The pint problem: A new way forward

The obligatory use of pints and prescribed fractions thereof for draught beer and cider alongside the absence of restrictions when sold in cans and bottles creates anomalies and confusion. What can be done to remove these anomalies without creating new ones?

In Australia, jugs and glasses with standard sizes and relevant markings in millilitres could show the way forward for the UK. Here are some examples:

Glass_285_ml Glass_425_ml
Jug

These images show glasses for serving 285 ml and 425 ml of draught beer, which are soft conversions for half pint and three-quarter pint quantities. These sizes are now called a “midi” and a “schooner” respectively. Australia also has 330 ml glasses for draught beer. The jug shows a quantity of 1140 ml, a soft conversion for two pints.

By allowing glasses of different sizes, including sizes for soft conversions for half pint and a pint, the UK could allow drinkers more choice. As long as the glasses bear the CE mark and the glass displays the quantity in millilitres on the bottom, this could be a way of implementing one consistent measure for serving draught beer and cider and removing the need for the use of pints. The UK could use a similar approach for beer and cocktail jugs but use a marked horizontal line to show the quantity in millilitres.

By using this approach, the UK could abolish the official use of pints in the same way that Australia has done. Australia has used a mixture of soft and hard conversions for draught beer and that could allow the use of different glass sizes in pubs. It makes no sense that British drinkers can buy 330 ml beer bottles and 440 ml and 500 ml beer cans in pubs but cannot buy these quantities of draught beer.

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5 Responses to The pint problem: A new way forward

  1. Jake says:

    I have never understood the hype and emotion about pint glasses on the part of the defenders of imperial units. Even in a pint (568 ml) glass, you rarely get the full amount you pay for because of the froth. Short measuring has been a hallmark of publicans for centuries, not only in Britain. The more you can get out of a barrel, the more profit you make.

    As far as enabling the customer to make price comparisons between draught beer and canned beer products, it would be enough to replace the old pint glass with a half litre glass but to ensure that the proper measure is served. You would probably not be getting any less than before! If other metric glass sizes were considered necessary such as a 330 ml glass, then that would be an option too. Continental countries use a whole range of different sizes from 200 ml for Kölsch in Germany through 250 ml as a standard glass size in Belgium right up to the full 1 litre served at beer festivals (though that is a very large size and health implications should be considered before that is rolled out in the UK, I would say).

  2. Kevin Hammond says:

    Metric measurement of beer would make an alcohol intake much easier to calculate, rather than our bizarre quantity of a “unit” of alcohol. eg if one drinks a litre of beer at 5% you have consumed 50 ml of ethanol. Wine is a bit more difficult with a 250 ml glass – but darts players manage to do mental arithmetic whilst drinking. If you could add up all the alcohol intake from an evening you would get to know one’s personal safe limit – I think it’s much better than alcohol units.

  3. johnb78 says:

    Worth noting:
    1) there isn’t such a thing as standard Australian drinks measures – they vary state-by-state. A 425ml glass is called a schooner in most places, but is called a pint in South Australia. A 285ml glass is called a middy in NSW, but a pot in Victoria and a ten in Tasmania.

    2) the pint (570ml) is also a standard measure, everywhere except South Australia.

    Kevin: a UK unit is 10ml of ethanol. That doesn’t seem particularly bizarre to me (an Australian standard drink is 10g = 12ml of ethanol, meanwhile…)

  4. Martin Vlietstra says:

    There is no uniformity on what constitutes a “unit” of alcohol. http://www.cleavebooks.co.uk/dictunit/notes6.htm lists the values of a “unit” in 16 different countries – between them there are 10 different values ranging from 10 ml (UK) to 25 ml (Japan).

  5. Kevin Hammond says:

    Thanks Johnb78 for the advice on the definition of the unit of alcohol – I’ve learnt something there!

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