Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Hop Press: A pint of imperial stout, please

This week’s Hop Press post is inspired by the Old Ale festival at The White Horse, Parsons Green. You see, the smallest measure of beer they served was a half pint and I don’t really think a half pint of 11% beer is all that sensible in the pub, especially when there are so many other (strong) beers you or I want to drink.

I think that so much of British drinking revolves around the pint glass but as the beers change the glasses need to also. I like third-pints but we don’t see them anywhere, plus I’d argue that they are seen as emasculating to your usual pint drinker (it’s a mentality-thing based on the principal that beer is served in a pint glass. Full stop). There was recent move to introduce a two-thirds glass but personally I think making the third-pint more visible would be better.

The nature of British beer is evolving and I think the vessels it is served in needs to evolve too. What do you think? Are you happy with a half-pint of imperial stout at a beer festival or would you rather it was served in a smaller glass? Or do you just want a full pint and be done with it.

I’ve only scratched the surface on this one. It’s a big area to look at, encapsulating the drinker, the drink, the history, the culture; it needs to look at who drinks what and the changing beer scene plus it needs to take into account the beer geek side of things… and the whole thing is wrapped up inside a ‘please drink responsibly’ banner.


  1. It would seem to me that the White Horse just couldn't be arsed to offer a sensible third pint option, or, worse, it didn't occur to them.

  2. Hell yes. I managed eight half pints at the White Horse Old Alefest before admitting defeat and my stay at the Pig's Ear was curtailed before I'd had the chance to try everything I wanted.

    Third-pint servings at festivals would allow you to drink a good range of beer without suffering the inevitable consequences of high ABV brews. I'd like to see more events offering them - not all of us are macho booze-hounds ;-)

    BTW, many congratulations on your recent award. Keep up the (award-winning) good work!

  3. Time to switch to metric! Then we can have 0.2, 0.3 and 0.5 litre glasses and choose the most suitable!

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  5. The Rake has been doing 3rd of a pint since March when we had our first Welsh Beer Festival. The glasses are easy to get hold of and not to expensive if you go to the right people.
    Even half a pint can be too much if the beer is over 10% and you are tasting lots of beers in one session.
    Part of the reason the White Horse might not have them is the M&B connection and it costing too much to change their till systems to accomodate the 3rd.

  6. Yes, the only bars I've seen third glasses in are The Rake and North Bar in Leeds. I'm surprised Pig's Ear didn't have them, as the offering would be ideally suited to a third measure, and I thought it was CAMRA policy to offer thirds at their fests.

    I don't think supping from one is counter to our beer culture. very high ABV beers are beyond our recent generations' experiences by and large. As you say Mark, a big area...

  7. Andrew, 3rds at both of those festivals would've been great and much needed so we could drink more, different beer. The festivals which showcase the stronger beers should make a particular effort to consider the 3rd option (The Third Option - not there's the title for my next piece on the 3rd glass!).

    Barm, no one can take away the pint!! Just give me a smaller version of one, one which can stack like Russian Dolls, perhaps.

    Rabidbarfly, I love that The Rake does thirds and I've ordered them many times (I even had a third of Nanny State!). It makes much more sense in an environment like that where people go to drink particular beers. A lot of pubs will find no need for them (Wetherspoons, for example - yet they are the ones who do use them twice a year! Go figure) but some should have them.

    It's a shame the White Horse didn't do thirds. I hope that next year for the American fest and the Old Ale that it will be an option.

    Sid, thirds fit into the way beer is developing in the UK. If all beer was 3%-5% then it'd be unnecessary but as stronger beers are brewed and sold so it becomes necessary to adjust the glasses.

  8. My local Ember Inns pubs, which I believe is M&B, have been trying to push 'buy three third of a pint tasters' for some time. I haven't had any use for them myself as I like drinking pints of 3.5% - 5% ABV beers down the pub!

    The stronger stuff I drink from bottles when I'm at home.

  9. Many CAMRA beer festivals now offer beer in 1/3 pint measures.I thnk the anti-CAMRA mentaltiy of too may beer bloggers (including you on occasion it saddens me to say) prevents CAMRA from being given credit for rather leading the field here.

  10. Spot on Mark, great post. One thing that I think you missed is pricing. A half should cost half the amount a pint does ... a third should cost a third of the cost of a pint. At the GBBF this year, the thirds and halves cost more than the pints (per unit). A shameful way to squeeze more money from the customer, if you ask me.