Barley Mowat 

Glass Size vs Pour Size

with 25 comments

There was a whole flurry of keyboard-warrioring going on this weekend over a recent CAMRA effort to raise the issue of endemic under pours in the local craft beer pub scene. Like their style or not (and I did not like their style) they at least got us talking about it.

One thing that immediately became clear from the discussion is that there’s plenty of confusion out there regarding what, exactly, is meant by the phrase “16oz of beer.” It might seem trivial upon initial inspection, but two camps quickly emerged: those that feel 16oz is the beer alone (head is extra) and those that feel 16oz is the amount of beer–including head–that fits in a 16oz glass.

There’s no official line on this matter, either. The LCLB Policy Manual helpfully suggests that “quantities” must be displayed as part of a price list, but never clarifies what a certain quantity of beer actually is. Thus, we must infer from the policy. The point of listing quantities is to allow patrons to appropriately gauge their consumption (although curiously listing ABV is not required). It would reason, then, that the LCLB intent is to specify the volume of the liquid itself excluding head, since head contains very little alcohol.

Although some heads have more alcohol than others

UPDATE: Measurements Canada has since explicitly confirmed that stated volume for beer sales does not include head. No ifs, ands or buts.

With that out of the way, we can talk about making it all better. Clearly all we have to do is get out the ladder, climb up to the chalk board, cross out the “16oz” before “Fat Tug, $5.00” and then write in “~14oz” right? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Sure, everyone reading this would see that, congratulate the bar on upping their standards, and then order a properly poured ~14oz drink and tip big. Other folks, especially those not vested too heavily in craft beer, will see the now-lower “14oz” size next to the just-the-same $5.00 price and say “What the bloody fuckin’ ‘ell?!” (Everyone has a cockney accent in my examples).

That person would likely then walk out the door and into a pub that’s still selling their 16oz (glass) of Fat Tug for the old price of $5.00, despite the fact both pubs are serving him the exact same amount of the exact same beer in the same glass, and charging the same price for it. Only now he’s very mad at one of them.

Basically the logic is “we can’t afford to be honest because then the dishonest folk would profit at our expense, so we’ll just be dishonest too” or more frequently stated “it’s common industry practise.” Sure, it’s common, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Bar owners either know full well that they’re playing fast and loose with serving sizes, or they manage to convince themselves that “16oz” actually means glass size, and everyone should know and accept that. Sorry guys, as a beer consumer, and a regular reader of that epic tome, the Licensing Policy Manual, that dog don’t hunt.

What? It’s in the glass you ordered!

Sure, there are other options. The bar could buy 18oz glasses, and actually pour the client 16oz of beer. Of course, this has two added expenses: the new glassware plus the extra 2oz of beer the client is now getting for that same $5.00. Your rep is saved, but your profits are down. As a business that’s no good.

Can’t raise the price of that 18oz glass/16oz pour of beer either, since that just puts you right back in the scenario of directly competing with the dishonest places down the street, only this time the size stayed the same on the board but the price went up.

So that’s the corner we’ve painted ourselves into. The bars have been short pouring people for so long that it just seems like the only way to do business, and giving the competition any slight advantage in terms of perceived value just isn’t palatable.

What do we do? There’s no easy solution. I’ve thought on this long and hard, and I don’t see a way around ripping off this band-aid. We have to go cold turkey and give up the addictive profits of short pours. The pubs should pull out the ladder and change their pour sizes. They should also post a sign explaining what’s happening, and what’s happening down the street.

To be honest, I’m pretty curious about what’s happening down the street, too.

Consumers are smarter than you give them credit for; they’ll figure it out. Yes, it brings up the awkward conversation around honest vs dishonest prices and which of those you were charging before, but it lets you frame that discussion and prepare your staff for it. Best do it now while you have control.

Either you lead the charge, or slowly, folks will start to wander into your pub, look at your board and ask “is that pour size or glass size?” Trust me: you don’t want to be honest because your clients figured out you were lying, and demand it of you.

In the long run, move away from the “~14oz” pour and into actual marked glasses. These are more expensive, but when you hear people talking about places with marked pours you hear phrases like “fancy as shoot” and not “what’s with these weird markings?” (Okay, some of the people in my examples are actually near-illiterates from Alabama). Fill lines remove all doubt about what’s in your glass and allow your patrons to ask other bars why they, in turn, don’t have fill lines.

Make no mistake, moving in this direction won’t be easy, but I also suspect it won’t be as hard as bar owners fear. In the long run, it’s simply the right thing to do. Might as well get a head start.

