Jargon Buster

Like many industries, the beer trade uses many obscure terms and phrases – here’s a brief guide to some of them.

BARREL A 36 imperial gallon cask.

BEER ENGINE Manual pump used to draw from the cask to the point of dispense.

BEER LINE Piping leading up to the beer engine.

BOTTLE-CONDITIONED Unfiltered, unpasteurised bottled beer.

BREWERY-CONDITIONED Filtered beer that is not cask-conditioned ale.

BRIGHT BEER Cask-conditioned beer which has been decanted into a fresh firkin (etc.) to separate it from its lees for safe transportation.

BUNG Round cork for protecting the inside of empty casks from insects etc.

CASK Traditional vessel of varying sizes used to contain real ale and allow it to have a secondary fermentation. It can be made of stainless steel, aluminium, wood or plastic.

CASK BREATHER Device that adds low pressure gas into a cask to replace dispensed beer, this prolongs the life of the beer but may affect the conditioning process slightly.

CASK-CONDITIONED BEER, REAL ALE The term ‘real ale’ and the following definition were coined by CAMRA. ‘Real ale is beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops, water and yeast), matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide’. Real ale is also known as ‘cask-conditioned beer’, ‘real cask ale’, ‘real beer’ and ‘naturally conditioned beer’.

CELLAR TEMPERATURE Around 54 or 55 degrees Fahrenheit – the ideal temperature for real ale.

CHILL HAZE A clarity imperfection caused by the beer being stored too cold.

CHINE The front or back rim of a cask, usually containing handling holes and sometimes stamped with the name of the owning brewery.

CHOCK Triangular wooden wedge used to prop up and stabilise stillaged casks.

CONDITION The amount of dissolved CO2 in the beer.

CONDITIONING The time that the beer is maturing in the cask.

COOPERAGE A brewery’s stock of casks and kegs.

CYLINDER The main under counter part of a beer engine unit.

DIPSTICK A special rod that measures how much beer is present when inserted through the shive down to the belly of the cask.

DRIP TRAY The part of the beer engine unit that catches the drips.

DRY HOPPED Cask beer that has fresh hop leaves or pellets added on racking.

FINE (v.) To add finings to a cask.

FININGS A liquid substance added to the beer at the brewery or in the cellar to aid clarification. There are several types including isinglass and Irish Moss.

FIRKIN, NINE A 9 imperial gallon cask, the most common size.

FLUFFY BOTTOM Situation where yeast and protein cells lurk in clumps near the tap but do not stick to the bottom of the cask as they should, this can cause beer to turn cloudy unexpectedly.

GRAVITY Method of dispensing cask beer straight from the cask into the glass without need for a beer engine.

GREEN BEER Cask ale that hasn’t matured properly.

HANDPUMP see beer engine

HARD SPILE Long, thin, non-porous wooden peg used to broach the shive and to prevent natural condition escaping out of the beer.

HOGSHEAD A 54 imperial gallon cask (now virtually extinct).

HOP FILTER A washer-like fitting with an attached mesh filter that goes between the tap and beer line, this catches stray particles and helps to prevent leaks. Use of these is optional.

ISINGLASS A type of finings largely limited to use by British breweries.

JACKET An insulated covering for a SADDLE which envelops the top of a stillaged cask.

KEG Sealed cooperage usually used for brewery-conditioned beer.

KEG-CONDITIONED Unfiltered beer that has undergone secondary conditioning in a regular keg. Same as cask-conditioning unless attached to a gas supply for dispense. Also known as FBIK, fined beer in keg.

KEYSTONE The small round bung on the front of a cask where the tap is driven in.

KILDERKIN, EIGHTEEN An 18 imperial gallon cask.

LEES, SEDIMENT The yeast and protein contained in cask beer once it has dropped to form a layer in the belly of the container. Also applicable to bottle-conditioned beer.

MALLET Rubber or ash wood headed hammer used to drive in taps and spiles.

MINIPIN Smaller version of a polypin which holds about 17 imperial pints.

NATURAL CARBONATION CO2 dissolved in the beer, produced naturally by the living yeast in the beer.

NUT AND TAIL Simple connector to attach a tapped cask to a beer line.

PIN A 4.5 imperial gallon cask.

POLYPIN A 4.5 imperial gallon disposable beer container with an inbuilt tap, similar to a large wine box.

PRIME (v.) To add a fermentable sugar to a cask of beer to assist with the secondary fermentation. A practice formerly done in pub cellars but now done before leaving the brewery whenever it is practiced.

PUMPCLIP Badge for the handle of the beer engine.

RACE CASK VENTILATOR, RACE SPILE Device that screws into the shive which regulates escape of natural CO2.

RACK (v.) To fill a cask with beer.

REFINE (v.) To add more finings in an attempt to clear a cask of beer when an earlier effort didn’t work.

REMOTE COOLER A refrigeration unit which can pump cold coolant. Used in conjunction with a JACKET and SADDLE (or however many are needed).

RERACK (v.) To transfer beer from one cask to another for whatever reason.

SADDLE A hollow metal pipe shaped to sit on top of a stillaged cask, with which cold water or coolant will be circulated. Used in conjunction with a JACKET and REMOTE COOLER.

SHIVE The large round bung on the top of a cask containing the tut.

SOFT SPILE Short porous wooden peg used to deliberately allow dissolved CO2 to escape from the beer, and to enable air to enter the cask to replace dispensed beer.

SPARKLER Restrictor nozzle that fits on the spout of the beer engine which takes condition from the body of the beer and puts it into an artificially large or creamy head. Not beneficial to the flavour of the beer in most circumstances.

SPEAR Hollow rod that inserts through the keystone eliminating the need for a traditional stillage. It is more difficult to keep beer properly conditioned with this system.

SPILE A wooden peg used for venting a cask and controlling the conditioning process. There are two varieties, see HARD SPILE & SOFT SPILE.

STILLAGE Sturdy metal or wooden frame that casks rest on when in use or conditioning.

SWAN NECK Design of beer engine spout that enables a glass to be filled from the bottom up.

TAP (n.) Plastic or brass valve that is driven into the keystone with mallet blows.

TAP (v.) To broach a cask’s keystone with a tap ready for serving.

TILT (v.) To raise the rear end of a cask up by an inch or two to maximise supply.

TUT The stopper in the centre of the shive that is pushed through when a cask is vented.

ULLAGE Stale or infected beer that is unsaleable.

VENT (v.) The act of broaching the shive, usually done by driving a hard spile through the tut.

YEAST A living component found in cask-conditioned beer.