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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Secret Shame of Beervana: Cheater Pints

When I did my review of Amnesia, there transpired an interaction I did not mention. As most readers know--whether they know they know or not--the traditional "pint" glass used in pubs across the state (and US) do not hold 16 ounces of beer. If you pour a bottle out into one of these glasses and manage the traditional head, you know what happens--it goes right to the top. You could squeeze an ounce or two more in there if you skipped the head, but you'd have to bend the laws of physics to fit in a pint. These glasses were originally designed to shake mixed drinks in, which is why they're dense and stackable, and also why they're known as "shaker pints."

I mentioned this to the table of friends when we are at the Amnesia, and they were shocked. So shocked, in fact, that they didn't believe me. So much did one of my friends disbelieve me that she brought the waiter over to set me straight. I stuck to my guns, and so he went to fetch a measuring bowl. Sure enough, 13 ounces and change. All were mollified, mystified, and mortified. The waiter apologized and said he couldn't believe they were shorting folks.

But let us not pile on Amnesia--shaker pints are the standard in Portland. The crime of the cheater pint was once revealed by Willamette Week writer William Abernathy, who used to cruise around to pubs and pour out glasses into a Pyrex measuring bowl. He managed to shame a number of pubs into going to real pints, and inspiring others to go for 20-ounce imperial pints.

But alas, cheater pints have taken over. There's a current thread discussing the matter on the Brew Crew's listserv, and I'm surprised by how many folks were unaware of this practice. With prices edging up toward five bucks, maybe it's time to re-start the shaming. Or at least offering a list of "honest pints" so informed consumers know where to go. But who would do the research?

(Note: I'll be out of town and offline until Monday. I hope you have this all figured out by the time I return. Cheers.)


  1. I like the shaker pints at home, because a bottle of beer fits perfectly and a real pint glass would always leave me feeling slightly unsatisfied by a 3/4 full glass. But I am always amused that I am served one when I order a 'pint' of beer. God bless the Brits who not only serve beer in big beautiful imperial pint glasses, but no publican worth his or her salt would be caught dead not filling it right to the very brim.

  2. I've been served "pints" of beer in all kinds of glasses from shakers to imperials (usually at the really good beer bars) to this one which I'm not sure the name of but it had me wondering if I got shorted by a few ounces. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed by the beer drinking community.

    By the way, thanks for your advice back in November. My trip to Portland was outstanding.

  3. Perhaps we should start a campaign where people order by the cup or, better, the gill?

    I think starting a record of this would be good, so that it would be easier to compare somewhere that charges $4 for a proper pint and somewhere that charges $3.50 for a cup and a half.

  4. Drunken Blog Troll12:09 PM, February 19, 2007

    It seems to be a business standard to call a Shaker Pint a "Pint!" I always demand my glass be filled to the brim with beer.... Head? Maybe a millimeter! I'm sure we've all been served those "Profit Pours," where the beer has a 1.5 inch head and falls to a 1/2 inch loss of beer. Trust me people, they're making a killing on a PINT of beer, accept nothing less than a full SHAKER Pint or go to a quality brewery or beer pub that serves Imperial Pints....

  5. Sort of like a 2x4 - which at Home Depot is now 1.75" by 3.5".

  6. I think I may start reviewing pubs with a mind to cost per ounce. Having a list of "Value Authorized" pubs would be a service to the world, no?

    Who's with me on the research? You need a pyrex bowl and courage (pouring out beer isn't for the weak-hearted). It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.