When is a pint not a pint?

Peter Beasley asks the question…

One of CAMRA’s most striking campaign posters shows a pint bottle of milk alongside a pint glass of beer. The liquid in each vessel is clearly well below a pint and the heading asks “You wouldn’t accept this” (the milk), “So why accept this?” (the beer). Perhaps being ‘short-measured’ is a low priority issue for many drinkers, but consider this: It has been estimated we spend £160 million a year on beer which is not even poured, as some pub companies base their budgets on squeezing 76 pints out of a 72 pint firkin, a practice which can only be achieved by diddling the customer.

Very shortly, the Government is expected to announce legislation defining exactly what “a pint” means. Brewers, pub managers, landlords and customers have long argued the case and trading standard officers have found it almost impossible to police because of the multiplicity of local customs, anomalous court judgments and codes of practice. A pint should be 20 fl. oz. of liquid. Currently, the pub industry works to the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association voluntary guidelines which allow a 5% shortfall with top-ups offered on request.

It is thought the Government may adopt the BLRA guidelines, which will mean a pub will be unequivocally breaking the law if it serves less than a 95% liquid pint. Conversely, it means they can legally serve a 5% short measure without recrimination – hardly a victory for the consumer. CAMRA believes a pint should be 100% liquid although accepts there needs to be a small tolerance of 3% at most. The use of oversized glasses is one way of ensuring customers receive a full pint, although it must be emphasized that permissible drinking vessels or matters of dispense are not at issue here, it is purely weights and measures legislation. Some brave pub companies (notably Wetherspoons and Tynemill Inns) along with CAMRA North London’s ‘Pub of the Year’, the Wenlock Arms, implemented oversized glasses for a short while, only to make a swift U-turn when they realized the effect on profits because of glasses being over filled. Ill-informed customers who demanded top-ups when they already had a full pint were partly blamed (perhaps a solution would have been to keep a stock of brim measured glasses in reserve and pour the beer from one glass to the other in front of the customer. Hey Presto! A magic top-up!). Given that brim measured glasses should be manufactured to contain slightly more than a pint anyway and with the expected Government decision, it is unlikely that oversized glasses will become the norm, except at CAMRA Beer Festivals, where it is already the practice.

Bye Bye Bass

As reported in the last Full Pint, Bass has formally ended its 223-year brewing history. The European Commission passed back its investigation, into the purchase of the group’s breweries by Interbrew, to UK trade secretary, Stephen Byers. This legally completes the transaction, as the deal was unconditional on clearance from the British authorities. Any regulatory risk, such as being forced by Byers to sell some beer brands, will now rest with Interbrew.

Top Cat

Moorhouse’s Black Cat has been judged the Champion Beer of Britain by a panel of judges at August’s Great British Beer Festival. Described in the Good Beer Guide as “a smooth, well balanced dark mild with a fruity aroma”, this Burnley brewed mild was chosen as the overall winner from over 30 finalists. This is only the third time a mild has won the top award and shows there is still a real demand for this refreshing beer style. The Silver award went to Hogs Back TEA from Surrey and the Bronze to Yorkshire Terrier Bitter from the York Brewery.

Consumers Back Pub Hours Reform

Nearly 80% of adults believe pubs should be able to open when the landlord pleases, according to a new survey commissioned by CAMRA and released at the Great British Beer Festival. The survey indicates strong public support for the Government’s recently announced proposals to reform Britain’s archaic licensing laws. Due to the strong public support, CAMRA has launched a major new campaign called “24/7: Time for Choice” to help get the benefits of reform across to consumers who still have reservations about longer pub opening hours.

Lager hits £2 a pint

A major survey of beer prices in British pubs shows that the average price of a pint of lager is more than £2 a pint for the first time. Commissioned by CAMRA, the survey of 5,000 prices in 1,000 pubs reveals that real beer prices are much lower than lager. None of this will come as a surprise to Londoners as, needless to say, the most expensive region to drink in is London with drinkers paying on average £2.18 for lager and £1.95 for real beer. London also showed the biggest percentage increase in real ale prices at 3.59%. However, we did have some of the cheapest priced beer around, at 99p a pint, no doubt due to the influence of Wetherspoon’s. In the North West, real ale averages £1.55 a pint.

On The Right Track

A Northamptonshire railway station saved from closure by train and real ale enthusiasts has won a top CAMRA award. The Rushden Historical Transport Society has been named Britain’s Best Club. The club, featured in the Millennium edition of the Good Beer Guide, is described as ‘now a working railway station with a gas-lit private bar and museum housing transport memorabilia, always has six independent’s guest ales on tap.’ Explaining the club’s success, steward Simon Bishop said, “Our enthusiasm for real ale has been a big hit with the locals. Besides London Pride and Hop Back Summer Lightning, the two permanent beers on the bar, we also have an ever changing range of guests beers.”