Written by chuck

July 7th, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Bars,Beer and You

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25 Responses to 'Glass Size vs Pour Size'

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  1. When you order a 1 ounce shot of whiskey you expect a full pour, so why would it be different with beer?


    7 Jul 14 at 20:23

  2. Because, Lee, beer is a profit centre where cheating is ‘industry practise’: weren’t you paying attention?

    Honestly, everyone should just bend over and get with the program, or bar owners will ban us. Once we dedicated beer drinkers, the kind of people who passionately care about (and passionately consume) beer are all driven off, things will be perfect!


    7 Jul 14 at 20:29

  3. Well a beer poured to the top without any head generally is frowned upon. A decent head is a finger or two. In fact I know I have read several articles on the importance of “head retention” in relation to a quality craft beer product. Instead of worrying about every milliliter potentially lost, consider comparing a glass to a bottle. A bottle of beer is an average of 12oz. When you buy a 6pk and consume it with your friends, this serving size is acceptably received as 1 single serving. Now yes, it is inappropriate to call any serving size smaller than 20oz a “pint” of course. But honestly if the price is right, what exactly is the problem with a 14oz pour, 16oz pour or even a 12oz pour? I mean if you go to a Canucks game or a beer garden you are getting an expensive beer in a 10oz plastic cup. And yet most people are having fun.

    There are those out there that feel if they are not getting a full 20oz pint at a bar/pub/restaurant then they are immediately cheated, regardless of the price for that pour at that establishment. Considering a 20oz pour is a full 8oz above a 12oz bottle, that means the 20oz pour is in fact a bottle and 2/3 of a serving. To me, I have become accustomed to accepting 14-16oz pours as standard and acceptable so long as I consider the selling price to be equally acceptable. If I do get a full 20oz pour I usually find it to be a bonus as I will obviously order fewer rounds but knowing I am getting 2/3 a bottle of beer increase in my serving I consider it acceptable that their serving is of higher monetary value.

    If one is truly concerned with the financial value of their next morning’s hangover then one should accept some factors. The first being that if you are going to start and end your drinking engagement at a Pub or some other place, you are going to make a fairly significant investment into your future intoxication. Trying to save 25 cents by outing an ounce of head just sounds like complaining and being a cheap date. Not very attractive I might add. The other is that if one is so concerned about getting a buzz on the cheapest method as possible while out in a profit driven establishment then that person may as well seek out the highest percentage in alcohol as possible….or rethink how they spend their evenings as they obviously cannot actually afford to be drinking.

    If we are interested in enjoying fine craft beverages, and we are on a certain budget, let’s call it $30 for the night, then are we more concerned with our ability to get as inebriated as possible; or are we concerned with the quality of the product itself, the people we are enjoying our conversation with and the warm shining sun beating on our faces?

    Yes, there are some dodgy places out there that cheat their customers and yes, if that is their business model then outing them is fine. But if you are paying $3.50 for a 14oz pour at a profit seeking establishment, considering that is 2oz higher than a bottle of beer, you are most likely going to be on your way to inebriation at the same rate of consumption as if you brought those 12oz bottles of retail purchased beer to a friend’s bbq.

    The end of the day, listening to people complain that a single finger of head on their beer has cost them an oz of potential drunkeness to me is the same caliber as a junkie on their hands and knees looking for that rock on the ground that may or may not have fallen out of their hands while loading their next hit.

    The topic of enjoying a fine crafted beverage has begun to get lost in the epidemic of complaining about practically everything possible.

    The bottom line is that drinking at any profit seeking establishment will forever cost you more than purchasing at a retail location and enjoying the same beverage with the same company in a different setting. My best suggestion here is for one to either find a way to balance their financial life more appropriately as the tools are there to fuel your passion for enjoying beer on the “cheaper” if one is truly that concerned. Or to accept that if one wishes to start and finish their endeavors at a profit seeking establishment then the next morning when you regroup with your friends to put the pieces back together from the night before, you may as well let go of your monetary anxiety and instead revel in the fact that the previous night you were a baller and you spent a whopping $$$$. Wow. What a night.


    7 Jul 14 at 21:33

  4. You have some good points, Pulverizer. However I think a lot of people (at least the ones I talk to) are less concerned about getting drunk for less and just don’t like to feel that they are being deceived. That’s the case for me.
    On a menu there are 3 things that make up the agreement – the type of beer, the amount I am getting and the price. If the bar doesn’t follow through with the first two, then should I have to pay the full price?
    If I see a beer on a menu that I really, really want to try, I’ll buy it. I don’t care if it’s 5% or 10%, if it’s 14 oz or 18oz. I also probably won’t care too much about the price. But if I am told that it’s a 20oz pour of 7% beer, then that better be what I get. And if it’s less than that, they are cheating me.

