When a pint's not a pint: CAMRA petition calls for draft beer serving size clarity

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      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.”

      Follow Carolyn Ali on Twitter at twitter.com/carolynali




      Jan 26, 2012 at 7:42am

      hmmmph this is an odd thing to even consider in Canada. We have not had the outdated imperial system for about 40 years now. If you are still ordering in pints here, then chances are you are a yank and have not noticed the world doesn't do pints anymore.

      You can however attempt to order 473.176473 ml! But chances are you will be getting closer to the order of 500ml... so don't bitch.


      Jan 27, 2012 at 10:32am

      @Foxxe - You are rude. Also, you clearly don't order beer in restaurants. "The world doesn't do pints anymore"? Actually everyone orders pints. O but thats right, this is your world! Everything revolves around you...


      Jan 27, 2012 at 11:34pm

      Is it so much to ask, a little truth in advertising? A little clarity in description?

      To the vendors: don't short-change your customers, or they won't be your customers for very long. If you shave a few pennies on my "pints," my pints will come from someone who doesn't engage in such practice.

      Simple respect.


      Jan 28, 2012 at 3:00pm

      oh Foxxe, you have no idea what you're talking about.

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      Bernie Mac

      Jan 29, 2012 at 4:57pm

      Clearly Foxxe is a Yank sympathizer. The standard B509 crown tankard dimpled mug was used for years throughout B.C. until the sly bar owners wanted to squeeze more profits. The b509 was a pint when filled to the top but was generally poured to a 500ml level and called a pint (because it was in a pint glass). While you have an understood vernacular the math speaks the truth. One of the first macro offenders was the Earls chain who ordered glassware with an extra thick bottom to give the appearance of a big pour but was shorting you on your libation to the delight of the corporate suite, Typically greedy corporate entities. Enough said..

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      Just another reason

      Jan 30, 2012 at 12:59pm

      We need groups like camra to protect us consumers. I have some Earls pint glasses, they are a joke! But great too b/c they're so heavy and don't knock over easily with their giant bottoms. What kind of marketing douche pinches their customers like this? Oh wait, pretty much all of them. And they get paid to do so.


      Feb 20, 2012 at 2:59pm

      Branded glassware is the way to go; the beer makers want you drinking their product and design the glasses to best suit the flavour/serving size. Retailers just want you thinking you are getting value for your $$$. Corporate joints are bad, but many independent pubs and restos in BC do the same thing. As for Foxxe: TROLL!!!!

      Randal Oulton

      Jan 12, 2014 at 9:24am

      Foxxe, bless, sadly doesn't seem to have travelled much outside continental North America, so s/he is just speaking from limited life experience, possibly limited by opportunity and life circumstances so far, and will be very embarrassed one day to discover how beer is ordered in Holland and Belgium.

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