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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advice to Retailers

On the Rogue post below, a frustrated anonymous commenter asked the following question in what I take to be good faith, if not model diplomacy:
I'm confused. If I'm serving beer in in a 16 oz. capacity glass, but with a one-finger head, do you want me to mark it as "approximately 14 ounces" on my menu? And since beer foam is usually about 25% beer, do you want me to say it's actually 14.5 ounces, even if it's technically only 14 ounces of beer when it makes it into the customer's hand?

And if I switch to Imperial Pints, do I call it a 20 oz. pint like your beloved Bailey's, or do I call it a 19.8 ounce Imperial Pint, since the box sez they actually only hold 19.8 ounces. Then there's the foam issue again... Please advise, because I really don't know what you want me to do here in order to comply with your rules.
Let's step back. The Honest Pint Project is not designed to enforce rules. Rather, the two goals are:
  1. Increasing transparency so consumers know what they're paying for;
  2. Encouraging retailers to serve 16 ounces of liquid when their menus refer to "pints."
Anon, I encourage you to switch to imperial pints in your establishment. On your menu, you can call them imperial pints. The reason they're a shade below 20 ounces is because the volume standard comes from the UK, where the measure is slightly different from the American standard. But the key thing here is that an imperial pint is a known, fixed volume--it provides the customer with the information to make an informed decision about pricing, and provides a full 16-ounce pour (or more) for those who are unaware of British volumes.

If your establishment uses 16-ounce glasses, it won't qualify as a "Certified Purveyor of an Honest Pint," but I won't be designating it an, ahem, rogue pub, either. The goal here is to encourage good behavior and transparency, not punish pubs using 16-ounce glasses. (I can't promise that I won't post names of pubs using 14-ounce or smaller glasses that they are trying to pass off as "pints"--though I'm not about to become a pub cop.)

As to what you should call 16-ounce glassware, I don't have a good suggestion. You have ably described the problem with those glasses in your question.


  1. So I'll once again chime in and say the same old thing. I believe it is a mistake to confuse poor pouring of beer as somehow a dishonest - it is an honestly shitty deal. I think transparency is the key - the dishonesty is trying to pass off a 14oz beer for a 16oz beer without your customers knowing. A bad pour is known to all as long as the glass is the volume it is supposed to be.

    If you advertize pints, your glasses should be 16oz (or more if you prefer). Then if your pour me a 2 inch head, I'll be an unhappy customer but at least I know what I am gettting. I don't see how 20oz imperial pints are in any way better. It is precisely the same story, if you (like Deschutes) list on your menu "20oz Imperial Pint" and serve me a beer in a 20 oz glass, then again a 2 inch head will piss me off.

    The key in both cases is that I know what I am getting.

    I think your desire for some "more honest" standard just confuses the issue. Why can't a pub offer a 12oz glass of beer a 16oz and a 20oz for example. Is this somehow dishonest (I think Rock Bottom does somethign along these lines)? I think it is pretty simple: if you call it a pint, it had better be a 16oz glass. Full stop.

    The problem in my mind is you are fighting two battes. One for the customer who would not otherwise know any better but the other is a fight customers can wage themselves. In trying to do both you are only making your campaign less effective.

  2. You are on the record, my good man. I believe your goals, were to to be heading this initiative, would be slightly different than mine. Fair enough.

    There are a lot of ways to think about this, and for you, a 16-ounce glass solves it. Even if that were the only issue, I don't think it solves the problem for a lot of people, because they believe a "pint" means 16 fluid ounces. But the worse part of this is that it's impossible to tell a 16-ounce glass from a 14-ounce glasss. And no amount of policing can reassure patrons. It's a messy world, and when 14 ounce glasses can be passed off as 16-ounce glasses, we have to look to a different standard. Or anyway I do. You have lodged your complaint, and I recognize it.

    As for this, I've been totally clear from the start:

    Why can't a pub offer a 12oz glass of beer a 16oz and a 20oz for example.

    It can. And if it does accurately label its glassware, it will get kudos from me. That's why I don't have any issue with Hopworks.

    You think the campaign is "less effective" for upholding a higher standard than a straight 16-ounce glass (I assume you mean the positioning is less clear, for we have no dataset on either side for judging its effectiveness), but the dozens of commenters I've seen over the past year disagree. You gotta pick a battle; I've picked mine.

  3. I agree with Jeff.

    The issue of 14 oz - glasses being passed off as "pints" -- well, that's just theft. (Note: "being passed off as." If they're sold as "glasses of beer," well, then, caveat emptor. But calling them pints is lying. I think we can all pretty well agree on this.)

    A pint of beer should not be served in a pint glass; doing so insures you get either less than a pint of beer from the get-go or a sloppy headless pour that's likely going to be spilled by the server anyway. And none of this "foam is necessary and is roughly 25% beer anyway. " I want 16 oz of liquid beer! Charge me whatever you need to to make a living for 16 oz of liquid PLUS a decent modest head and if the beer is good I will happily pay it.

    A pint of beer should be in a larger-than-a-pint glass; why not in imperial pints with a marked fill line at 16 oz? Above the fill line is foam and slosh room.

    Alternatively, don't call them pints. Hopworks is an excellent model -- they sell 40 cl of beer in marked glasses -- with a 40 cl fill line that leaves room above for foam in a glass that's actually 50 cl capacity.

    I do agree that it's sort of missing the point to advertise "20 oz imperial pints" when you're serving in said glasses -- better to just call them pints and point out they're served in 20-oz glasses.