Terms and [Cask] Conditions: How To Talk Like a Beer Pro

By Leah Blewett
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jun. 1, 2010

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Philly Beer Week 2010 is nearly upon us, and whether you’re enjoying a flight from a bomber or taking home a growler, we’ve got the beer terms you need to know. (Hint: Brett is more than just the name of that cute androgynous chick you picked up at McGlinchey’s last night.)

ABV: Alcohol by volume, or the percent of a beer occupied by pure alcohol. The higher the ABV, the more quickly you’ll get loaded (Score!).
Bomber: A large, 22-oz. bottle of beer. It’s like a forty’s cute kid brother.
Brettanomyces: A yeast strain, known colloquially as Brett, that lives on the skins of fruit and falls into the same “can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em” category as a late-night booty call. In the wrong setting (most beers; out for brunch with mom and dad), a nuisance and a cause of spoilage. In the right setting (some Belgian styles such as lambics; at last call), a reason to rejoice and order another.
Cask: Derived from the Spanish cascara, or bark, they surround, hold and protect beer like the bark of a tree. It is the original method of storing and serving beer. “Cask-conditioned” beers, which undergo a second fermentation in the cask, are known as “real ales” to those who yearn for the good old days of authentic ales made without artificial carbonation, minus that pesky bubonic plague nonsense.
Chalice: A footed cup or goblet, also popular with the throwback set who prefer something more distinguished than a pint glass for their complex, aromatic beers. In other words, you probably don’t need one for that Miller Lite.
Dry-hopping: A process that creates particularly funky-smelling beers. Hops are added after it has cooled and fermented, to lend their uniquely bitter scent to the finished brew.
Firkin: A unit of measure that refers to one-fourth of a barrel, or 72 pints. Fun fact: butter and soap used to be measured in firkins, as well (“Yum!” and “Clean!” respectively).
Flight: Several smaller glasses of beer, usually four or five, that allow the taster to experience a variety of offerings without consuming a pint of each and getting too drunk to recall what they’ve enjoyed.
Gravity poured: Literally taken from the keg or cask by gravity. Gravity-poured ales and lagers are extracted from their container simply by tapping it and allowing the beer to fall out, without the aid of pressure-causing gases.
Growler: A half-gallon glass jug ideal for storing draught beer from a brewery or restaurant to take home. Growlers are typically sealed with a screw top or a porcelain gasket cap; properly fastened, they can hold carbonation indefinitely. They are allegedly named for the “growl” of gas released when the bottle is opened.
Hammer of Glory: Also known as the HOG, it’s the official beer mallet of Philly Beer Week. In the days leading up to PBW2010, the HOG will travel from the Grey Lodge Pub in the Northeast to the Opening Tap at the Independence Visitor’s Center, conveyed only by non-motorized transport, Olympic torch-style (read: bicycle with a special HOG carrier, athletic beer lovers on foot, the Philly Roller Girls).
Hand pump: An airtight piston chamber that draws a half-pint of beer out of a cask. It is also known as a “beer engine.”
Hops: Female flower clusters of the humulus lupulus plant, with bitter, tangy flavor.
IBU: International Bitterness Units scale, measured with a spectrophotometer or solvent extraction. Malt negates bitterness, so although bitter flavor is related to hops content, they’re not directly proportional, necessitating the IBU.
In-bottle fermentation: A secondary fermentation, which yields natural carbonation.
Jeroboam: A three-liter bottle, also known as a great night out.
Malt: Cereal grains (usually barley or rye) that are soaked in water to start germination, then quickly dried or heated with hot air to prevent further germination. That’s right: Beer is made by cock-teasing innocent plants. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?
Mouthfeel: Physical and chemical interaction of the beer and your mouth. Giggity.
OG (original gravity): A measure of the total amount of solids (malt and hops) in the bittersweet sugar solution that will be fermented to produce a beer.
One-off: British slang for “happens only once,” i.e. a limited-production run of a special beer that you will fall in love with and never be able to get your hands on again. Stinkin’ Brits.
Pin: The smallest cask available on the market, holding just 5.4 U.S. gallons.
Sixtel: A keg that holds 1/6 of a barrel, ideal for serving draught beer in the comfort of your home. In other words, you could enjoy a cold pint without ever taking your butt off the couch. In other words, yes, please.
Tulip: A broad-bottomed glass with a narrow top opening that concentrates the fragrance of particularly aromatic beers.

…now get out there and slur your new vocabulary like a pro!

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