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.