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Caledonian Brewery - Beer glossary
Category: Food and Drink > Beer
Date & country: 25/11/2007, UK
Words: 45


Aerobic
An organism, such as top fermenting ale yeast, which needs oxygen to metabolise.

Ale
Beers distinguished by use of top fermenting yeast strains, which perform at warmer temperatures than do yeasts used to brew lager beer, and their by-products are more evident in taste and aroma. Fruitiness and esters are often part of an ale's character.

Barrel
Traditional unit of volume in UK beer industry - equivalent to 163.66 litres. (288 pints if that's your next question.)

Bitterness
The taste component added by hops. The perception of a bitter flavour from iso-alpha-acid in solution, is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU). (It's been suggested that since that woman all over the world tend to react in a similar fashion when it comes to men getting home a bit late from the pub, IBUs could be used in another context …

Bottle-conditioning
Secondary fermentation and maturation in the bottle, creating complex aromas and flavours.

Bright Beer
Non-cask conditioned beer - dispensed using CO2 or nitro-gas. The majority of the beer drunk round the world is 'bright beer'.

Bung
The stopper that closes the hole in a keg or cask through which the cask is filled and emptied.

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale)
UK association for fans of real (cask conditioned) ale.

Carbonation
Sparkle caused by carbon dioxide, either created during fermentation or injected later.

Cask
A closed, barrel-shaped container for beer. They come in various sizes and are now usually made of metal. The bung in a cask of 'real' beer or ale must be made of wood to allow the pressure to be released, as the fermentation of the beer, in the cask, continues.

Cask Conditioned Ale
also called 'Real Ale' A name for draught beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.

Chill Haze
A condition occurring in some beers at low (near freezing) temperatures caused by proteins in the beer becoming cloudy. Not an indication of bad beer.

Conditioning Tank
A vessel in which beer, principally lagers and 'bright beers' is placed after primary fermentation. This gives the beer a chance to mature and smoothes out any unwanted flavours. Beers will spend anything from days to months in conditioning tanks, depending on the recipe and desired end flavour.

Copper
A copper is basically a large pan in which the wort is boiled up with the hops. The pan has a round bottom to maximise the effect of the boil. Boiling the liquid has 3 effects: It stabilises the colour. It concentrates the sugars (as about 6% of the liquid will evaporate). It releases the flavour of the hops, which also sterilises the liquid. Copp…

Dry-hopping
The addition of dry hops to fermenting or maturing beer to increase its hop character or aroma. (Not the bloke who goes from pub to pub and doesn't drink anything.)

Esters
Esters are organic compounds that result from the interaction of acids and alcohol. The presence of esters can cause the fruity flavours and aromas, such as banana, blueberry, and pear that intentionally or unintentionally occur in some beers.

Fermentation
Conversion of sugars into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, through the action of yeast.

Finings
Finings (pronounced fine-ings) are often used in wine and beer to clarify the liquid. Finings are a gelatinous semi-transparent substance obtained by cleaning and drying the air bladders of the sturgeon, cod, hake, and other fishes. Finings attract the fine yeast particles suspended in the beer till they are large enough to sink, under the influenc…

Grist
Brewers' term for milled grains, or the combination of milled grains to be used in a particular brew. Derives from the verb to grind.

Hand Pump
A device for dispensing draft beer using a pump operated by hand. The use of a hand pump allows the cask-conditioned beer to be served without the use of pressurised carbon dioxide.

Hogshead
A large, medieval beer barrel - equivalent to 54 Gallons which is 249.54 litres or 432 UK pints.

Hops
The hop is a tall climbing plant distantly related to the cannabis plant i.e. hemp. The modern hop has been developed from a wild plant that was originally used as a medicinal herb in early Egypt. The plants are perennials, produced from cuttings, and can be expected to remain productive for 10 - 20 years or more, sending their roots down to a dept…

Isinglass
Also called finings. Material made from fish bladders used to clarify beer.

