What's Brewing: Why?

As a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), I get sent a monthly newsletter-papery-thing called What's Brewing? CAMRA are suggesting I 'go green' and choose to download it instead of them posting out a printed copy. I'm suggesting they go one step further and scrap What's Brewing altogether.

Here's the problems with What's Brewing (WB);

- The news isn't news anymore

When a 'news' paper appears only monthly, it's difficult to be comprehensive and up-to-date. The result is that WB becomes a mash of tepid press release re-writes, hyper-specific branch updates and own-trumpet-blowing on this month's campaign.

- The useful stuff is in a useless format

Beer Festivals has good-to-know info, but it's so crammed in as to be almost unreadable. What's On is comprehensive but I never look at 90% of the listings. The business page seems like an afterthought with a few random 'stories'. And the Letters page seems to have more white space than rabid opinion.

- The best bits are now in Beer

Perhaps the best publishing move CAMRA ever made. As the sister publication to WB, Beer was always the better read. Now reborn as a quarterly magazine, with notably higher production and content values than WB, it shows that CAMRA *can* showcase great writing about beer in a publication approaching commercial standard.

- Branches can do a much better job

Meaningful news about brewers and pubs; in-depth articles about beer places that are local, national and international; concise updates on current campaigns; cogent diary sections; high quality production values. That's the Nottingham Drinker for you. And it's not alone - I've found other excellent branch magazines in Chesterfield and Peterborough.

The last CAMRA financial statement showed the operating cost of WB as 412,234 GBP. Why not use the money to fund better facilities to local branches and ensure that the national website has clear details of all branch activities (including festivals)?

What's Brewing has become anachronistic. Let's have Beer as a quality publication, perhaps with a four-page newspaper supplement to list the next quarter's beer festivals, scrap What's Brewing and sink some cash into making the most of local branch newsletters. Which can be downloaded from their websites, natch...


  1. Couldn't agree more. The latest edition of WB arrived a week ago, and I still haven't got round to reading it. Having said that, as a cider enthusiast there's very little for me to get excited about in Beer either...

  2. Unfortunately "What's Brewing" has been very much "dumbded down" following its recent re-vamp. It might look very nice, with its new look typefaces, use of white space and modern contemporary design, but so far as I am concerned the newspaper is all style and no substance.

    It was hard enough trying to get a letter published in the old style WB, but with the drastic reduction in column inches in the new-style version there's no chance. There has been a lot of self-congratulatory back-slapping from the campaign's hierarchy over the new look paper, but I fear all criticism has been stifled. Many CAMRA members that I know are unhappy about the changes; not because they are "stick-in-the-muds", but because WB has ceased to be the interesting, lively and informative campaigning publication it once was.

    Perhaps the time is now right to ditch it in printed form, but as a member of CAMRA since the mid 1970's, I for one would be sorry to see it go.

  3. The editor is from Northampton you know. That's all.

  4. I fed some comments cback to a member of the editorial board - at his request - saying much the same. Wonder what happened to them?

    One thing though. Surely it wouldn't be difficult to put the Beer Festival and meeting info on line?

  5. I agree about making the most of festival and branch meeting info online, but they still ought to publish it even if only quarterly - I know a few of the old-brigade who literally cut and paste this info out...