- CAMRA rules state that all British attendees must supply cask beer; only non-Brits may bring kegs due to difficulties in transporting casks and the fact that many beer styles are not appropriately presented in casks.
- BrewDog contend that they had achieved an agreement to bring kegs of beer (their preferred method) which was reneged on by CAMRA; BrewDog are now not allowed to attend with kegged beer as their arrangements did not fulfill the terms CAMRA would accept in their agreement. [EDIT: Steve Lamond points out that it was not a renege, BD just didn't meet certain requirements]
Putting aside the issue that CAMRA may or may not have had an agreement with BrewDog to allow an exception in their case [EDIT: and also the fact that the technical reasons BD were refused was their failure to meet contract in terms of payment date and vessel size], I think that this issue represents a fundamental flaw in CAMRA that will certainly undermine its long-term aim to advocate cask beer. Here's why:
My first response was echoed by Pete Brown's tweet: "if the defence is 'We're all about real ale, that's the name," kindly rename the Great British BEER festival". This is obviously correct. Defining "great British Beer" as that solely served in cask is as luddite and arrogant as it is inaccurate. Modern beer producers have refined so many approaches, elevated so many styles to greatness, that I wouldn't be surprised if we see even "craft" rice and corn beers before too long (all right, don't mark my words on that one).
CAMRA's stance on cask beer is clearly linked to their raison d'etre: namely their admirable defence of cask ale from the threat of extinction at the hands of large corporate interests whose production methods and aggressive marketing were rapidly making kegged beer the only viable commercial option.
If you define CAMRA as a defence of cask beer against kegs, then it is wholly understandable why they'd take this precious stance. This explains why so many CAMRA advocates are (possibly reluctantly) supporting the cask-only policy.
But that is not how CAMRA should be defined. What they did, in essence, was protect a form of production and enjoyment that enjoyed wide appeal from powerful organizations and a commercial movement that was attempting to redefine "good" beer, and to unfairly marginalize other forms of production.
Kind of like what CAMRA are doing now by excluding kegged beer from the GBBF.
CAMRA began as a reactionary organization with noble aims, many of which persist to this day. Unfortunately, CAMRA now resembles a protectionist organization clinging to an outmoded hierarchical dogma that is doing its utmost to live up to the out-of-touch dinosaur clichés it has been (mostly unfairly) tarnished with since the 70s. Its "not in our backyard" decision to allow Euro breweries to bring kegs, but deny Brits the same privilege — makes CAMRA look like a possessive husband, dragging his long-suffering wife to a strip-club while forcing her to wear dungarees and a raincoat.
Surely all they will achieve is to alienate drinkers who recognize the inherent quality of kegged beers such as BrewDog and who wonder why the resurgent "real ale" has become our sole revered product. This, in turn, risks a backlash against cask ale and CAMRA itself — potentially undoing much of the good will toward 'real ale' that has been achieved over the last three decades.
The obvious solution to this miserable state of affairs is to either rename the festival to the Great British Cask Beer (or 'real ale') Festival, or to allow kegged beers into the GBBF — perhaps on a system that allocates a certain amount of space to casks and a certain amount to kegs. There seems to me no good reason why a quality assessment board cannot allocate space based on the merits of beer regardless of whether it is kegged or casked.
I am glad that the Canadian branch of CAMRA of which I am a member is more of general beer appreciation club that works to promote good beer in all its forms.
commenter one points out key points I missed. I concede that I interpreted BD's complaint rather quickly. However, the overarching point of the post is that favouring cask ale in context of Great British "Beer" Festival is the main problem. It is inaccurate and prejudicial and particularly difficult for newer drinkers to understand.