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Tilting at Windmills

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April 16, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

A PINT'S 15 OUNCES THE WORLD ROUND....The British navy may be taking its lumps these days, but at least there are some Brits left who understand the importance of traditional culture:

Mike Benner, chief executive of [the Campaign for Real Ale], said: "It is a disgrace that up to a quarter of all pints served in the UK are less than 95% liquid when the consumer is paying for a full pint every time."

Camra has launched an online "full pints" petition calling on the government to end short beer measures.

Quite right. Next up: are all the numbers on modern dart boards really the same size? We'll report back next week.

UPDATE: As several commenters point out, "a pint's a pound the world round" except in Britain, where it's a pound and a quarter. So my headline is not only lame, but culturally ignorant. And anyway, no, I don't know what the specific gravity of beer is. So let's just forget the whole thing, OK?

Kevin Drum 12:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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What's more ridiculous - a petition about full pints or this...(via theagitator.com)

U.S. Attorney Scott Schools will proceed with the plans to retry Rosenthal on the charges for which he was convicted, sentenced to a day and jail, but were then thrown out by the appellate court. Rosenthal cannot go to prison for the charges he's being retried for. In fact, he can't get any additional punishment at all.

Schools is a GOP party guy (he's given $11,000 since 2000), and was recently appointed on an interim basis to the San Francisco-area U.S. Attorneys Office. Schools' predecessor, Keven Ryan, was one of the eight U.S. Attorneys forced out in the recent scandal (though apparently more for poor managerial skills than for political reasons).

What seems pretty clear is that Schools knows what his priorities are. His prior gigs included working in the office of South Carolina U.S. Attorney Strom Thurmond, Jr., where he handled public relations in the first federal case ever brought against a political protester for not adhering to "free speech zones" during a presidential visit. Thurmond, Jr.'s (who was appointed at the age of 28 as a White House favor to his father) office also made news a few years ago for prosecuting girls who sold their panties over the Internet.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan on April 16, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

A fine old tradition.

'Jack and Jill
went up a hill
to fetch a pail
of water.'

Is a protest against fiddling with measurements.

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

A British pint that is only 95% full would be 19 ounces not 15. As a British pint is 20 ounces.

Posted by: David Patin on April 16, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's not whether the numbers on the dart board are the same size, but whether the areas for those numbers are the same size. Those metal grids that mark off the areas are susceptible to slight deformations, so the quality assurance team has their hands full making them accurately divide the area of the board into exactly equal segments.

And after a couple of pints (even 95% full), it's hard to hit any of those segments accurately, so they need to be doubly sure the grids are done just so.

Ed

Posted by: Ed Drone on April 16, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

When stationed in Germany, I drank many a Pils out of glasses that had a fill mark etched on the side. A very sensible approach to giving an honest measure.

Posted by: Wapiti on April 16, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

are all the numbers on modern dart boards really the same size?

Depends on how many pints (short or long) you've had. Sometimes the numbers look the same size, and sometimes they look like fuzzy Kama Sutra positions.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on April 16, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

A danger to pints anywhere, is a danger to freedom everywhere.

Posted by: mmy on April 16, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see...who best to clear up this confusion?:

Don Imus
Kyle Sampson
Anna Nicole?

Posted by: dweb on April 16, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, not only is a British pint a different
number of fluid ounces from a US pint, a British
fluid ounce is a different size from a US fluid ounce....

Posted by: breadbox on April 16, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

When I was in Britain a few years ago, all of the pints had a fill marker -- so is he saying that bartenders just aren't filling to the marker? I thought the whole point of the marker is that it's there so they can't short you. I assumed the marker was a government mandate because every pint I saw had one.

Posted by: TTop on April 16, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, not only is a British pint a different
number of fluid ounces from a US pint, a British
fluid ounce is a different size from a US fluid ounce....
Posted by: breadbox

To further confuse the issue, there's the Imperial pint - which is in fact 20 US oz.

