Have you ever ordered a pint of beer and then been a bit miffed after being handed a glass smaller than you expected?
You’re not alone. In fact, members of the Vancouver chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale are tired of ambiguity when ordering draft beer in local restaurants and bars. As consumers, they want clearer information about serving sizes prior to ordering so they can make informed decisions and know exactly what they’re paying for. Not only that, it’s a matter of public safety, they say.
In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, CAMRA Vancouver president Paddy Treavor explains that there are no standardized serving sizes for a glass, sleeve, or pitcher of beer in B.C. However, a legal pint in Canada is 20 imperial ounces (568 millilitres), so if a restaurant is claiming to serve pints, that’s what the consumer should get.
Unfortunately, they often don’t. According to Treavor, many restaurants use a 16-ounce glass, “which is an American pint, but it’s not legal here. A lot of people are advertising pints and serving sleeves or glasses.”
Sleeves are anywhere from 12 to 16 ounces. Pitchers can range from 40 and 50 ounces; they’re often equivalent to about two-and-a-half pints, but “they’re all over the charts”.
Knowing how much beer is in your glass is important not just as a consumer but so you know how much you’re drinking. Despite the variety of sleeve glasses, Treavor says, “they all look exactly alike” and servers frequently can’t tell you the size. “So if you’re driving, it’s really important to know whether that’s a 12- or 16-ounce glass, because some of these beers are seven- or eight-percent [alcohol]. So it becomes a public safety issue.”
He adds that restaurants also have a responsibility to not over-serve, and “a lot of servers don’t know what size the glasses are because their employers don’t tell them.”
B.C. law requires that licensees provide customers, upon request, a complete serving size/price list for every alcoholic beverage they offer. But in practice, “probably 95 percent” of places Treavor has checked out don’t have such a list, and “the servers don’t have any idea about what size of glassware they’re serving.”
“The law’s not being followed and the law’s not being enforced,” he explains. “So we’re going after both sides of it.”
CAMRA’s Fess Up to Serving Sizes (FUSS) campaign was launched in November to address issues related to draft beer serving sizes. According to the website, it’s not about advocating pints over sleeves. It’s about advocating for transparency by ”persuading licensees to comply with this law so serving sizes are properly identified for the consumer, eliminating the misrepresentation of serving sizes, whether this misrepresentation is intentional or not.”
Treavor notes that CAMRA has already had success with some of its corporate members who have added serving sizes to their menus. The group is also asking consumers to sign an online petition to be sent to the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. This calls on them to “strictly enforce their legal requirement that all licensees must provide to consumers, upon demand, a complete list of serving sizes and prices for all draft beers served and that licensees fulfil their obligation to provide the complete measure of draft beer promised by their serving-size list.”
“It’s about education,” he says. “The consumer has the right to know what they’re ordering. And they have the right to have that promise delivered to them.”
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