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14 Ounces Does Not a Pint Make

Increasingly I am coming across bars whose standard “pint” pour is 14 imp. fl.oz. (398 ml). They don’t call it a “pint”, but it is their standard tap serving size. You don’t get an option to get something bigger. Making things worse is that often their pricing looks a lot like what you would pay for a 16 oz (454 ml) or 20 oz (568 ml) pour. Eight bucks for 14 ounces?!?

I am not going to name the specific places, as that is not my point. What I will say is I am seeing it more now than a couple of years ago. I will also say these are legitimate craft beer places, not some random sports bar. Places that should respect beer.

I spoke with one manager about it and they blamed the economy and then quickly highlighted that they have REALLY cheap happy hour prices (giving the specific amount will reveal the bar). I don’t buy it.

Sure, the economy, especially in Calgary, has hammered bars and restaurants. I get that. I appreciate it makes it hard to attract customers. Lowering prices is hard to do, but sometimes necessary. Keeping prices the same but shrinking the size of the glass is just taking advantage of your customers. It reminds me of when the Edmonton Journal scrapped the Sunday edition but didn’t give me a discount on my subscription – suddenly each paper I was getting was 16% more expensive.

This trend bugs me for two reasons.

First is the aforementioned dishonesty. Most people don’t notice the volume indicator on the menu. They come in, select the beer they want and order “a pint” or “a glass” of it. Some people looking for a smaller volume might ask how big the beer is, but the average beer drinker is expecting something approximately around a real pint, as that has been the standard serve in pubs for decades.

Fourteen ounces is only 70% of a legal Canadian pint. Just over two-thirds. Even if it is a buck cheaper than a full pint (87% of full price) they are getting ripped off.

Bar owners point to the fact that they state the volume size on the menu (a legal requirement, by the way). That fulfills their legal obligation, sure. But I have spent enough time in pubs to know that average customers don’t notice that statement and just order the beer. Trust me. I have asked people if they know what volume they are being served. The answer is usually wrong.

Part of the problem is that you can’t tell how much beer there is just by looking at the glass. And that, frankly, is what is wrong with the practice of 14 oz. serves. It bears absolutely no relation to how beer has been traditionally served. People understand 12 oz. (341 ml) or 16 oz. or 18 oz. (511 ml) or 20 oz. All are regular serving sizes. Fourteen? What is that?

That is a bar looking to short pour and not have their customers notice.

My second issue is one I have been railing on about for years (read here for example): namely respecting the true nature of the “pint”. It is an officially defined volume by the federal government. 568ml to be specific. There are no regulations requiring establishments to serve an actual pint. They get to serve whatever volume they want; they just have to admit it, even if just in small print.

I have been irked for a long time by places serving 16 oz. as a pint (which is, for the record, a U.S. pint), but I can at least see the nuance in the argument. Fourteen ounces, on the other hand, has nothing to stand on. There is no place on the planet that defines 14 oz. as a pint. It also isn’t a “sleeve” which is generally 12 oz., or the size of a standard beer bottle.

You can say to me that you don’t intend on serving pints but want to give customers something different. Sure. But I respond by saying “hogwash”. Serving such an odd volume is about squeezing a little extra margin from your beer sales.

Neither is it about “keeping the price point down” for the customer. That argument makes sense if you offer more expensive offerings in smaller glasses. I completely understand that. But when 14 oz. is the standard size for EVERY beer in the place, that argument doesn’t hold water (or beer).

You can say I am making too big a deal of it. Or that it, like many things, is buyer beware. Fair enough. I just think that establishments that claim to respect craft beer should also respect craft beer drinkers.

Give people who are price or consumption conscious a smaller option. That is a great idea. Many places offer half pints, sleeves or some other smaller glass. But they do so alongside a regular pint. Which is how it should be.

In the meantime I am going to continue speaking out on this issue because I believe it matters. The only way to make change is for consumers to be vocal about what they want AND what they don’t want.


25 comments to 14 Ounces Does Not a Pint Make

  • Dan

    Let me know if you need backup to get this movement going. This is one of my biggest pet peeves because 14 oz is not a true pint!

    • Hi Dan. I tried the nitro beer hard pour and it’s great if one uses the appropriate sized container. 14 ounces of available space for this method of pouring beer will never work unless one uses a 20 0z container or larger. Thanks

  • Without naming names, I was consulted by a startup bar regarding craft beer serving sizes and pricing, and there was a definite recognition that serving an honest 20 Oz “true” imperial pint of normal strength beer would be a point of respect for the customer. I am happy to say that after many visits, that policy of pouring real pints remains in place. I think that people who are already informed about craft beer or are in the process of learning are alive to the serving size issue, and that it is self-defeating for bars to try to squeeze this way. People aren’t dumb, and at some point, even the least observant beer enthusiast will figure out that 14 < 16 < 20.

    Here's a question – What are some of the places doing proper 20 oz pours?