With due respect to Denise, originally of Nottingham, of the Dog and Bird (The Bog and Dird to her faithful) Pub late of Shreveport LA, adherence to the Imperial pint.

"I'll just have the other half now, if you please."

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I became a habitual Trader Joe's Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chip consumer several years ago. My consumption went from one to three bags a week over the years. Then I noticed the size of the container had gone from 14 oz. to 8 oz., but the price had not changed. Those darn Brits.

Posted by: Brojo on April 16, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I want the goddamned wrappers on a candy bar to bear some semblance to the size of the candy inside. Every time they lop off 1/4 ounce of candy and sell it for the same price the wrapper gets an inch longer at the same time.

Posted by: steve duncan on April 16, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

As Wapiti notes, in European countries the glasses (beer, wine, etcetera) in pubs have a line indicating the correct volume for the glass (in milliliters, of course, but it could be done equally well in imperial measures.

Posted by: Warren Terra on April 16, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

My girlfriend tells a story that happened during her 6 months living in the Czech Republic:

At a restaurant in Prague, she got a glass of wine. When the bill came, they were charged for two glasses. She complained to the waiter. The waiter pointed to a line halfway up the glass and said "One glass" and then to the top of the glass and said "Two glass."

Americans get screwed the world over!

Posted by: Happy Chandler on April 16, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Concerning the specific gravity of beer.

Posted by: Ein on April 16, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

" And anyway, no, I don't know what the specific gravity of beer is."

It's worse than that - it varies.

Posted by: ptm on April 16, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

What Britain needs today is a pint-size czar.

Posted by: Pinto on April 16, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

The specific gravity of beer has very little to do with the thing. It's insignificant compared to the inaccuracy of the pour.
I don't see what the Brits have to complain about. Try the American-Pint-Pour on for size, and then get back to me.
See, American pints are traditionally 16 ounces. Some bars sneak in with 14 ounce "pint" glasses that have thicker sides and bottoms. Worse still, our pint glasses are much more conical than Brit glassware (usually malt glasses). This means that even more of the volume of the contents is contained in, say, the top inch of the glass. For 16 ounce pint glasses, the top inch represents about 4 ounces. Yes, that's right. Try the experiment yourself if you don't believe me.
This means when you get a standard American pour, which usually leaves about an inch of headspace, you're actually getting about 12 ounces. And if you get an exceptionally cheap or incompetent bartender who shorts you even further, you could be below 10 ounces. At which point your recourse is to stiff them on the tip (another thing Brits don't have to worry about in their pubs), and enjoy your next half-pint of spit-and-beer.
We need more consumer protection in the arena of beer pouring.
Hmm, lunchtime, I could use a beer or three.

Posted by: Govt Skeptic on April 16, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a lurker, for the most part, but couldn't help but add some thoughts that have been bugging me for the past few weeks:

Many folks may realize that Guinness has been selling its bottled beers in packages with just 11.2 (American) ounces per bottle. That's bad enough, and they're not alone in doing that, but this past St. Pat's day, I looked closely at a bottle of Harp (which I was able to find with 12 ounce size) and noticed what is truly a travesty:

Guinness beers are no longer imported from Ireland. They're made in St. John, NB, and imported from Canada!

Shame, shame, shame.

Posted by: Mig on April 16, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, lunchtime, I could use a beer or three.
Posted by: Govt Skeptic

I'll drink to that. Just don't get me started about yeasts...

To Denise Frank, wherever she might be...

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Specific gravity is some epsilon less than one. Alcohol is lighter than water. But my guess is that the MOE on "a pint's a pound" is bigger than the difference in the weight of beer vs water.

Posted by: jayackroyd on April 16, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

You'll have to cut me some slack here inasmuch as I've just read 'Breakfast of Champions' in which it's pretty clearly spelled out that alcohol is the excretory product of yeast which eventually so poison their environment that they drown in their own wastes...

