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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Honest Pints - 1991 Edition

Tonight I'll be headed off to taste Irish whiskeys and an 11-year-old stout with the eminent Stuart Ramsay. Although he is now known for his knowledge of whiskeys (or whiskys--Scotch is a specialty), he was at one time a beer writer for the Oregonian. And yesterday he forwarded me an article from 1991 that left my mouth agape. I have long tried to credit my predecessor at Willamette Week, William Abernathy, with launching the cheater pint crusade that I picked up in the honest pint project.

But I thought I had at least given the thing shape in the form of a name. Well, turns out even that was (however unwittingly) an appropriation. Here's Ramsay, writing almost exactly 18 years ago in a piece titled "An Honest Pint for a Fair Price."
To further complicate the issue, the customer is often the recipient of dishonest pours. The pint glass served in our drinking establishments is a "shaker" or "mixer" glass, and contains 16 ounces of liquid only when filled to the very rim. Distributors and tavern keepers know full well that foam equals profit. A glass with a half inch of head contains 14 ounces of actual beer; three quarters of an inch means 12 ounces of beer. In the chart, I calculated the fair price based on 15 ounces of beer. To give an example, the net profit on a keg of Widmer's at $2.75 a pint with a typical 14 ounce pour would be $308.50. With 142 "14oz." pints in the keg, the fair price works out to be $2.01 a pint. In Britain and many European countries, glasses have a line marking the true measure, and it is illegal to pour below this mark.

It seems that some form of consumer protection is required, to act as a watchdog or ombudsman over the breweries, distributors, and retailers, to encourage responsible drinking and pleasant gathering places, and to ensure an honest, fresh pint at a fair price.
So there you have it, the first stirring of the Honest Pint Project, written about three weeks after I turned 21. Obviously, I am very, very late to the party

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems that some form of consumer protection is required, to act as a watchdog or ombudsman over the breweries, distributors, and retailers, to encourage responsible drinking and pleasant gathering places, and to ensure an honest, fresh pint at a fair price.

= a) CAMRA,or
= b) Big Government.

Please, I beg of you, before you find yourself as the "big government" guy, please refine your message, which should be that a pint is a beer served in a 16-ounce capacity glass, not in a 14-ounce cheater glass.

You have no idea what a shitstorm of a backlash you would create if you tried to ramrod some legal measurement system into place. Not to mention the cost of sending literally hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of glass to the landfill. You will get death threats! All over some over-eager semantics. Please think this through some more Jeff!

Jeremy in SE PDX said...

Chill out, Anonymous.

The piece you quoted wasn't even Jeff -- it's him quoting Ramsay, 18 years ago, out of historical interest -- and to give credit where credit is due.

Take some time and read the backstory on Jeff's "take" on this. His one of the calmest, most refined, most well-thought-through, most reasonable and most polite prolonged discourses on these here interwebs.

--JT

Jeff Alworth said...

Jeremy, thanks for the kind words. I do try my best to be non-ideological and transparent here. And you're right--I was just trying to give some credit where credit is due.

Jim said...

Sierra Nevada Tap Room in Chico, CA now uses the "honest pint" line in its glasses. Yep, one gets an honest pint....

dr. brew said...

Sierra Nevada Tap Room, Chico, CA now serves more "honest pints." Their glasses have a clearly marked line for 12/16 oz.

How refreshing from an honest brewery.

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