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11 Glossary of common terms and beer styles


This article is from the Real Ale FAQ, by with numerous contributions by Brett Laniosh others.

11 Glossary of common terms and beer styles

(Some terms have a specific meaning or can be confusing.)

A.B.V.: Alcohol by volume as a percentage. 3.5(%) is session beer. Beers
of 5% and above are strong.

Barrel: A unit of measure (36 gallons). NEVER used to describe a round
thing in a cellar. See 'Cask'.

Burton Union: A method of fermenting beer in which yeast is transferred
from large casks into subsequent brews. The system was once used in the
brewing of Draught Bass but now only Marstons use the system to brew their
Pedigree ale.

B.C.A.: See Bottle Conditioned Ale

Blanket Pressure: A low pressure of CO2 or Nitrogen added to a cask. Can
make the beer fizzy and is not recommended.

Bottle Conditioned Ale: A bottled beer where some or all of the secondary
fermentation takes place after bottling.

Bright: (1) Clear. Real ale normally "drops bright" a day or so after
being racked. (2) Can be used to describe beer that has been filtered to
improve the "polish". Keg beers are always bright, having been filtered
and pasteurised.

Carry keg: A plastic container with a pressure safe top designed for the
transport of small (typically four pints) amounts of real ale.

Cask: Generic term for what most people would call a beer barrel. A cask
doesn't specify any particular size. See Pin, Kil etc.

Cask conditioned: Yeast works on remaining sugars after being casked. This
produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. The latter dissolves in the beer and
gives it life when served. Typically it takes a week for this process
(also known as secondary fermentation) to happen.

Condition: The amount of carbon dioxide in the beer. Excessive carbon
dioxide will produce a beer that is too gassy and sharp. Too little will
result in a flat insipid drink.

EBCU: European Beer Consumer Union, a federation of beer consumer
organisations. Camra is the main movement, with 75% of the members, but
there are groups from Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland,
Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Estonia, with more
knocking at the door regularly. Aims are to exchange experiences and
co-ordinate campaigning at an European (ie more than EU) level.

Fining: The process of clearing the beer by adding 'FININGS'. The finings
act to clump together fine particles so they fall to the bottom of the
cask. A typical dose might be 1.5% by volume, normally added before the
cask leaves the brewery. (One possible reason for cloudy beer is that
either the original dose was too little for the amount of yeast sediment
generated during secondary fermentation or the cask has been repeatedly
shaken up and the finings have as a result of this become tired.)

Finings: Thick liquid derived from seaweed or fish bladders, which
precipitate fine particles.

Firkin: A 9 gallon cask.

Free House: A pub that is not bound by any agreements to sell any
particular brewers products.

Gravity: (1) Serving method. A tap is hammered into the end of the cask
and glasses filled directly from it. (2) Until recently the strength of
beer was quoted by "O.G." or Original Gravity. This was determined by how
much sugar was dissolved in the liquor before the yeast was added. The
more sugar the more alcohol will be present after fermentation. Hence a
"high gravity" beer is a strong one.

Green (Green beer): Fresh from the brewery and not yet matured in the
cellar. Most beers come to no harm at all by being left for at least a
week before tapping. (See Cask Conditioned)

Guest ale: A beer from another brewery. (Possibly, in the case of a free
house, a beer out of the ordinary run.)

Gyle: A batch of beer in a single brew.

Hand Pump: Bar mounted hand pull. (NOT a tiny tap or connected to one.)
The handle is connected to a piston, which draws beer from the cask along
a pipe to the spout.

Hogshead: A 54 gallon cask (now rare).

Keg: Pasteurised, filtered and artificially fizzed up beer.

Kil, Kill, Kilderkin: A 18 gallon cask.

Landlord: A publican. Confusing as a pub landlord might actually be a
tenant! The term originates from the days when an inn would provide

Licensee: A Publican. Licensing magistrates give licences to serve
alcohol. The implication is that publicans can lose their licence if the
magistrates think they are not a suitable person to run a pub. Possibly
because they have been known to flout licensing laws or otherwise come to
the frequent notice of the local constabulary.

Licensing laws: The sale of alcohol has been controlled for 300 years
though the basis for current laws came about during World War 1. A rough
summary of the current rules for pubs is: Can't serve alcohol to anyone
under 18 (with certain exceptions). Mustn't serve outside set licensing
hours. ie generally not after 11 pm weekdays and 10.30pm Sundays or before
12 mid day on Sundays. Mustn't serve people who, in the landlord's
opinion, have had too much to drink already

Nitrokeg: Variation on 'Keg' using Nitrogen as well as or instead of
Carbon Dioxide. Used to produce 'creamy heads' ala Guinness. Not real.

OBP: Objectieve Bierproevers, Belgian (flemish) beer consumer

Pin, Polypin: Four and a half gallons. A polypin is a collapsible
polythene bag inside a cardboard cube. Often non-returnable. A good bet
for a party at home.

PINT: Promotie Informatie Traditioneel Bier, Dutch beer consumer
organisation, started up as CAMRA Netherlands.

Publican: Person in charge of a particular pub.

Racking: The process of transferring beer from one container to another.
In the brewery it refers to the transfer of the beer from a holding or
conditioning vessel into the cask.

Re-racking: The transfer from the cask to another vessel - usually after
the beer has been left to settle so the beer can be served bright in
situations where traditional cask beer can't be served.

(Re) Racked-beer: Beer that has been transferred from a cask to container
after being allowed to settle, leaving the sediment behind. The remaining
beer can be safely transported, for example in a carry-keg for a party.

Spiling: For transit and storage a cask is sealed. A vent hole is provided
on the top of the cask. Some while before being served the peg sealing
this hole (the spile hole) is knocked through to open up the beer to the
atmosphere. This is spiling. Once done the cask will have to be used
within a few days.

Stillaging: The process of setting up the cask on a stillage (usually in
the pub cellar) ready for venting and tapping.

Tapping: Fitting the tap, like spiling, consists of knocking through a
seal and inserting a tap. Unless this is a gravity system the tap will
then be connected to the pump ready to draw.

Tenant: Publican. Many publicans are essentially operating a franchise.
They pay rent to the brewery as well as being tied to take their beer.

Tied house: A pub owned by a brewery (or pub company) that is tied to
selling what the brewery says. There are many pubs who claim to be free
but have done deals (such accepting loans on generous terms) in return for
guaranteeing to take certain brands.

Ullage: Waste beer left at the bottom of an empty cask or overflowing into
a drip tray. It should not be filtered back into the cask. Most brewers
allow for a proportion of 'lost' beer.


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