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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Maine Flirts with an Honest Pint

Yesterday, a ripple went through social media about a proposed bill in Maine that would make "cheater pints" illegal.  This is an issue dear to my heart, and one with which I have some history.  Years ago, I attempted (in my usual, half-assed bloggy way) to be an advocate for "Honest pints."  When you go to a gas station, you don't worry about getting 120 ounce gallons; a quart of milk may not be 29.2 ounces.  So why on earth should we allow a pint of beer to be 12-15 ounces, as it regularly is in pubs and restaurants around the country? 

That said, I'm not entirely sure Maine's strategy will be effective.  As that Guardian article describes (with, full disclosure, lots of quotes from me), this has already been a two-time loser.  It generally comes down to cost and enforcement.  Most everyone agrees that the idea is good (those willfully cheating customers excepted), but putting a regulatory and enforcement structure in place causes people to balk.  A point foes rush to make:
It was a point echoed by Sean Sullivan of the Maine Brewers' Guild. "We believe that crafting a beer-specific bill, targeting something that is already illegal, and shifting enforcement responsibilities to our already-overburdened liquor enforcement officials, would not be useful," Sullivan said.
I'm not actually convinced this is a legitimate argument (foes are never disinterested bystanders), but it does appear to be an effective one. Somehow the burden does not overwhelm the governments in Germany, the Czech Republic, and the UK.  The bill is completely vestigial now, and with public policy, the devil is always in the small print.  If they do pull it off, it could be a beachhead for future legislation.  Godspeed, Mainers, may you go where no Americans have gone before!


  1. A pint is a unit of measurement that equals 1/8 of a gallon. Unlike "craft beer", this is an objective fact.

    If you're selling me a pint that is less than said measure, you're ripping me off, pure and simple. I thought there already was legislation that addresses this issue. There's no need for a new law, all they have to do is to enforce the ones they have.

  2. In most cases it's not actually that straightforward. In order to be enforced, there needs to be an agency responsible for oversight, one that has agents who actually conduct the oversight and are given funds by the state. When Oregon was considering this, they didn't know which agency would/should be responsible, or how it would be implemented or who would do the actual oversight.

  3. Doesn't the US have someone who enforces weights and measures? I know in Canada a pint is a legal amount and should always be 20oz. In reality though the weights and measures folks don't give a rat's ass so nothing is ever done about it. Fraud is AOK depending on who does it sadly enough.

  4. The answer as ever is pretty simple, make using glasses with pint lines on them mandatory, and encourage the use of oversized glassed, with said line, so that the drinker can also get a proper head on their beer as well as 16oz of beer for a US pint.