palate of hangs around too long and becomes sickly and cloying.

What was your first drink and where were you when you had it?   Blimey, there’s a question.
I didn’t start drinking beer until I was in my very late teens/early twenties. Before that I had a bit of a thing for Pernod and Ricard, but I wasn’t really much of a drinker in my youth at all.  Then in my twenties I drank Newcastle Brown from bottles as it was always in the venues that my bands were playing in or that I was in to see other bands.

What drink can you no longer face having had one too many?   This is going to sound silly, but it’s tea.  During my twenty eighth birthday I managed to drink a bottle of Scotch in about two hours and was drunk for so long (around two days) that I began to fear that I would never be sober again.
When I did finally sober up I found that I really liked drinking tea, a drink I’d always hated.  Cut to a few years later and I woke up in a hotel room with a banging head after a CAMRGB event in Bristol and made myself a cup of tea which made me feel so nauseous I’ve never touvhed it again. I can’t even stand the smell these days.

What is your favourite style of beer?   I love a well made IPA. I’m a sucker for hops that take the skin off the roof of your mouth.

What is the silliest thing you’ve done whilst drunk?   That is a very cheeky question. The most stupid thing was back in the early nineties when, during a gig I appear to have decided I could fly and attempted to jump off the twenty foot high lighting rig only to be grabbed by stewards and led back to the stage. That may not have been entirely booze fuelled though.
Nowadays I’m far more careful about the state I allow myself to get in, though I vaguely remember insisting that everyone in the pub try the beer cocktail I had made by mixing two Arbor Ales beers together, a 9% Double IPA and a 12% Black Saison, which Is about the time that the people I was with suggested the party might be over.

And finally, if a brewery offered you the chance to brew your perfect beer, how would it taste?  Really good.

Thanks to Simon for chatting with us.

Find out more about CAMRGB by visiting the website.