'Good Beer' salute

CAMRA's Good Beer Guide praises great pubs, but attacks greed of giant companies

Sept 23, 2002 - Great Britain's Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) used the release of its 30th Good Beer Guide both to praise the landlords and landladies of great pubs and to chastise the country's giant pub companies "that are squeezing craft breweries and reducing choice for drinkers."


The latest edition of the guide was introduced Monday at the Star Tavern in London. The Star is one of just 17 pubs that have appeared in all 30 editions of the Guide.

"The achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider there is a high turnover of pubs in the Guide from one year to the next," said editor Roger Protz. "CAMRA members chose the pubs in their localities -- and they can only select in total 5,000 of the country's 60,000 pubs.

"CAMRA members are sticklers for beer quality and it speaks volumes for the dedication of the licensees in the 17 pubs that they have beaten off competition from other pubs to stay in the Guide for 30 years."

Taking a different tone, Protz used the case of the revered independent brewery W H Brakspear of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, to discussion industry problem. Brakspear will stop brewing this autumn, as it cannot make a living from selling beer to such national pub companies as Enterprise Inns, Pubmaster and Punch Taverns.

"Brakspear is producing more beer than at any time in its history, yet as a result of the rampant greed of the giant pub companies it cannot make a sufficient return on its sales to justify staying in brewing," he said.

Protz blamed the duopoly of national brewers and pub companies for the onslaught on smaller craft brewers. "The national brewers are prepared to sell beer at deep discounts to the pub companies -- discounts the smaller breweries cannot afford," he said.

Discounts don't mean lower prices for drinkers. "The pubcos demand beer at low wholesale prices and then sell those beers for high retail prices. In between lie obscene profits," he said.. "The national brewers are happy to play the discount game. Marginal profit on one cask becomes big profit when they are brewing millions of barrels a year. But for small brewers, the discounts demanded mean the game is not worth the candle."

The Good Beer Guide is available in many British book shops and at a few American outlets. For more information, or to order, visit the CAMRA website.

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