'Beer ain't nothing but liquid bread.' Steve Bishop

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Germans have been fighting "Schankbetrug" for about a century, if I recall correctly. See the Verein gegen betruegerisches Einschenken for more details--they're actually organized.

Posted by: RSA on April 16, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

after 3 years living in liverpool, i can assure you that not every pint glass in britain has a line marking the level of a pint. in fact, in my experience very, very few pint glasses have a line marking the level of a pint. what this means is that they fill it to the rim, and you spill the top half inch weaving between the crowd on your way back to the table.

Posted by: chris on April 16, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

chris, an honest publican fills the glass just to the point where a healthy head overflows then takes a ruler and decapitates it.

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

I see nothing wrong in the British wanting to know the precise measure of an intoxicating beverage. How else can one properly watch his dosage.

What nailed me in the UK was the vast range of percentage alcohol that you get in different bar pours. It seemed like it could be anywhere from 0.5% up to about 10%. Some advice - find out for sure the percentage ETOH of your drink before having more than a few! For example, IIRC, Elephant Beer will knock you on your bottom!

Posted by: Tripp on April 16, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Re: update "A pint is a pint the world round except in Britain" is incorrect. In Britain, South Africa, Austrilia, New Zealand and Canada a pint is the same only in the US is a pint small. So the US gets an 80% pint compared to the rest of the world. Not that it matters w'll all be measuring in millilitres soon anyway.

Posted by: Displaced Canuck on April 16, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The last time I went to Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood -- an L.A. area institution for decades for beer and chili -- a friend ordered a pint. The mug seemed a bit on the small side, so we devised a test and determined that it contained more like 12 ounces, not the expected 16 or so. This was many years ago, so I don't remember exactly what the staff's reaction to our complaint was, but......

Did I mention that this was the last time I went there?

Posted by: Randy Gold on April 16, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

What nailed me in the UK was the vast range of percentage alcohol that you get in different bar pours. It seemed like it could be anywhere from 0.5% up to about 10%. Some advice - find out for sure the percentage ETOH of your drink before having more than a few! For example, IIRC, Elephant Beer will knock you on your bottom!
Posted by: Tripp

I encountered this when VN vets served me San Miguel (Philippines) which at that point was 15%! Yowsa! Elephant (India) is also a killer.

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

chris, an honest publican fills the glass just to the point where a healthy head overflows then takes a ruler and decapitates it.

i visited not a single pub in england, scotland, ireland, and wales that did this. the only place where i saw it done was amsterdam.

Posted by: chris on April 16, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Happy: "Americans get screwed the world over!"

Yeah, that's what we're known for. If by "getting screwed" you mean breaking down doors, breaking stuff and shooting people.

Posted by: Kenji on April 16, 2007 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

i visited not a single pub in england, scotland, ireland, and wales that did this. the only place where i saw it done was amsterdam.
Posted by: chris

That's very depressing. Right up there with tastless, bland, gassy Budweiser being one the best selling 'beers' in places capable of Old Peculiar and Yorkshire Brown Ale.

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

MsNThrope: "That's very depressing. Right up there with tastless, bland, gassy Budweiser being one the best selling 'beers' in places capable of Old Peculiar and Yorkshire Brown Ale."

"Heineken? FUCK that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!!" -- Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), confronting Jeffrey (Kyle McLachlan) over his taste in beer (amongst other things), Blue Velvet (1986)

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on April 16, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

"Heineken? FUCK that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!!" -- Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), confronting Jeffrey (Kyle McLachlan) over his taste in beer (amongst other things), Blue Velvet (1986)
Posted by: Donald from Hawaii

Okay, hands down winner! lolol Don, you de bomb.

Now let me tell you about top breeding yeasts vs bottom breeding yeasts...

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 16, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Warren Terra-

Of course it wouldn't do in Imperial measures at all. EU membership mandates, among other things, that commerce be conducted using the metric system. Not sure why the Brits would be able to continue using pints at all.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on April 16, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Let them fiddle with the measurement systems over there so we don't have to do it here.

