Monday 1 March 2010

Pint Sized Pours

By way of an introduction to this observation, imagine for a moment that your dick shrinks by 20% overnight. Now consider that the British pint is 20oz while a US pint is 16oz...

I drink from a British nonic pint all the time; I have one by me now, the cupboard is filled with them and I have one at work for water. It’s the glass most pubs use, most of the time, and I’m warmly familiar with how it feels when it’s full, when it’s empty and all the way in between. There’s also a certain comfort to holding it, a feeling that it’s designed to snugly fit in the hand; the perfect size and weight to hold a drink. So, when a nonic of frothing, golden-orange beer slides across the bar to me in California, I think nothing of it, sensing a touch of the familiar with the excitement of the new... but that only lasted until I picked it up.

It was a 16oz nonic. Lighter, thinner, noticeably smaller and it didn’t fill the pocket of the hand. Imagine your dick shrinks by 20%... it’s weird. I can’t even remember what beer was in the glass, I was just fascinated by this slightly smaller glass in a very familiar shape (I was probably quite drunk at the time too, which didn't help).

This also, loosely, leads to the size of pours. The US doesn’t have the pint, half, third restrictions that the UK has, rather, you ask for a beer and depending on what it is and where you are it comes in a different and appropriate glass. Many ‘normal’ beers come in 16oz shaker glasses (which I like drinking beer from; they feel good in the hand, like a soft drink glass only more potently filled), but I was served 2, 4, 8, 10, and 12oz glasses, maybe other volumes too, in a wide variety of glassware. I like the freedom to pour different measures and it works perfectly for the wide range of beers on offer in many beer bars over there. To be honest, there isn’t the necessity to have this freedom in the UK, but I still like the idea of no preset amounts, which makes me think of a comment Zak made on this post about ordering beer in a financial volume rather than physical (£2 of beer, please). That’s an interesting idea.

I like that we have set measurements in the UK and I don’t want to change the pint, half and third. I would, however, like to see thirds more widely used in the pubs which need them (because they sell stronger beer) and more care taken over appropriate glassware, because, as good as a pint is, I don't always want to drink a pint of each beer I have and some beers are just better suited to particular shaped glasses.

I’m in a campaigning mood and want to kick off a few different ones... I’m thinking of starting one for a fifth-of-a-pint glass (about 4oz)... who is with me?! The day we get a one-fifth-pint in the UK will be the day extreme beer properly arrives. Bring It On!

The picture is a bit dodgy, I apologise. It shows two glasses from the Toronado, one of a just-finished saison (12oz glass, I think) and the other of an IPA in a shaker pint.


  1. It's like in the UK you have to buy bananas in bunches of five, while in the US you get as many bananas as the greengrocer wants to give you.

    There is a sane middle-ground between US mystery measures and the UK's authoritarian stemware.

  2. Our pub in upstate New York sells in a variety of glasses appropriate to the beer at hand. However, those typically served by the pint (16-oz) are also available in 12- and 8-oz pours.

    Thankfully the government is not so restrictive here of pubs.

  3. great point....ive lost count of the amount of times ive bought a pint of beer to only find that 3/4 the way down im either sick of it or feeling slightly tipsy due to it being of high strength.

    Also i have recently been to belguim where i think i had one pint in my whole time there. The smaller glasses work perfectly with the higher strength beers. Having said this i generally only see session ales in British pubs anyway,however as more peculiar beers get intorduced we defiantely need appropriate glassware!

  4. Beer Nut, I always split bananas. Five is too many for me. And where does this sane middle ground occur?! I'd like to go there.

    Chris, I like that you can get 12 and 8oz pours. Most of the time I wanted smaller pours of the beer so I could drink an extra one or two different ones (or just so that I didn't get too drunk too quickly!). I like the choice to have a variety of sizes depending on how I'm feeling too.

    Davie, In the UK a pint or half is usually ok but there are some that I'd like a bit less of. It might not work in the pub, but I definitely think bars who serve stronger beers should make an effort to offer three three different measures.

    There's also a mentality thing to drinking pints in the pub (as in - we are in the pub therefor we have to drink the beer in pints), but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  5. When you get to New York, head to Mugs Ale House in Brooklyn, which uses 20oz pint glasses for some of the beers.

