To pint, or not to pint (An Editorial)

I have been noticing a disturbing trend.  Here are my thoughts on the topic of serving sizes.

Like most people that enjoy craft beer I want to know the volume of beer in my glass when out at a pub or restaurant.  Some people may assume this is only due to a person wanting more beer per glass but this is not the case.  Being a cost conscious person it is always good to know the cost vs. volume for the beer you enjoy.  It may be priced well for a full 20oz pint but horribly expensive for a 12oz sleeve.  As such, I am a big supporter of Camra Vancouver’s F.U.S.S. Campaign (Fess Up to Serving Sizes) that pushes for licensee’s to post what their serving sizes are.  We as consumers want to know if we are getting a Pint (20oz) or one of many sizes of sleeves (12oz, 16oz etc.).  Recently I have noticed a shift in this movement from outside of Camra though that disturbs me.   More than a few people have taken to Twitter and Facebook and gone on the offensive.  If a pub, restaurant, brewery or café is not serving a full 20oz pint they head to social media to dissuade people from being patrons of these businesses until they start serving pints.  These people have missed the point of the campaign!  Not all beer should be served in a pint glass.  Beers such as Barley Wines and other big flavour, big alcohol beer are better enjoyed in smaller glasses and as such the proper glassware for the style are smaller.  The aim of a night out drinking craft beer for many is not to get drunk but to enjoy the many flavours and Nuances of these well-crafted ales and lagers.  As long as the price matches the serving size these businesses might actually be doing you a favour.  Who doesn’t enjoy sitting down to a few different glasses of beer?  Let’s stop causing issues for our local businesses championing craft beer.  If they serve a “pint” that is under 20oz make a FUSS but otherwise just enjoy your great beer and remember it was not that long ago we had to hunt for a high quality draft beer.

Camra Vancouver’s F.U.S.S reading material

What are your opinions on the topic?

17 comments on “To pint, or not to pint (An Editorial)

  1. Jane says:

    Hear hear! As long as the size of the beverage and the price is properly displayed then I’m happy. I think I’d rather die than drink 20oz of a sour, no matter how good it may be. That’s just too much!

  2. mjmcnns says:

    Great point. It’s about transparency, not about stuffing as much high ABV booze into a glass.

  3. Agree! At Rogue I was served a high alcohol stout in a smaller glass and the waitress “warned” me and almost looked like she was afraid I’d be upset. I’m not sure if it’s part of the “serving it right” rules to do so, as she hinted, but I didn’t need a full 20 oz of that deliciously potent beverage!

    • I am not sure on the serving it right side but I know of a few people that get very mad and vocal if every and all beer is not served by the 20oz. It’s crazy! There is no way a 10% double IPA or 12% Stout should be served in that volume.

  4. terryhickey says:

    I really think it makes sense from a health and even safety perspective to have alcohol level and serving size (as well as equivalent standard drinks) for craft beer. Not just for consumers, but for servers and bartenders as well. I have no problem with beer being available in a pint, regardless of alcohol level, however it would be best offered in a smaller glass as the regular order and a pint as a double (much like a Keg sized wine serving). For example Craft Beer Market serves some of their stronger beer in 0.33L servings which is responsible and has serving sizes listed online, but no Alc content.

    • Well said. I only have two issues with Craft Beer Market. One is their prices are very high for even local craft beer. Second the standard in BC for the alcohol industry is oz not ml. I have to do a conversion to know if I am getting a 12, 16 or 20oz glass or some other non standard size.

  5. Hi Mike, good post!

    Thanks for your support of FUSS, it’s one of our key campaigns but it’s important that everyone understands exactly what it is.

    Pubs are legally required to publicly post the volumes of the drinks they serve, CAMRA just wants them to obey this law (so so the police according to John yap). However the BCLDB, Liquor inspectors, Councillors, the city of Vancouver, the Better Business Bureau and the police have no interest in enforcing this rule – we’ve spoken to them all, at length, many times. I would be happy to share some of their laughable-if-it-wasn’t-insulting replies.

    Some craft beer locations deliberately obfuscate their serving sizes – I’m sure most of you know of a few – to rip off consumers and fatten their margins and with no-one complaining and no one in authority enforcing the rules the drink sizes continue to shrink and shrink. The phenomena of “reverse-portion-creep” or “serving shaving” includes when you get half an inch of air in your glass. The only way this will stop is if people complain and/or vote with their feet so I support any consumer who feels they have been conned in this way.

    The 20oz discussion relates only to the use of the word “pint”, whilst the word is used casually in conversation to denote “a drink” it is in fact a legally defined volume of 20oz (16oz in the USA). So when somewhere says “pint” but you get a 10, 12,or 16 oz glass they are breaking the law. Again, not a law that the liquor inspectors feel like enforcing for some reason. I urge anyone who orders a pint and receives less than 20oz to complain to anyone they want via any means necessary.

