If I wanted water, I would have asked for water.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Honest Pint Project Update

Where We Started
If I had known seven months ago that a posting on this rather, ahem, modestly-trafficked website would result in a story in the Wall Street Journal (among others), I may have approached it with a little more intention. My main goal was to raise awareness of the issue, not be a firebrand for a major policy change. And certainly not Portland's pint-glass cop. I guess you could say that the goal has been accomplished--awareness raised. Unfortunately, I should have considered these issues more carefully and had a plan:
  • Are 16-ounce glasses adequate? Most Portland pubs now using shaker pints use the 16-ounce version, but of course, that means a pour of 13 or 14 ounces.
  • Should shaker glasses just be verboten, since it's nearly impossible to distinguish between 14 and 16-ounce versions?
  • How manageable would it be to police this? In starting the HPP, was I signing up as the cop?
  • What was the endgame--encouragement of pubs to switch to honest pints, or a statutory change to enforse it?
Where We Are Now
Thanks to seven months of experience, I'm now prepared to answer some of those questions. Given the total lack of clarity surrounding shaker pints, I declare them a wholesale blight on the concept of an honest pint. I will henceforth only cite those pubs that serve glasses of 18 ounces or more. Since this is a spirit-of-the-thing endeavor, I think the spirit of a "pint" demands that you get a pint of liquid. I will cite as Purveyors of an Honest Pint those places that serve a full liquid pour of 16 or more ounces, so I'm drawing the line for glassware at eighteen.

I am not a cop. I love Oregon beer and have an unreasonable optimism about retailers' sense of fair play, and so rather than try to catch out the bad guys, I'm going to celebrate the good guys. For now, that's what I, as an unpaid blogger, can manage.

Where We're Headed
I will support a statutory change if it comes to that--and maybe it should. However, I think the most effective change would be to certify certain glasses as honest and leave aside an enforcement mechanism. Instead, pubs could advertise their state-certified 18- or 20-ounce glasses. That would allow consumers to make their own judgment about places that didn't use certified glassware--effectively making it a market-based enforcement. (Imagine how many people would go to gas stations where a "gallon" was not a certified unit of measure.) It would save a lot of money and reward good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior.

11 comments:

Joe said...

Thanks for being out in front of this. I think a simple solution was touched on in the WSJ article. A sticker on the door of establishments that pour a pint of beer. A stipulation to putting the sticker on your door would be to have a pyrex measuring cup behind the bar and if someone asked to verify their glass size it would be. I like that you're trying to draw attention to those that do it right and this, in my opinion would be a way to do it.

Jeff said...

Just caught mention of this from the WSJ via the Consumerist and I'm all for it.

Do you have somewhere that we can list our local purveyors that are selling honest pints?

jhickey said...

A little nostalgia. Back in the late 1940's or early 1950's beer on tap at most bars along Third Ave, ManhattenNy was 10 cents a glass of 8oz.The topic of the day when the breweries raised thier price was do we go with a 6oz glass and keep it at 10 cents or go with a price of 15cents and keep it at 8oz.

Anonymous said...

I really don't mind if an establishment uses Shakers - just don't call it a pint. Let us know what the volume is going to be before we order so that we can make an informed decision on the cost we will pay for a speciffic volume of beer. Truth In Advertising!

Jjfwells

zak@portlandbeer.org said...

I dig the idea behind the HPP, and I dislike the 14oz shakers as much as the next guy, but some of your new resolutions present problems to me.

To me, "a pint" always referred to the glassware, not necessarily the exact volume of beer. I order a pint GLASS filled with beer, not necessarily 16 fl. oz of liquid.

Similarly, people generally do not order "pitchers" of beer by their fluid ounce denotation - they order it by the glassware ("I'll have a pitcher, please").

But the biggest problem I see is that 18oz is an odd size choice. As far as a quick Google search tells me, Libbey, the most popular restaurant glassware supplier, only makes a 18oz schooner glass, a heavy and unwieldy drinking vessel - not a good universal beer glass. I seriously doubt the feasibility of getting purveyors to throw away their perfectly good 16oz shakers and purchase all new goblets, all so that they can increase their pour costs and break their waitstaff's arms with untold pounds of glass.

The more likely scenario is that bars would switch to the similarly shaped (but more easily broken) British/Imperial Pint, or the 20oz tulip glass. The bad side effect I would expect is that it would almost guarantee price raises by as much as a dollar, which I can't get behind either.

I'd rather bars employ an honest sliding beer scale where they offer several different sizes of beer, giving me the price and volume info beforehand.

ie:
14oz - $3.50
22oz - $5
48oz - $8

Bill said...

Jeff, good job! The HPP is a very cool idea. That's why it's attracting attention.

I agree with Zak that you shouldn't get caught up on the number of liquid ounces. The emphasis should be on "honest", not "pint". For example, Hopworks' mugs come up shy of a pint, but they are 100% honest, with a 0.4 liter mark imprinted in the glass.

Jeff Alworth said...

Zak and Bill--thanks for the comments. It's a thorny issue, and one I've put my muddled little brain to more than a few times. I am going to go ahead and stick with the definition for the purposes of this blog for the sake of clarity--which is the most important piece of the HHP.

->It is about honesty, but it's mostly about pints. I have no beef with anyplace that serves a "glass" of beer. That's honest. But a pint is a pint is a pint. You don't go into a service station with the assumption that the "gallons" you're buying may only be 120 ounces.

->It may be the case that there are few 18 ounce glasses, but the purpose of my project was to create clarity for the consumer, not solve a market issue. I may be wrong on this, but I do think that when people order a pint, they're really assuming a good-faith effort has been made to serve them a pint of liquid. For clarity's sake, we should just make it formal, and that's the road I'm taking.

-> My solution relies heavily on the British model, which is based on the amount of liquid patrons receive, not the size of the glass.

Nothing's perfect, but I think this is a good compromise.

Henry Halff said...

There was a time when the chain restaurant, Bennigan's, advertised and poured an honest pint. They even had a mark on their 18 oz glasses. I don't know whether this is still the case.

And in England (where the pints Imperial), the publican tops fills the glass to overflowing and scrapes off the head, thereby guaranteeing that you get an honest pint. Naturally, a lot of beer goes on the towel.

Rich said...

I found the WSJ article fascinating and when they referred me to your honest pint project I really enjoy your noble ambition here. I'm doing a post on this unfortunate trend on my site and will make mention of you. Check it out on Democracysdrink.com - ceers.

Anonymous said...

NPR story was well done. You have made a valid point and I hope more people will support this movement. Business owners and beer enthusiasts unite and make the HONEST PINT - Right!!

d2m said...

Cheers to you for taking this on. When you say "20oz" glass in the list of pubs and breweries serving the right way, dont we have the same problem? Namely these places largely advertise as serving imperial pints (20oz). But unless there is no foam and they fill all the way to the top, it's the same as a 16 oz glass with foam or some room left at the top. Unlike the UK where they have an actual line on the glass indicating 20 oz and there's another couple of ounces left after it reaches that line. Cheers!

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