The first article was Pete Brown's take on the possible introduction of a beer glass somewhere between the pint and the half pint in British pubs. I buy his argument: given the variety of alcohol content in contemporary beers and various levels of inebriation we seek out for medical, practical and hedonistic reasons — it makes perfect sense to allow us to binge drink in increments of our choice.
The second article hit closer to home and raised more irk in me: the OnBeer blog article about the interpretation of "pint" in Canada. The argument in this article is that, unlike in Britain "serving sizes are not regulated in Canada – a bartender can serve beer in whatever size glass suits their fancy."
Now Jason from OnBeer is not endorsing this sorry state of affairs. He is making the astute observation that Canadian pubs are not obligated to serve beers in specific sized glasses (fair enough), but also that some of them may actually offer "pints" or respond to orders of a "pint" with a serving that is anything but a pint (not fair enough).
Most Canadians seem to have bought into this conspiracy that "pint" just means "big glass". Most probably don't know that the Canadian Weights and Measures Act explicitly defines a pint as 1/8th Gallon (568ml = 20 imperial fluid ounces), which is the same as a British pint (as opposed to a US "pint" which is only 473ml = 16 US fluid ounces). Most don't care, they just drink the stuff. But you'd expect a barman to know, wouldn't you?
Being a smartass, smallbeer conducted an experiment to see how knowledgeable and scrutable our city's fine publicans are when it comes to selling stuff to drunk people.
To discover whether Victoria publicans know what a pint is, and whether they sell pints that are actually non-pints.
a. I put on a telemarketer's voice and phoned 16 of Victoria's pubs
b. I asked to be put through to the bar manager or a member of bar staff
c. I asked these three questions:
1. What serving sizes do you sell your beers in?
(If any of their answers were "pint", then:)
2. How many millimeters or ounces is in your pint?
3. Are you aware of the legal definition of a pint?
Missing data: Now, some of the bar staff either refused to or could not answer 2 or 3. Some also just said "16oz" or something other than "pint" in answer to question 1; god bless them for their honesty, but they ruined the rest of the research design. Some of them got upset when I said the word "legal" and hung up on me. Chillax people!
I decided therefore to keep the pubs' identities anonymous, as my intention was not to embarrass or annoy anyone. (However, if you're interested in the sample range, all but two of the pubs are listed on this site).
Here are the answers from each pub. (Just to be clear, a legal Canadian pint is 568ml = 20oz)
Draught beer: You may serve draught beer in single servings
of no more than 24 oz (680 ml) or smaller servings of multiple
brands, provided the total served at one time is no more than 24
oz (680 ml). For reference, a Canadian pint is 568ml. Pitchers
or other multiple serving containers shared by two or more
patrons may contain no more than 1.5 litres of draught beer.
Oh, and the same document clearly defines "sleeves" (that other massively variable measure of beer) as 14oz, so go figure. ]]]
Serving a "pint"
Well. Bearing in mind that the legal "pint" is 568ml=20oz, Victoria pubs do a fairly poor job. Of the 7 pubs who claimed to serve a "pint", only 2 served a legal pint. In a Victoria pub, a drink that is described openly as a pint may be as small as 14oz, or as large as a 20oz. Both pubs that claimed to serve sleeves (14oz) are guilty of under-serving (both serve 12oz).
Defining a "pint"
Out of 16 pubs, only 10 pubs agreed to guess what the legal definition of a "pint" is. 2 Pubs got it correct, but one of those pubs admitted to deliberately serving 2oz less than a pint. One pub thought that a 20oz serving was illegal, although I'll put that one down to the alleged older guidelines in BC pertaining to a 500ml upper-limit.
Draw your own… I'm not one of these die-hard Englishmen who insists on a "real" pint of beer. But I'd like to get a pint if that's what's being sold to me. OnBeer are correct — the size of a pint is legislated, but it probably isn't regulated too actively, judging by the scope of serving sizes that are passed off as a pint in Victoria.
Of course, the saddest and most upsetting part of this whole study is that I have learned over the last two hours that I am almost completely incapable of operating a spreadsheet program, and most certainly crippled in my ability to publish a spreadsheet to the internet in any sort of readable form.
I blame the BC Liquor Board.