So if it's not real ale then is it just a shadow on the pub wall?
Of course not.
Camra define real ale as:
"Real ale is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide."
Taken from here: http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=100330
If it doesn't work according to this then it's not real ale/beer, however surely this should be rethought on a regular basis? For me dogma is a useful tool, if everyone agrees to the basic points then everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and can march forward as one. Where dogma goes bad is when it becomes so embeded in stone that it becomes a millstone around the neck of the movement, causing it to fall out of sync with the world which is moving ahead unencumbered.
The first paragraph on the Camra page for me is more important, it was defined as a way of showing the customer the difference between traditional beers/ales and mass produced beer by creating a brand image of their own for the product. And lets be honest they did the industry and the customers a fantastic service by doing this, beer in this country really improved with their work educating the customer on the differences between products.
However the emphasis they place on cask now still has a point but keg and non-bottle conditioned beers have improved by leaps and bounds. There is a big difference in my opinion between good keg beer and mass produced beer such as Guinness, and this should be celebrated as cask beer was back in the first days of Camra.
I don't believe cask will stop being made with good keg beers being recognised, I think it would be another string to the bow of any brewer. Inform the customer on the differences between cask and keg by all means but also inform the customer on the differences between good keg and bad keg.
These are just my first thoughts on this from reading Pete Brown's blog here on the subject: