Saturday, 12 June 2010

Measure for measure

One of CAMRA’s current campaigns is “Take it to the top”, which supports legislation to ensure that a pint of beer sold in a pub is a full liquid pint. However, there have been a number of concerns expressed within the Campaign that this wasn’t something that resonated with the drinking public, which led to me creating a poll asking the question “Are short measures of draught beer a major consumer problem in the UK?” Note that this was not asking whether people believed there should in principle be legislation on the issue. The poll has now closed, with 55 responses, and the results were:

Yes: 23 (42%)
No: 32 (58%)

So a clear, although not overwhelming, victory for those thinking it is not a major issue.

Now, I have to say I find myself in something of a cleft stick on this one. In principle, I firmly believe that this should be made law, and should apply to all drinks sold by volume. This would end the uncertainty once and for all, and if it had been done years ago we would be wondering what all the fuss had been about. Draught beer would have to be dispensed either into lined glasses or using metered pumps – although I suppose brim measure glasses could continue to be used for still ciders and gravity-dispensed beers with minimal head.

However, on the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be much general consumer discontent on the subject. You often hear people complaining about pub closures, or duty rates, but not short measures. Some pubs that have tried using oversize lined glasses have encountered a lot of consumer resistance to them – it seems there is a strong psychological attachment to the brimming pint glass. Very few people except members of CAMRA are ever seen asking for a top-up – have you ever seen a Guinness or John Smith’s Smooth drinker do that, even though they probably “lose out” more than cask drinkers?

There is also no longer, as there was thirty or even twenty years ago, a substantial number of pubs dispensing beer into oversized glasses which could be held up as an example for others to follow.

Another factor is that, realistically, you don’t suffer any meaningful loss from a marginally short pint. If you were in a country where 500ml (88% of a pint) was the standard beer measure, you would probably be quite happy with that on occasions when you would buy a pint here – you are just, in effect, buying “a large glass of beer” that happens to be denominated as a pint. Unless you are making a very calculated assessment of inebriation vs expenditure, getting a few short measures isn’t going to lead you to spend any more over the course of an evening. Contrast this with buying a gallon of petrol where, if you receive less than a gallon, you will inevitably have to buy more in the future.

So, while I continue to believe it’s a good idea in theory, I don’t really think there’s a lot of mileage in CAMRA or anyone else making full measures legislation a major campaigning priority.


  1. This obsession with getting a full pint seems to be a peculiarly British (or English) obsession. I wonder why that might be?

  2. Typical CAMRA pallaver
    "much ado about nothing",
    I can think of one or two issues
    re pubs which are more worthy
    of some serious banner waving.
    Obviously we dare not mention the
    issues ,in case we incurr the
    wrath and angst of the


  3. Like you (Mudgie) I believe there is good reason why full measure should be sought and why it should be part of legislation. Beer shouldn't be treated differently to milk or whatever in that respect. Still it isn't a priority by any means and it doesn't bother me. If I am short measured beyond reasonableness, I just pipe up.

    This, while still policy, is now firmly on the back burner as far as CAMRA is concerned. Fact.

    And so it should be.

  4. Yes, on principle, having weights & measures enshrined in law should mean a pint is a pint (even when government ministers think 95% is OK), but really, the unhappy drinker can ask for, and usually get, a top-up, so I don't believe it's a key issue. In fact, in the current climate, it looks like fiddling while Rome burns...

  5. I don't think short measure through excessively foamy heads to be a big problem, although last week I was solemnly presented with a pint the head of which was over two inches thick...


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