Friday, 4 August 2017

Two-thirds of the way there

Alec Latham was recently musing on the subject of the two-thirds pint measure, which became legal in British pubs nearly six years ago, on 1 October 2011. At the time, I asked the question as to whether the “schooner” would float or sink. In practice, it seems to have been very much the latter. While they have gained some traction in specialist craft beer bars, they’re virtually never seen in the wider pub trade. I can only remember seeing one mainstream pub advertising their availability, and that was four years ago. Significantly, Wetherspoons, who are often seen as a bellwether for the trade in general, haven’t adopted them. In most pubs, if you asked for two-thirds, you would get a funny look and a pained explanation that they didn’t serve them.

Alec is quite right to make the point that a half never seems to quite give half as much satisfaction as a pint, and is often gone in much less than half the time. It’s just not a very appealing measure and, unless they’re doing it specifically so that they can taste more different beers, it’s rare to see blokes drinking halves in pubs. If they are, it’s usually something of a distress purchase triggered by lack of funds, lack of time or the fact they are driving. Ideally, they would prefer a pint. To put it in a blunt and politically incorrect manner, basically real men just don’t drink halves. They might be more attractive if they were served in oversize glasses, but that’s another story.

Obviously two-thirds measures make sense for the stronger beers that often feature in craft bars, where a pint may simply be too much. They are roughly in line with the 330 or 355ml bottles and cans that are popular for craft beers. But they also make sense for beers of more ordinary strength, where you just want “a glass of beer”, but a pint seems a bit too much, whereas a half comes across as a bit footling. On several occasions, I’ve ordered a pint only to find it was a bit lacklustre, and felt that I’d rather not have to drink it all. But ordering a half from the outset seems like an admission of defeat. However, as the measure has failed to take off in the general run of pubs, the option simply isn’t available. Maybe something of a pity, but a fact of life.

One deterrent, of course, is that in order to serve two-thirds measures, you have to have the appropriate glassware – either dedicated brim-measure or lined oversize two-thirds glasses, or pint glasses with a two-thirds line, or possibly specific measuring vessels. It’s not lawful to pour what you think is an approximation of two-thirds into a normal pint glass. And, given the investment needed to cater for something for which there doesn’t seem to be much demand, most pubs understandably have chosen not to bother.

30 comments:

  1. Good point about halves. You can down a half in seconds, but tend to savour a pint. I'm not joking when I say beer tastes better in pint glasses.
    One issue for me(may be deteriorating sight) is being able to read what measures are being served in the craft bars. Successive beers on a blackboard being served in Pint, two-thirds and half (for 9% DIPA) is not uncommon.

    MT

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  2. The only time I buy 2/3s is when I'm forced to because the cretins who run the pub don't think it's fashionable to do pints. I have no problem with buying 1/2s if it's a strong beer, I'm in a hurry or I just want to try it.

    JB.

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  3. I'd love to know how you define a 'real man' (apart from as someone who drinks big blokey pints, obviously).

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    1. The comment was made in an ironic sense, but it is a matter of observable fact that it is vanishingly rare for male beer drinkers in pubs to order halves, except for the specific reasons given.

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    2. Mudgie, try drinking with a bunch of scoopers some time. They're *all* drinking halves. Sometimes even thirds if they can get them. Even for 3.2% quaffing beers.

      In these scenarios I'm the one attracting the weird glances just for persistently drinking pints, which I obviously do because I'm a real man with a big real mans penis, drinking a proper manly measure.

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    3. As I said, "unless they’re doing it specifically so that they can taste more different beers". How often do you see male lager drinkers with halves?

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  4. Perhaps we should be able to buy beer like we buy petrol: by value. "I'll have two pounds worth of Dogs Bolocks please" :-)

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  5. The Maidenhead CAMRA beer festival introduced a 1/3 pint multiple only option in 2016. Here is an excerpt from the website https://www.maidenheadbeerfest.camra.org.uk/ for the 2017 (19-21 Oct) festival
    Drinks will be served in 2 distinctive glasses: an over-sized pint glass marked one third (small), two thirds (medium) and one pint (large), as well as a stemmed glass, marked one third and two thirds.

    So, no half pints.... why, I hear you say? Because we DID reduce the queuing time at the bar last year and made life easier for our volunteers, but more importantly, gave punters a better opportunity to experience a wider range of beers and ciders. So we will continue with our easy voucher system. i.e. no cash at the bar. Each voucher will be exchanged for a third of a pint... simple. However, if you choose a beer less than 4% ABV, you will receive a refund (in the form of a 10p token) per third pint measure. All beers will be £3.50/pt. except for beers below 4% which will be £3.20/pt.

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    1. I think you'll find it's a legal requirement to sell beer in halves - you might need to check on that.

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  6. I only drink halves or thirds at beer festivals. Normally it's a pint. It's just a measure that fits with a human being (the right scale). A litre is just ridiculous.

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    1. "A litre is just ridiculous." Agreed, one hundred percent. Litres are heavy, unwieldy and the beer is likely to be both flat and warm by the time you're near the end.

      Bavarian machismo, regarded as showing off in other parts of Germany. A pint is definitely the ideal measure; although I will obviously settled for half litres when abroad.

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    2. You generally have to settle for a half litre in England, even though it is advertised as a pint :-(

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  7. If you find a pub that serves Yakima Red by Meantime Brewing (a beer I adore in the summer), I think the branded balloon glass is a two thirds measure to the line so there's noting to be calculated by the staff. There might be others too -some pubs only serve Leffe in a smaller branded glass but I think that's less. However, the 2/3 stalked glass (a photo of one is at the top of my post) I see hanging from upside down from racks above the bar in many pubs. But obviously, St Albans is pretty London-centric.

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    1. I'm pretty sure the Leffe branded glasses are oversize halves. In general, I'd say that if a pub did serve two-thirds, it would advertise the fact on blackboards and pricelists.

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  8. I have an irrational dislike of any pub, or rather, bar, that won't serve me a pint. By all means serve 2/3rds and even make it your prominent pricing point, but at least offer a pint option, even if it is expensive. Like you say though, few and far between. Six degrees in Aberdeen and Small Bar in Bristol the only two I've come across.
    I almost get the impression 'this beer is too good to be consumed in pints'. Though its weird, as it was in Bristol, when I could go round the corner and buy the same beer in a pint glass.

    Festivals are a different matter, but I wouldn't drop down to a third.

    Actually just remembered the bizarre case of the Brandling Villa in South Gosforth. I wanted a pint, and my girlfriend a half. Fine for me, but they only served 1/3rds and 2/3rds but not halves!(which could, as you say, be illegal). She opted for the 2/3rds.

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  9. There is no statutory requirement to sell half's of beer only multiples of half or multiples of thirds. See:
    https://www.gov.uk/weights-measures-and-packaging-the-law/specified-quantities

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    1. Yes, that is correct. But you have to sell a minimum measure of either a third or a half. It isn't lawful to only serve two-thirds or pints.

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    2. That w&m website is some what ambiguous. It specifies the volumes to which you are restricted in

      to selling beer - third, half, two-thirds of a pint and multiples of half a pint -but nowhere does it say you must make all those measures available. Indeed few pubs will sell you a quart of beer or a gallon of beer, both quatities which are covered by the statement.

      But there may be case law specifying minimum sizes.

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  10. Difficult to alter cultural norms without a lot of promotion & information. Most people I would guess are unaware they could ask for a 2/3 measure and assume it's pints or halves.

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  11. Interesting to see how it's done in the UK. AFAIK here (Australia) you can serve whatever the hell size you like, as long as the size is on the glass OR menu/list. And in ml. So some places have 330ml tulips, or 200ml stanges, or 380ml handles. So long as the customer can see what they're getting in a metric measure, you're good.

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    1. Pretty much the same in British Columbia, Canada; though it's in oz not mls, even though we're metric. :)

      I've been to a number of places within a 3-hour drive of where I live (including a 90 min ferry ride as I live on Vancouver Island. You can get individual sizes from 4oz up to 20oz (not including pitchers).

      The one minor annoyance is some include the 15% liquor tax while others surprise you with it when you get the bill.

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    2. Which makes life difficult for customers as it's well-nigh impossible to make price comparisons between different establishments. it could be described as a classic example of "confusion marketing".

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    3. Agreed Mudge. It might work on tourists but locals (or those who may frequent more than once) get to know who is who and it influence's your decision at times. :)

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    4. In Australia I think each state has its own rules on sizes and you can end up ordering a schooner and getting different sizes, it becomes simpler to just ask for 'a beer' and whatever comes is the optimum size, I did have something that resembled a pint in Melbourne but it was a pretend English pub, selling old speckled hen iirc,which hadn't travelled well and was sold at about 3degrees C

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  12. My local beer festival uses oversized pint glasses marked third/half/pint. A few or these in every pub (well, if marked 2/3rds as well) would cover every eventuality. (And tokens the beers are variously priced).

    Spain also seems to use whatever they want for beer, as long as it is advertised as such. So in some places a large beer is a jarra and in others, a pinta. And some jarras are bigger than others.

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  13. "Spain also seems to use whatever they want for beer, as long as it is advertised as such. So in some places a large beer is a jarra and in others, a pinta. And some jarras are bigger than others."

    That reminds me. They do something similar here in Canada. A menu may indicate a "pint"; but for some places it means the US measurement (16oz) while in others it means the Imperial measurement (20oz). Considering Canada has been metric for some time now for temp, distance, speed, height and weight I don't know why bars still sell beer in ounces. :)

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  14. I do see 2/3rds around but normally located to craft keg bars,and I'm not always convinced it's just an ABV choice,but simply putting up that a pint of some such beer costs £7 puts people off, the 2/3rds cost often neatly aligns with the average normal pint cost £4-5. I'll drink halves if I'm beer ticking or hitting a trail of pubs as its the best way to sample the most beer,I just get annoyed when they randomly add 5p to the cost, a half should always be half the price of a pint imo. I don't think it was ever a change that was going to lead to mass conversion to 2/3rds,it's just another option,less restriction on what can be served

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    1. That's exactly what the guvnor of my local micropub does with the Keykeg stuff. The price per schooner is then fairly comparable to a pint of cask which is exactly why he does it.

      He will, of course, sell me a proper unneutered male pint throbbing with masculinity when I ask for one.

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  15. The requirement to offer small measures comes from licensing, not from weights and measures. AFAIK all local authorities consider it best practice to offer 125ml wine or half pints of beer to encourage responsible drinking, and most would consider it a breach of the licensing objectives if you didn't. You could try selling only pints or 250ml wine but you'd have a fight on your hands.

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  16. Most of my experiences of places serving thirds has involved the craft bars but I was surprised on my recent Worcester outing that the Bull Baiters micropub sold 1/3s and 2/3s (and pints) but not halves, so I wonder if other micros might do the same. I prefer to drink pints but will drink halves if on an extended outing so that I can sample more ales or squeeze in a couple of extra pubs.

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