Here is how a local brewpub recently announced its cask ale:
There are 3 main differences between real ale and conventionally dispensed ale. First, real ale is served unfiltered (cloudy) where as the yeast in conventionally served ale has been filtered out to give it a "clear" appearance. Second, real ale is served at "cellar" temperature (50-55°F)NO, NO, NO ... NO!
unlike conventional ale which is served much cooler. Finally, firkin real ale is lightly carbonated so it almost appears "flat" compared to your conventional ale.
That's a description of something I wouldn't want to drink.
What real ale is ...
It is a method of producing and serving ale in its freshest and most flavorful state.
What real ale isn't ...
It is not cloudy; it is not warm; it is not flat.
Let's say instead:
1) True cask beer is served cold. Anyone who thinks that 50*F is warm should try setting the thermostat to 50*F in their house during the winter. Temperatures below 42*F begin to numb the tongue, masking malt flavors. Adjunct-rich mainstream beers proudly disdain the use of flavorful compounds. Thus, it's SAB-Mill-Bud-Coors which are served with ice shavings floating in them.
2) A true cask ale is wonderfully carbonated, at 1.8 volumes or a bit more, which is just enough to deliver the aromas of the hops, malt, and esters, and sufficient to develop and hold a nice head.
In fact, a properly poured or pulled cask pint will naturally produce a pint-sized (sorry!) version of the Guinness-cascading-head without the artificial injection of extraneous nitrogen.
More than that - excessive gassiness - masks malt flavor. And cask ale doesn't bloat the drinker.
3) Cask ale IS NOT CLOUDY. Poorly made cask ale might be cloudy. But I repeat, cask ale IS NOT CLOUDY!
True it isn't filtered. But that's a good thing.
By not being filtering it, a cask ale retains many flavorful compounds that would otherwise be stripped out. Yeast remains in the cask to naturally carbonate the beer (and to provide the drinker with a complete Vitamin B complex). A careful pour by a publican will leave most of that yeast behind
A cask-conditioned beer tasted next to its filtered, gassy, nearly frozen, and flavor-deprived cousin will always delight.