Posted by: gregor on April 16, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

The UK has a specific EU exemption from metric measurements for pints of beer and milk.

Posted by: Sam Kington on April 16, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

The UK has a specific EU exemption from metric measurements for pints of beer and milk.

The UK also has a EU exemption from their food having to taste good.

Posted by: Disputo on April 16, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Returned to England last year after five or so years and found the draft beer there had gone down in flavor; flat and warm as usual, not very alcoholic either. No wonder the youth have to drink ten pints to get wasted.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on April 16, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

I've run into many "pint nights" where the pint is 14oz, just the glasses have those little love handles around the top so they "look" bigger. I say stick with a yard and leave pints for the wimps.

Posted by: Fred on April 16, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: no, I don't know what the specific gravity of beer is

As some have pointed out, unfermented beer is always heavier than water, in the range of 2% to 16% heavier. The specific gravity of finished beer varies with the ingredients and the amount of sugar and alcohol in the beer. That said, a decent guess for a lager would be about 1% heavier than water at 15C, so a specific gravity of 1.01.

Which means "a pint's a pound the world round" except in Britain, where it's a pound and a quarter" is either wrong or a joke on the price of beer in Britain. My first guess would be the latter.

Posted by: anandine on April 16, 2007 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Except, of course, that a british pint is 568.261485 milliliters, whereas an American pint is 473.176475 milliliters.

Posted by: anandine on April 16, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Mig
If that beer is coming from St. John, N.B., Canada it's likely the same vats which produce Moosehead. Feel better ?

Posted by: opit on April 16, 2007 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

I blame the Euston Manifesto clodhoppers.

Posted by: s9 on April 16, 2007 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

per anandine, US pint is 16 oz., hence Drum's 15 oz comment, but a British pint is 20 fl oz. (1 gallon = 160 fl. oz to US gal. = 128 fl. oz.) so you do get a 25% bonus pint for pint. Plus, if you use any judgement whatever, the beer is better than any mass produced beer here.

So it is a pound and a quarter (US) but not the world over. I'm figuring that all the other ex-colonials, if they still count in pints, figure 20oz. I don't know where the US 16oz. came from except the usual tradition of short-changing consumers.

Posted by: notthere on April 16, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

Guess I misspoke there. I'm guessing it's 1 1/4 pounds the world over except for here in the US where it's only 16 fl. oz.

Posted by: notthere on April 17, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

jayackroyd said...

"Specific gravity is some epsilon less than one. Alcohol is lighter than water. But my guess is that the MOE on "a pint's a pound" is bigger than the difference in the weight of beer vs water."

Actually the Specific Gravity of beer is greater than one -- there are residual, unfermentable sugars. The actual value (called "final gravity" or "finishing gravity") depends on the beer style.

Wine on the other hand, generally is less than 1 except for sweet wines.

Just to confuse matters more, brewers usually talk about "Original Gravity" (OG) or the gravity of the unfermented beer. In some countries this is listed as a percentage of sugar (a/k/a degrees Plato). This leads to some confusion when somebody comes back from a foreign country and said they had some kick ass 12% or 16% beer -- more than likely this is the OG and it was a normal (12%) or slightly strong (16%) beer. Beers over 12% alcohol by volume (abv) can be found but are relatively rare (unless you are a beer geek :) )

And finally, there is Pacific Gravity, which is the finest homebrew club in LA (and California Homebrew Club of the year in 3 out of the past 4 years).

Posted by: FredW on April 17, 2007 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

AFAIK the marker line on a glass was always known as the Plimsoll Line, borrowed from the line painted on a cargo ship to show when the level of safe loading has been reached. It used to be standard in the Bad Old Days of pubs in British Columbia, where all they were allowed to serve was beer (Christian Fundie gov't -Social Credit- did its best to make the drinking experience for the lower classes as unpleasant as possible.)

First time I was in Saskatchewan and ordered a rye and seven, the bartender asked if it was okay if he put them both in the same glass- the law required the alcohol and mix to be served separately so you could see how much you got.