    The lack of 'authoritarian' control of serving sizes is a double-edged sword in the US. There are some venues serving 14oz 'pints', and a campaign is underway to stop it. I haven't looked into it with any vigour yet, but I'm planning to...

  6. I find it very annoying that when I go to some bars in the US they will only serve a full measure even if you don't want it. Ok, Some bars do flights (samplers) but most of those are set menu and they suck. It's cool if you live there and have lots of time but, as you mentioned Mark, if you want to try a range of things you either end up pissed or leaving half a beer you paid good money for.

  7. I think the problem with the US system is not that the measures are free, it's that the units aren't standardised. If the word "pint" was legally defined as a particular capacity (or banned, and all measures described in ounces), I don't think anyone would be complaining.

    UK folk, how come this is an issue with beer, but you don't seem to mind that restaurants can give you as much or as little food as they like without telling you in advance?

  8. I get your angle about restaurants and it's a valid point in context, however, my hobby is beer not food.

  9. Your dick shrinks by 20% overnight?

    It your age, Dredgie you ought to be waking every morning with a chubby. If not, cut back on the grog.

  10. Sid, I can see the problem. As long as the price is reduced then I guess it's fair?

    Angelo, I like it when you can get a half, whatever size it is. As a tourist it's important to try as many beers as possible while avoiding the giddying choice of the flight!

    Beer Nut, interesting thoughts... If you define a pint then suddenly you fall into line and then need to define all other measures, surely? In terms of a plate of food... I guess that's just something we take as given. How can you define what quantifies a full plate? How often is there the need/ability to order half a plate of a meal?!

  11. Except when I'm in Belgium I've never really given beer glasses much thought. I'm quite happy with pints, though jugs are better than nonicks.

  12. Yes, you do need to define the other measures: but it's pretty much all already done in the UK through the Weights and Measures acts and SIs. As far as I can see, all you'd have to do is amend the bit which says "Note: Imperial measures shall only be used for measuring draft [sic] beer and cider", to quote The Measuring Instruments (Capacity Serving Measures) Regulations 2006, and it's foaming mass-krugs all round. Happy days.

    How often do you need to order half a plate of a meal? Any time the menu offers an option between starter and main course-sized portions for the same dish, and any time it offers large, medium or small servings of the same thing.

  13. This may be my capitalist heritage speaking, but I rather agree with Beer Nut on this one... and if I disapprove of how a beer is served in any way, well.. there's always the pub around the corner. Ultimately, the buyer drives the market. :)

  14. it would make no sense to standardize the term "pint" in US bars as nobody orders a pint. They order the beer by name. Just as each bar will charge a different price, they will also serve in a different size glass. Pay attention, ask questions and you'll get what you want out of the deal.

    Example: Mark visited Toad in the Hole in Santa Rosa. They served their beers in pints, but an Imperial pint is also available, as are 10 ounce pours. Paul also stocks the tulip glass (shown above) that holds 14 ounces.

    Finally, it also comes down to serving technique. An Imperial pint typically holds 16 ounces of beer and a proper head. Americans tend to not like the head on their beer, so a 16 ounce glass is common and filled to the rim. Those 14 ounce tulip glasses tend to be poured with a sizeable head for a 10-12 ounce pour.

    Confusing, not really. Order a beer, if you get a good beer in a decent volume and feel like you weren't ripped-off, then what difference does it make if it were 10, 12, 16, or 20 ounces? Got a problem with the price or with receiving less beer? Go somewhere else. Capitalism at work.

  15. Do we worry about the exact number of grammes in a Mars Bar? No, we worry about if it is satisfying enough for the price we have paid.

    Do I worry about the size of my dick and measure it every night? No, but I know when it satisfies.

    People who worry about size are sad.

    The volume of pour should be inversely proportional to ABV - it is simple. Perhaps the dispense measure should be units.

    "Would you like one unit or two, sir?"

    Rather than.

    "Would you like a half or a pint?"

    Perhaps we do not have the intelligence to do that?

  16. "Do I worry about the size of my dick and measure it every night? No, but I know when it satisfies."

    Or appears to. This is a peculiar obsession of yours Dave.(-;

  17. Mario

    Americans have between 40 and 46 million people without health insurance. Capitalism at work.

  18. A US pint isn't 20% smaller than an Imperial pint because a US fluid ounces is larger. Actually a US pint is 0.83267418463 of an Imperial pint.