    As consumers you should stand up for your rights, CAMRA wants to help and we try our best but unless individuals stand up for themselves instead of meekly accepting an $8 12oz “pint” this gouging will continue. Why do you think so many places are jumping on the craft beer bandwagon or trying to open breweries in Vancouver? Money. Lots of money. Specifically: your money.

    Serving it right actually has no bearing on it, if you’re drunk then you receive NO more drinks, not a smaller one – the drink size is supposed to be set at the beginning of the day (along with price) and that cannot be changed until the next day.

    Cheers for joining the conversation but let’s not harass the whistle-blowers for trying to make a difference, even if they’re not quite 100% right about the situation or being abrasive about it. At least they are ruffling feathers in an attempt to make things better for consumers.


    Adam Chatburn, President, CAMRA BC – Vancouver Branch

    • Hey Adam thanks for stopping in. I totally agree with everything you say with the exception of one thing. I think people causing issues because every beer they serve isn’t 20oz is not only crazy but it is a health and safety issues. A 10+% alcohol beer in 20oz glass will probably be followed by another. How often do you sit down just for one beer. There are many people that could get dangerously drunk off of two pint of big imperial beer. Not everyone pays attention to the alcohol content. Alcohol tolerance is different person to person. Bars that are very upfront of serving size, alcohol content and price are very angry with a few locals that are causing problems for their business.

      • terryhickey says:

        Good conversation here and I fundamentally agree with both points. I think the most interesting thing in the craft industry related to serving is the fact that beer alcohol levels have a significant range. When serving wine, I believe the max size is a 10oz serving while beer is a 24oz serving in a proper pint glass (unless it changed recently). Some of the beer is close to as strong as wine (if not stronger) and yet can be served in almost 2.5 times the size in a single serving in a glass that isn’t always conducive to sipping like wine.

        I agree with Mike in that punishing the responsible pubs that pour the stronger beer in a smaller glass AND are very upfront about it should not be punished, otherwise they may stop doing that. However, the places that falsely claim a pint but do not serve a pint deserve the noise repeatedly.

      • Hey Terry you put that very well. That is very interesting on the wine serving sizes also as I did not actually know that. Are you sure on the 24oz pours though/ I thought that 20oz was as large pour aloud.

      • There’s a few places that do 24oz servings these days – Bestie and Storm Crow both do.

      • I’m pleased that it’s stimulating this discussion but let’s make sure that we get the details / legal terminology correct and that we don’t harass vocal consumers just because we don’t agree.

        In BC, beer is not legally obligated to be served in 20oz pints unless it is advertised as “a pint”. That should be the end of that discussion, if someone feels that they should always be 20oz that’s their opinion and freedom of speech is one of Canada’s key rights (even if they are being annoying with it). Craft beer establishments should be able to receive negative feedback without requiring defence from the public.

        There are plenty of excellent establishments that proudly serve 20oz pints in the city (Tap & Barrel, Doolin’s etc) and are doing very well out of it, so anyone who wants a true pint can vote with their feet very easily.

        Terry, Beer can be sold in a 24oz glass but this is not a “proper pint” only 20oz is a pint.

        The health and safety argument very subjective but that’s where Serving it Right comes in. It’s not your call, it falls firmly on the server to judge.

        It’s also worth mentioning that higher alcohol beers in many other jurisdictions (such as the UK) are classified as wine (or even a spirit if very very high) so subject to wine/spirit serving sizes. Similarly, in the UK a server may refuse to sell a 20oz glass and offer a 10oz or 1/3 pint (or nothing) if an individual is inebriated and/or something is particularly boozy (scrumpy is a classic example), these being the only 3 sizes of beer legally permitted in the UK – although European legislation has eroded parts of this law it remains entrenched in the culture.

        Personally I support a similar law here where only legally approved glass sizes are allowed and marked glassware legislation is enforced because of the unscrupulous actions of a number of individuals and businesses.

      • I would love to see regulated glass sizes as well as regulated cleaning of tap lines come to Canada if not just BC. Some great beer are brought down by poorly cleaned lines.

  6. terryhickey says:

    Yes regulated tap line cleaning would be great, if enforced by food inspectors or anyone really. I like the 24oz glass as it allows for a proper pint pour (20 oz of beer and room for 2 fingers of foam) unlike in the UK where they messed up the law as you can only properly pour about 18oz of beer in a 20oz glass. I personally believe a proper “pint” is 20oz of liquid poured with the correct amount of foam for the beer…this is the ideal for me and a 24oz glass allows for it – you could probably get by with 22oz glasses, but some heavy carb and nitrogen beers would be under poured.

    I think glass regulation goes to far and hampers creativity, however serving size, alc level and standard drink equivalent is a must (all easily available information and required on bottles except standard drink equivalent). I prefer if a bar is upfront about these and then I can make a consumer based decision which is fair to all. It starts with alignment on the term pint which is very important, but listing the serving size would really help consumers.

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