15 June 2010

How Bars REALLY Pour Your Beer--Short, in many cases!

It's long been an open secret that most bars serving "pints" of beer aren't serving you 16 fluid ounces of beer.  Try pouring a 12-ounce bottle into your bar's "pint" shaker glass, and see if it has lots of room for head, little room for head, or no room at all.

But here's a quote from a pizza restaurant trade publication, PMQ, telling us how sneaky the practice has become, and the mindset entailed (entire article, which focuses more on servers helping themselves and giving friends free beer, here):

It’s also important to know how many servings you should get from a keg. For example, most owners know there are 1,984 ounces in a 15.5-gallon domestic keg, and they know they pour 16-ounce pints, so they assume 124 servings per keg. However, with the evolution of the 14-ounce pint glass (in combination with ½” head), they should expect closer to 155 servings per keg. At $4 per serving, that adds up to $124 per keg in lost revenue!  Determining how much you’re actually pouring is a vital step to reducing shrinkage.
Is that wrong?  Well, if the beer is priced accordingly--i.e. if they're giving you 14 ounces of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot for $3.50--nothing's wrong with that at all.  But if they're pricing a "draft pint" to be 33% more than the price of the same beer in a bottle, then it's time to call foul, and let them know why.

More commentary here.  Also more on the topic from Oregon. 

It does take guts to walk into a bar, order a beer, and then pour the contents into a measuring beaker.  You run the risk of being banned from some places, I'm sure.  But I have done it.

(Tip o' the hat to Tom Cizauskas)


Andrew said...

Did you just happen to have your measuring beaker on you, or should we assume you had reason to believe that the bar was especially thrifty?

JohnM. said...

I've gone back and forth on this Alex, but have ultimately decided this is not a battle I wish to fight. At one time it seems as if the word "pint" was ubiquitous for a glass of beer. Unless specified otherwise, I always just assumed that's what I was getting. Obviously, no longer...

My feeling is that this is just something customers need to keep in mind when they visit their friendly tavern. After all, beer glasses now come in so many shapes and sizes, you pretty much have to figure out for yourself what you're actually paying for that glass of Jever Pilsner or that glass of Chimay white.

As if that isn't bad enough, many servers have become master of the underpour. Unlike in the UK where servers work fastidiously to make sure your beer is poured as close to the top of the glass as they can get it, pours in the US are all over the map. A lot of times the server is just in a hurry, is sloppy, etc., but I've noticed some bartenders that routinely short customers a good inch of liquid from the top. It all adds the bottom line of course, and when I see something like that on a regular basis, it's hard to believe after a while that it's happening by accident.

Just my opinion, but ultimately I think the responsibilty is on us as customers to make sure we aren't getting cheated. If a bar is routinely underpouring beer, or is routinely cheating me on the price, there's an easy solution... go elsewhere. If enough people do that after a while, the tavern in question will get the hint.

MicMac said...

It's sadly not true that all UK landlords & bar staff are fastidious about serving us a full pint, but bizarrely it is the right in law to be served at least a 95% full pint!

The trouble is with many pubs using brim-full glasses - if the beer is served with any head at all, it means you're not served the full measure (in UK this is 20 Fl Oz / 568ml).

The option to ask for a top-up is given as a solution to this problem, but a simpler one to me is simply stocking slightly over-sized 'pint-to-line' glasses, so bar-staff & drinker can clearly see if it's right or not.


(apologies that this is taken from an awful bigoted UK newspaper, but it's recent & the gist is right - British Trading Standards Officers say 9 out of ten UK pints are not quite pints)
Mike McG
Brewer, nr Liverpool, UK.