It seems it will be a while before we are able to return to the pub and enjoy our favourite tipple while socialising with our friends. In the mean time, Metric Views points to a paradox that some may wish to ponder over their pint.
Following on from our previous article about the opportunities missed in the Government review of weights and measures 200 years ago, it is interesting that, in 1819, the “First Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Consider Weights and Measures” included a recommendation for a new gallon (and pint).
The report noted that at least three different gallon standards were used, and recommended the introduction of a single new standard gallon which would be defined as the volume containing exactly 10 pounds avoirdupois of distilled water at 62 °F, an amount that could be divided decimally if desired. This had the knock-on effect of defining a new standard pint, which, being equal to one eighth of a gallon, would henceforth be defined as the volume occupied by 1¼ pounds, or 20 ounces, of distilled water at 62 °F.
The report speculates that the consequent introduction of a new standard measure for beer would cause “very little inconvenience” to the public “especially when it is considered that the standards, by which the quart and pint beer measures, used in London, are habitually adjusted“.
It is ironic that, 200 years ago, the Government lacked the courage to take a radical approach in their efforts to rationalise the country’s weights and measures, but were unconcerned about making changes to the “pint” of beer.
Nowadays the “pint” has become a cause célèbre for opponents of metrication, and decades after food and drink went metric, some politicians continue to resist efforts to switch the measurement of draught beer to metric units, because of the pint’s supposed ancient heritage. Whereas in fact it was historically quite recently that the current size of the pint was defined, and if there is any tradition at all, it is that the pint is a measure that has been subject to frequent regulatory change. The current imperial pint is actually a newer unit than the litre and millilitre.
It is also worth noting that this change ensured that the measures for volume used in the British Isles and later the British Empire would diverge significantly from those used in the United States of America.
For further reading see https://ukma.org.uk/press/extracts-from-key-reports/#1819