AskDefine | Define spile

Dictionary Definition

spile

Noun

1 a column of wood or steel or concrete that is driven into the ground to provide support for a structure [syn: pile, piling, stilt]
2 a plug used to close a hole in a barrel or flask [syn: bung]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A spigot or plug.
  2. A spout inserted in a tree to draw off sap.
  3. A bollard. Spile is the word most frequently used on the Great Lakes to indicate a bollard.

Extensive Definition

A spile is a small wooden peg used to control the flow of carbon dioxide out of a cask of ale.
Cask ale is served without externally-supplied carbon dioxide or nitrogen. The idea that it is served "flat" with no bubbles at all, though, is a misconception; properly conditioned cask ale contains bubbles of carbon dioxide generated by the natural action of the yeast living in the beer while it is transported and stored. In fact, the yeast will actually produce more carbon dioxide than is required, and it is for this reason that the cask is vented through the spile hole in the shive.
Two kinds of spile are available. Initially, "soft" or porous spiles are used, made of open-grained softwood, bamboo, or harder wood with cuts in. These allow the excess gas to escape. Once the cellarman judges this process to be complete, a hard spile is inserted which does not allow any more gas out of the cask. These are made of harder wood (usually still technically "softwood", but denser and more solid than soft spiles). Plastic pegs intended for sealing shives are occasionally used as hard spiles.
During service, the spile must be removed to allow air in to replace the beer drawn off. Once the spile is reinserted enough gas will come out of solution to replace what was lost, but the amount of carbon dioxide available in the system - free or dissolved - is limited, so it is important that the spile is kept in as much as possible. This is one of several reasons for real ale's short shelf-life once a cask is opened - if too much carbon dioxide is lost, the beer will be flat. Typically, the beer will be good only for two to four days; this short life is why it is important that a pub serving real ale have sufficient turnover for casks to be emptied while still at their best.

Footnotes

Other Uses

Like many such older terms, the word spile has other local meanings. For example:
  • The iron spigot driven into a sugar maple to produce maple syrup.
  • At Indian Harbor in Nova Scotia, the shores that hold up fish processing "stores" were once called spiles.

References

  • Cellarmanship - Caring for Real Ale, 2nd Edition, 1992. Published by CAMRA. ISBN 1-85249-063-2

See also

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bar, bind, block, block up, blockade, bung, caulk, check valve, chink, choke, choke off, choke up, clog, clog up, cock, congest, constipate, cork, cover, dam, dam up, faucet, fill, fill up, foul, jam, leg, lid, obstipate, obstruct, pack, pale, palisade, peg, picket, pile, pin, plug, plug up, sea cock, shank, spigot, spike, spill, stake, stanch, stay, stench, stop, stop up, stopgap, stopper, stopple, stuff, stuff up, tap, valve
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