The ripples from Pete Brown's recent reflections on draught beer dispense have widened and observers such as Rabid Barfly, Zythophile and Barm have entered the debate.
Zythophile contextualises the CAMRA viewpoint, and to me that's quite important, since CAMRA has defined the debate for many years with a general tendency to define cask beer both by what it is, and by what it's not, which was explicit in their raison d'etre as a campaigning body.
But times change, and so do markets and technology, and memberships. Over time CAMRA seems to have made itself a hostage to fortune over their strict definition of what keg beer is - see the opening paragraph here. And today many of the new wave of brewers who produce excellent and award-winning cask beer are also displaying an encouraging open-mindedness about kegging some of their beer using new technologies. Attendees at The Rake's recent South-West Beer Fest would have noted how much good beer was available on keg, some from brewers who retain a commitment to casking their beer. How does CAMRA's orthodoxy adapt to deal with this?
Then we have the huge but largely passive group of new members signed up over the past few years. The numbers give CAMRA significant clout, but the membership seem largely distanced from the politics and agenda-setting. And now the organisation is proposing to centralise control of subscriptions in order to manage funds for campaigning. Campaigning for or against what? Full pints? Pub closures? Like some other bloggers, I'd like to see some work on promoting good cellarmanship, not just printing an advertorial of the latest Cask Marque joiners and leavers. Judging from my recent local experience, in some areas you need to buy your pint from a tied house to ensure it's in good form. Or perhaps CAMRA see that as SIBA's job? Or do they already do it via GBG updates? I dunno.
Keg beer won't go away. CAMRA itself hasn't been averse to selling it at GBBF. And encouragement and availability of foreign beers at official fests could be said to have fanned the flames that has created the market that UK-based keg brewers are keen to take a share of. There's also been much said about CAMRA's ageing activist base. How and whether those people can be replaced will be something the organisation will have to address in the near future, or face gaps in its coverage. But another threat to their effectiveness or relevance is clinging to 70's attitudes in the 21st Century. It will be interesting to see how 'fit for purpose' they think they are when it comes to picking apart the bones of their current review.