Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Just a two-thirds for me please, mate

Would you order two-thirds of a pint? It seems that soon we might be able to. I like the idea in principle but the more I consider it the less I think it has going for it. As I commented on Tandleman’s blog, this could be a good thing for premium strength beers or for those people who have to drive and want a beer (a pint is too much of most beers to stay under the limit, but two-thirds just scrapes it). But my question is why bring out a two-third measure? Is it to cut down the volumes people drink? Or, is it, as the press release suggests, to add more flexibility to what volumes people can drink?

It may add flexibility but how many people will order two-thirds of a pint? A half is at least a credible measure, but two-thirds… It’s almost like saying I’ll have two-thirds of a pizza (what about the rest of it?!). The jump in volume (100ml more than a half, 190ml less than a pint) is not significant enough to make most go for two-thirds over a full, handsome, to the brim pint, or a cheeky little half for the road. On top of this, will many pubs even serve two-thirds? The Rake is the only bar I know that even sells thirds, and that is a very specialist beer bar. Other than that, I only know of a few larger beer festivals which offer thirds as a measure. Will two-thirds be any different to the third?

Maybe a two-third can be saved for stronger beers (6% ABV, say), but is this really likely? For 6%-8%, maybe, but beyond this wouldn’t you just go for a half? I don’t think this is about the beer in the glass and I don’t think it comes off the back of binge drinking, so it’s just about consumer choice, it seems.

Another thing, which I’ve only noticed while working on this, is how awkward it is to say, think and write ‘two-thirds’; it just doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t sit well with me - I can't imagine ever ordering one.

One important point is that British drinking revolves around the pint glass. Us beer geeks drink thoughtlessly by the half, but in reality – in the actual pub – how many people order half pints? Maybe it’s stoic machismo, maybe it’s just habit, but we go to the pub for a few pints. The pint won’t be lost because if it is then it’ll take the soul of British beer with it, but can it work alongside a slightly smaller glass? For me, this whole two-third-thing falls on the questions: who will order two-thirds of a pint? And, why will they order it? I don’t know the answer to either.


  1. Why does it matter? Frankly, I think the idea of government-sanctioned beer measures is daft. How come it's not applied to sausages or toffees?

    My local serves some draught beers by the pint, some by the half-litre, some by the 33cl glass. They make it clear which is which.

    Where's the screaming about nanny controlling your beer measures?

  2. Not sure I understand a measure being the "soul of British beer". Drinking in the same place as TBN, we'd still be "going for a pint", even if it was 500ml. It's the drinking together that provides the soul, not the vessel.

    Of course, if you don't like asking for two-thirds, you could ask for 187.5ml. Why not go the full hog and use a proper measurement system? Over here, go to Cologne and you normally get 0.2l (more than two-thirds and there's no slagging off), get pils anywhere in 0.3l, get pretty much anything, anywhere in 0.4l or 0.5l and of course, 1l down south-east.

    Mmmmm, Metric ;)

  3. If I'd known you were having a spiritual experience I'd have drunk faster.

  4. I proudly order halves in the pub. Perhaps two-thirds might come in useful when you're out for a big session and don't want the "embarrassment" of drinking in halves?

    I don't see anything wrong with pubs offering 2/3 measures as long as they're not forced to. But I don't really see them taking off in all honesty.

  5. No, there not likely to take off. The pint is going to be here for a while.

    I really agree with Beer Nut though, providing it's made clear what measure you are serving, I'd like to see a little more flexibility over measures. I think a 6% beer would be better in a twother. An 8% in a half. Also, some draft Belgian beers have to have their branded glasses re-stamped for use in the UK. Guess what? 1/2 pint is smaller than 330ml. Perhaps we're loosing out?

  6. Beer Nut, it doesn't *really* matter, I just don't understand the point. I'm all for having different shapes and sizes of glasses but more to think about in terms of price and getting everything sorted to be able to introduce the measure.

    Barry, yup, soul is the people, I have a habit of getting carried away (I need an edit to keep me in check!) - the pint is the quintessential image of British drinking (be that good or bad...). And yes, I guess we'd still be going for a pint even if we only ordered less.

    Dubbel, I happily order halves too, it doesn't bother me, it's just I rarely see anyone else with half pints (unless it's you, of course, drinking two at once!).

    Dave, flexibility is good but don't you think it comes down to a deeper Britishness in the whole thing. I like tulip glasses and snifters but some people see beer only in pint glasses. I'd like more branded Belgian-style glasses in the pub for draft beers, but like you say, these would need to be re-stamped.

    Dave, out of interest, do you serve thirds? And would you serve twofers if someone asked for it in the future? Is the beer priced up to allow them? Do you have glasses to accomodate?

    It's an interesting idea, we'll have to see if it actually makes it into the pub or not...

  7. This is a lot like other aspects of beer and beer retailing. The wish list of bloggers is unlikely to reflect demand generally. I'm a big supporter of clarity in selling beer (and anything else sold by weight or volume) and variety of measures would to me, be confusing to the customer who is used to standard measure. So it might be Nanny State but in this case, I'm clinging to Nanny's skirts.

    I agree with Dave - an old hobby horse of mine - that we need improved glassware all round in this country, but it doesn't logically mean we must have new (or metric) measures.

