Pint-sized Problems

It’s a common situation to which many pubs and patrons fail to give much thought. It sometimes seems that the size of a pint can change from pub to pub or sometimes even beer to beer. You’re not imagining things. Many establishments serve their draught as 16oz pours (also known as a sleeve, or an imperial pint). By legal definition (at least out here in BC), an advertised pint must be exactly 20oz. If it is any different, the establishment is falsely advertising and can actually face legal repercussions.

When you think about it it’s actually shocking. Many people ordering a beer on tap will order “a pint of…”, and without hesitation the bartender will begin pouring. The idea of pouring 16oz draught isn’t wrong, it most likely comes from being so close to the United States, where 16oz makes an imperial pint. The problem lies in the wording. Take a look next time you’re in a bar with a beer list. How is it worded? Many bars get away with pouring 16oz as their standard by carefully choosing their wording. For instance, It’s not uncommon to see ‘small and large’, ‘glass and sleeve’, or even ’12oz and 16oz’ on the menu and in these cases the establishment is in the clear. If however, the word ‘pint’ is used and the actually vessel measures less than 20oz, we’re in trouble.

Now I know some may be thinking “what’s the big deal?”. I mean realistically if the price reflects the size of the glass what’s the harm. Frankly not much, but think of it this way; You’re buying 5 sleeves for every 4 pints (both equalling 80oz). At our pub we serve both pints and sleeves and advertise them as such. An average pint is $6.50 where a sleeve is $5.50. That means at the 80oz point, you’re paying $26 drinking pints or $27.50 drinking sleeves. If you as a customer are aware that this option exists and are aware of the differences, then no harm is done. This is unfortunately not often the case.

The ‘big deal’ over the pint/sleeve debate really comes down to misrepresentation. It is up to an establishment to represent the intentions of the brewer correctly. By lying to consumers, a bar is not only cheating them out of money but also the product that the brewer took such time an effort to put out. That is the reason for groups like CAMRA. CAMRA is a non-profit interest group that lobbies for proper representation of small brewers. They act as a watchdog to ensure that establishments are properly serving and representing the beers they offer. This simplistic explanation doesn’t really cover the full scale of what they do so if you’re interested check them out at .

So next time you’re in a bar, take a look at the menu. Take note of the wording of the draught and if you’re being sold a pint ensure it really is a pint. You have a right to know what you’re drinking.


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