Keg
The name given to the aluminium barrels in which beer is now delivered to pubs. Several standard sizes exist with 9, 11 and 18 UK gallons being the most common. These are equivalent to 72, 88 or 144 UK pints or 41, 50 and 82 litres respectively.

Lager
The word lager comes from the German word lagern which means, 'to store'. A perfect description as lagers are brewed with bottom fermenting yeast that work slowly at around 34°F, and are often further stored at cool temperature to mature. Lager yeast ferments more sugars, leaving a crisp clean taste which produce fewer by-product characters than al…

Liquor
The quality of the water that is used to brew is an important factor in the flavour of the beer. Brewers refer to the water they work with as 'liquor'.

Malt
Malt is grains of barley that have been steeped in water and allowed to partially germinate. The grains are then dried or cured to suspend germination.

Mash Tun
Giant stainless steel pan in which the cracked, malted barely is mixed with boiling water to release the sugars from the grain. The porridge like mixture is known as 'the mash'.

Mouth feel
(If you had to give it a go, you'd probably get this one on your own.) Literally the way a beer feels in the mouth of the drinker. Although somewhat subjective - drinks may be described as thick and creamy, tingly, bubbly, chewy or smooth.

Nitro-gas
Also known as 'mixed gas'. It is used to dispense 'bright beers'. Usually a combination of 70% Nitrogen and 30% Carbon dioxide; nitro-gas has largely replaced Carbon dioxide in beer dispensing as the mixed gasses produce a thicker, creamier head and softer flavour.

Pasteurisation
Carried out on beer sold in bottles and cans. Heating of beer to 60-79°C/140-174°F to stabilise it microbiologically. Flash-pasteurisation is applied very briefly, for 15-60 seconds by heating the beer as it passes through the pipe. Alternately, the bottled beer can be passed on a conveyor belt through a heated tunnel. This more gradual process tak…

Pint
Standard measure in which beer is served in the UK. Equivalent to 0.568 of a litre.

Pitching
Adding yeast to the wort in the fermentation tank.

Primary Fermentation
Occurs after pitching the yeast and during the first three days, during which time fermentation converts sugars to alcohol. Fermentation time can vary from three to seven days, depending on the type of beer.

Secondary Fermentation
Stage of fermentation occurring in a closed container from several weeks to several months.

Sediment
Yeast material at the bottom of the bottle formed as a result of conditioning the beer in the bottle. Not a sign of bad beer.

Sparging
This is when hot water is sprayed over the mash in the mash-tun to ensure that all the sugars in the grain are extracted.

Specific Gravity
The weight of a liquid relative to the weight of an equal volume of water. Specific gravity must be checked before and after fermentation. Used as an indication of the amount of alcohol present in the finished beer. (Not the gravity specific to how many beers you've had.)

Spile
A plug used to close a hole in a barrel, cask or flask.

The Mash
The porridge like mixture produced when hot water is sprayed over cracked, malted barley. The mash is then briefly boiled - the cooking procedure causes the starches to turn into sugars and releases flavour elements.

The Shilling System
Beer in Scotland was traditionally categorised, in shillings, by the invoice price of a 432-pint barrel called a hogshead. 40/- ale was a very light beer often supplied to farmhands. 50/- and 60/- beers were also reasonably light and mild. 70/-, 80/- and 90/- were progressively stronger, export quality, beers. Though the price of a hogshead barrel …

Tun
Large vessels used in brewing. In America, 'tub' is often preferred.

Venting
Once Cask Conditioned ale is delivered to a pub it must be set up in its serving position and then left undisturbed until the cask is empty. The publican must also 'vent' the cask - allowing the cask to breathe and secondary fermentation to take place. Secondary fermentation of the beer in a closed cask ensures that the beer becomes completely satu…

Wort
Wort is the concentrated liquid that is drained from the mash tun. It contains all the soluble elements from the malted barley. (Pronunciation is key with this one - a very heavy roll on the 'r' is required.)

Yeast
Yeast are micro-organisms, which activate the fermentation process, converting the malt sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Most breweries raise their own strains of yeast to guarantee the consistency of their beers.