    As for the soul of British beer being the pint - it is - though half pints are fine too in my book. As a sort of aside, it is strangely anomalous to see our Irish bloggers blithely deriding it and suggesting replacements. I didn't know that metric measures were legal in Ireland though. Thanks for that info BN. (Must be an EU subsidy available for it then.) (-;

  8. Ireland is completely metrified (is that a word?). I think the pint is the only anomaly now. As a former surveyor, I like the metric system, and I don't think it's anomalous. We simply saw the shape (or measure) of things to come and broke the final ties to the empire, or some such shite ;o)

    Personally I think metrification happened after all the "Oirish Pub" manufacturers took all the old road signs for the ready-made pubs they were exporting...

  9. I'd like to see beer dispensed by value. I like the idea of ordering £2 worth of beer.

  10. Now there's forward thinking for these recessionary times! :D

    Why is the verification word on this comment "inerdo"? Is it trying to tell me something?

  11. I love the pint glass and i will always drink from it but the 1/3 glass has it's uses, especially when you are only in a pub for a short time and they have lots of ales to try, granted the 1/2 glass does the job but sometimes it's just too much if there are lots of beers to try.

    So for as far as trying new beers goes i think its a great idea, however i don't think it will ever (or should ever) replace the pint glass.

    what i do find strange is bottle sizes, they seem to come in 330 or 500 for most beers - why not have a full pint bottle like the bombardier ones?

  12. The point, Mark? Freedom!
    /paints face blue

    I'm not blithely deriding the pint, Tandleman. I'm blithely deriding the notion of a state-sanctioned beer measure, whatever that may be. I don't find the pint at all funny. (The gill cracks me up every time, though; and the cubic metre will induce at least a wry smile.)

    While pubs here may sell beer in whatever measures they want, they are obliged to display prices "per pint or 568 millilitres of at least one kind of draught stout, ale, lager and cider [and] per bottle of a capacity of 330 millilitres of at least one kind of stout, ale, lager and cider". That doesn't really count as having a concept of "legal measures" though.

  13. Surely the easier thing to do is to give the glass a name? In Germany a 0,3l is just a "klein". And very handy it is too, when you fancy something refreshing but not a full pint (or 0,5l over here).

    The biggest obstacle for me with drinking halves (half pints...) is that the glasses are usually terrible. Much better when they're a good design, rather than looking like a cheap Tesco tumbler.

  14. What we are really talking about is sixths. The difference between a half and a twother is a sixth. (As is the difference between a third and a half). A mouthful, that's all. And what's more, I can't believe I have just left this comment .... but at least my moderation word verification is "exesswee". Mark, are you making these up ?

  15. 2/3rds Pint Glasses are an awesome idea. They will do a lot to promote a better beer culture in the UK and a better understanding and range of beer.
    Up until now, bars do not want to stock our 6% Punk IPA as it is too much alcohol and price in a pint glass. A 6% IPA on draught served in a bar in a 2/3 pint glass is perfect and something I would love to drink!

    I think pint glasses are a terrible way to serve any beer.

    James, BrewDog

  16. I am inclined to agree with Tandleman. Unless something radical that I haven't foreseen happens, pubs are not going to start stocking a weird new size of glass, and drinkers are not going to start ordering them. The third pint has been legal forever, and practically nobody uses them.

  17. Zak, now there's an idea - beer taps like petrol pumps!!

    Moggy, 1/3s are good at beer festivals like GBBf where there's loads you want to drink, especially when there are strong ones on. In the pub it still works, just not so well - how many people drink a 1/3 of 4% session ale?! It's oxymoronic!

    Richard, nice suggestion, that'd make a difference. I like some half pints but hate others - small guinness glasses, for example, I hate because they are tiny. DarkStar make excellent half pints, oversized.

    Steve, yes, I hide silly words in the verification to see if people pick them out :) (if only i could!!)

    James, pint glasses are a great way to serve beer! and I'll drink a pint of Punk anytime I see it. I can see it from the bars perspective though, but still. This is one of the examples where a 2/3 glass works best, but then it's a specialist beer and would probably call for a brewdog font on the bar, etc, as a showpiece.

    Barm, exactly!

  18. Hi Mark,

    Really interesting to hear your thoughts on the new 2/3 pint. As you mentioned while it could have a positive impact on premium strength beers, we think this is significant news for women.
    I work for an initiative called BitterSweet Partnership, which has been set up by MolsonCoors Brewers to address some of the myths and stereotypes surrounding beer, and we have found that the beer serve itself is often key to women’s perceptions of it. Our research tells us that a quarter of women in the UK would consider beer if the glassware was changed. But it’s not just the size of pints that puts women off, it’s the whole design. As well as new measures we’d like to see manufacturers starting to take cue from the Continent, where different shaped glasses are used to serve beer – interestingly, while many women don’t like to drink beer in the UK, a fifth do opt for beer on holiday. It will be interesting to see if the new 2/3 pint will open the door for this kind of change, and hopefully we will see more women enjoying beer. You can check out our website here www.bittersweetpartnership.com. We’d be interested to know what you think!

    Laura, On behalf of the BitterSweet Partnership

  19. Laura, I'm all for different shaped glasses and I think it'd be a good move, but I worry that it's too specialist to work in the 'everyman' (or woman, of course) pub. The glass is very important, but it goes way deeper than that, I think.

    Interesting that a fifth of women drink beer on holiday... it suggests that it is perhaps the pub environment that needs changing, not the glass? It's a difficult area.

    I just wonder if pubs/bars would actually even bother to sell 2/3s.