  • I agree that 14oz is a deceptive size, but I feel like people may mistake your argument for one that all beer pours should be a standard size. We should remember that the “Standard British Pint” of 20oz originates in a country where the majority of beer consumed is at or below 4% ABV an was popularized in Canada when ALL of our beer was of low to normal strength. The median alcohol level for craft beer in mature American markets is quite elevated at around 7.5% ABV. After spending a lot of time in bars and breweries in the States, I have come to appreciate the approach of decreasing pour sizes as alcohol levels rise. For example, an IPA at 6.5-7% ABV should not be served in a 20oz pint, 16oz is easier for the average person to handle without getting drunk, whereas a 4.5% wheat beer is pretty crushable at 20oz. A Belgian Dubbel or Trippel are great as a smaller pour in a full-size tulip or chalice that traps the aroma of the beer, much like wine. An imperial stout at 10%+ is great as an 8 or 10oz pour in a small tulip. This also helps keep prices in line between beers of varying cost of production. A 4% ABV wheat beer costs far less to produce than a hoppy 7% ABV IPA with 3lb/bbl of dry hops. Imperial Stouts and Barleywines are often aged for months or years before being served, taking valuable tank or barrel space, and use considerably more malt and yeast in the first place, so of course they should cost quite a lot more than the wheat beer. Halving the pour size so you can charge the same price seems like a better arrangement for the customer than charging them $14-16 for a 20oz glass of Barleywine that could get them wasted and leave them unable to appreciate the second half of the pint or any other beers your establishment has on offer. From the perspective of a liquor licensee, we also have a duty of care towards our customers, and serving them IPAs and other craft with elevated alcohol levels in a 20oz pint is irresponsible, especially in a market where the average consumer isn’t yet accustomed to the idea of the average craft beer being over 7% ABV, and people often order a pint without thinking about the alcohol level.

    • beerguy

      Great point Gerad. And I hope that in my ranting I didn’t unintentionally lead readers to think all beer should be in 20oz pours. Quite the opposite – I am a big fan of varying serving size based on what the beer requires. Indeed, it is the only responsible action. Further, I support offering a range of sizes of the same beer (an 8 or 12 oz option, for example) to satisfy a variety of customer needs.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • An excellent point, in my initial post, I did note that it was a 20 oz pour of “Normal Strength Beers”. I agree that an even marginally sophisticated beer consumer will appreciate appropriately sized servings of higher potency beer. One of the things that I like about Beer Revolution is the notion that a half-sized beer ought to be half the price of a full sized beer. It is a good way to create options for people who want to try different beers without the need to crawl home.

  • Vince

    Earls serves 20oz. I’m not sure who brews their beer but I’ve always like their beers.

  • Zinc Whiskers

    Funny how this comes up every spring like clockwork…

    Here’s a story from over five years ago.

  • Tico

    I just went to a place last night. Won’t mention but I did notice that the menu mentioned a 16oz poor of a beer. So I happily ordered the beer, this place is not known for their “craft beer” but had a good beer on tap. I was shocked when my server brought over a 12oz glass full of beer. My date orders a bottle of beer and the same glass was handed to her. I carefully poured the bottled beer and asked the server to get me the manager. It clearly showed that my glass was not 16 oz. Alas, the manager was not on site so I could not have a candid discussion pointing out the error in volume size. The establishment was kind enough to not charge me for the beer and encouraged me to call the manager next day. I plan on doing so in order to point out that either the menu should be updated to specify the right amount or different glasses should be use, or if these glasses are available their staff should be properly trained. Let’s just hope this is all an oversight and not management trying to deceive customers.

  • Great article. I also read the article from September 2014 regarding the Fairness At The Pump Act and can say nothing has changed and the Scofflaw ( love that word along with Plutonium ) politicians blew it once again and another beef of mine is the bottle sizing that deceives the customer. Why do we need a 355 ml bottle a 341ml bottle a 330ml and even a 250ml bottle and all cans should be 355ml or 500ml and forget about all the fancy bottle types. Bring back the brown stubby for all brands and forget the vanity. It might actually help the logistics of packaging beer and moving beer and stocking it and also reduce the cost. And stop taxing us to death. Any who thanks for listening and have a great weekend. Merci

  • Off topic. This is an older article from 2014 and was wondering if their was any newer information about this in Alberta that you know of or if it was even on the radar.

    • beerguy

      I have not heard a whisper about a similar bylaw in Alberta. I imagine the industry is simply too new at this point to warrant that kind of intervention.

  • Ike

    I was out at a new local place last night and while the food was good, the beer list was uninspiring macros. No draught size listed on the menu, but the pour I received couldn’t have been more than 14 ounces and if I had to guess I would say 12. The food was good, but I felt cheated and didn’t order a second which I almost certainly would have done if they weren’t playing games.

    They are in a downtown area with plenty of choice so I’m also not likely to return. Maybe I’m in the minority in noticing this and caring, but I don’t think I a .

  • NH

    Just to add.. Sorry if it was mentioned in any of those really long messages or in the links.

    If a bar in Canada has the word “pint” on a menu and serve anything lower than 568ml, they can be charged under the Canadian Weight and Measures Act and be fined up to 50k!

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