Posted by: MikeN on April 17, 2007 at 3:57 AM | PERMALINK

I went to uni in Swansea, Wales for a year, and the night club in the student center sold pints for a pound (this was 15 years ago), which I found very funny. No one else understood why I found it funny, since an Imperial pint isn't a pound. Sigh.

Posted by: Charles on April 17, 2007 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Late to the revolution, but: there used to be an organization (based in Maine, naturally) that fought the metric system and demanded a complete return to the old measures -- not just cups and pints and ounces and pounds, but stuff like 'so many stone', etc.

I interviewed 'em once, cuz I thought they would be sort of a quaint flat earth society sort of organization, and I was genuinely impressed with their, um, rational enthusiasm.

IIRC, they argued that the REAL reason for the creeping use of the metric system in the US was a conspiracy of tool manufacturers to get us all to replace our hammers, I suppose. (Actually, their example was pipes.)

But when I asked 'em why it mattered, in the end, on the theory that a measure is a measure, what difference does it make WHAT it is so long as it's standard, they had a great reply: the metric system is intentionally abstract. The old system of yards and inches and stones was based on a human frame of reference -- they were standardized, but the yard was essentially the distance between your thumb and your nose with your arm out, a stone was the weight a grown man could hold easily at arm's length, etc. The metric system was a goofy (and fraudulent) product of the French Revolution, and they were against it on principle.

I dunno what item on the human scale generated the pint, though.

Posted by: theAmericanist on April 17, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Pat is a coward. Pat is an anonymous coward like the DLC organization Americans for Jobs, who smeared Dean. DLC illiterates like Pat have no difficulty harrassing Nader voters and anti-war advocates, but love Murtha while he jets around in a defense contractor's plane on his way to a beach house vacation paid for by another defense contractor. Pat you are a DLC Freeper. Pat you are a DLC stalker. Pat is such a coward he cannot comment about what he thinks. Pat is a DLC backstabber.

Posted by: Brojo on April 17, 2007 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

"A pint's a pound the world over except in GB where it's a pint and a quarter."

Actually, a pint's a pound in the US and a pound and a quarter in the UK and nowhere else in the whole world, other than perhaps the Isle of Man and the Virgin Islands. Only we retarded Anglo Saxon nations still stick to the mediaeval system of pounds and ounces, bushells and inches and feet and furlongs, yards, rods, poles and perches, gallons and quarts and stone. And even in Britain, we are switching over to metric measures: Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand already have.

Went into a timber merchants the other day and asked for some timber, two inches by two inches. "Sorry Mate, only do it in metric now" says the counter clerk. "Right", says I; "I'll have some 50 by 50 millimetres." "OK" says he, "What length?" Had wanted 6 foot lengths. So quick recalculation necessary. "Oh, Two metres 'll do" says I. "Nah mate. 'ave to 'ave it in feet. All the timber's cut in America...."

Did'nt NASA lose a sattelite or something a few years back because they had miscalculated fuel needs by using gallons and pounds rather than litres and kilos?

Posted by: mike g on April 17, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

As a guy who has dated several bar-maids in Germany over the past few years, I can assure you that the pouring of a beer is a big deal- for tax purposes. In Germany, auditors will actually check the amount of beer claimed to be sold with the amount bought... Too much difference, and warning sirens go off (For example, say you sell 95 liters of beer, but used up two 50-liter kegs. They will want to know where the other 5 liters went. A certain amount is allowed for 'spillage', but not much. If you have too much of a difference, they boost your taxes, figuring that you are selling beer under the table, tax-free...). So, even if it sounds frivolous, those extra ounces add up quickly to some serious cash...

Posted by: Castor Troy on April 17, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

A pet peeve: to this day, despite abundant opportunities, I have never really grasped how big an "acre" is, much less a "hectare", cuz the one is "160 square rods", and the other "100 ares".

And doesn't THAT clear it up.

Posted by: theAmericanist on April 17, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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