    No One Special

    7 Jul 14 at 22:09

  5. Advertise a 16oz sleeve, pour a 16oz sleeve… I don’t go to Wendy’s to get a 1/6lb burger, I expect the full 1/4. I don’t want to pay for a pound of pasta bit only get 400g.


    7 Jul 14 at 22:13

  6. To “No one Special” – I hear your point, but if I see $6 on a menu for a 20oz pint, and I am served 18oz of beer with a 2oz head, well to be honest, oh well. I’m in a bar, and this is capitalism. They want to make money, I want a pint and that last 2oz that could have been that much more beer in my belly is to me irrelevant. I’m still going to get drunk and we can throw up what % that 2oz represents in my being ripped off but the truth is, I don’t like tipping over 15% either but apparently I’m supposed too….?? I have long given up on wasting my hard earned dollars on a regular basis at any establishment. I choose to enjoy my product with friends in different settings where I either drink illegally in public or at the comforts of a residence. So the few times I go and waste too much at an establishment I have already accepted that the entire engagement is in fact a rip off right from the start. I mean come on. I’ve run into $12 eggs Benny’s for Christ sake….. The whole world we live in is over priced and inflation is taking it’s toll and when our children’s children are of legal drinking age it will be the norm to pay $15 for a glass of beer…. What is more a rip off? That 2oz of head you got in your 16oz sleeve or the fact that the restaurant you are sitting in has to pay $30k a month just in rent to be able to sell you that glass????

    It should be common knowledge that the serving size is related to the physical size of the glass itself. To not understand that or to have just realized this to be true means you’ve only been lying to yourself or you’ve actually been that naive for so long.

    And Mike – a 1/4 pounder burger is actually a 1/4 pound when it goes on the grill, but once it is cooked it shrinks. Don’t believe me? Bring a scale to Wendy’s next time. The revolt doesn’t end at beer my friend.


    7 Jul 14 at 22:37

  7. @Pulverizer

    You walk into a bar to have a drink. You order a bottle of your favourite beer. The numbers, ounces, and costs aside, how would you feel if they poured out the neck, and then gave you the rest? you would probably give the bartender a funny look right?

    you said its not about 25 cents, but then you might as well have a punch card that says “Get 10 beers, pay for 11!” If “establishments need to profit, they should be doing it honestly. 25 cents every drink ads up fast, and the consumer being on the losing end is just shit.

    mike 2

    7 Jul 14 at 23:34

  8. I would have thought this would be covered by the Weights and Measures Act? I mean gas stations have to have their pumps calibrated to a standard accuracy, why not a beer glass? I’m paying a lot more for a litre of beer than a litre of gas! Maybe it’s because the Imperial units aren’t considered legal measure? Would be funny if it had to be accurate if sold by the millilitre…


    7 Jul 14 at 23:35

  9. @Pulverizer

    Cost has nothing to do with it; getting what you ordered has everything to do it with it. Don’t you find it odd that when you buy groceries, gas, even pop, that you receive the exact volume or weight that was advertised, but this doesn’t hold for draught beer?

    Note that I say draught beer specifically here, because packaged beer is also sold on the “you get what’s promised” system. So is wine. So is whiskey. So is milk. In fact, ONLY DRAUGHT BEER, of all merchandize sold in this country, seems to be irregularly exempt from this rule. Heck, even the fast food burger example cited includes a nice little asterisk explaining that the weight is, in fact, before cooking. See here:

    Maybe all the bars need to do is add a similar asterisk explaining that the volume is of the glass? I’d be happy with that, but somehow I suspect the pubs won’t see it the same way.

    You then seem to imply that folks asking to receive what they’ve ordered are cheap, and that perhaps we shouldn’t be out having a pint in the pub in the first place. Well, here’s a thought: If craft beer had no alcohol at all but still tasted the same, I’d still be drinking it (if not more frequently); same holds if it was 3x the price. I like it that much. And yes, I’d still be asking to receive what I ordered.

    If ordering my 16oz, $25 serving of 0% ABV near beer and complaining when I only get 14oz makes me a cheap alcoholic, then so be it. Also, can I PLEASE get some of what you’re smoking?

    It’s not about cost, it’s not about getting hammered, it’s about receiving what we ordered, plain and simple.

    I get that you don’t seem to care when you’re being delivered less than you ordered. That’s your right, but please don’t insist that because you view being maltreated so blithely that everyone else has to view things the same way. The menu is a contract, and as consumers we have every right to expect the bar to uphold their end of the deal.


    Yes, it is covered by the Weights and Measures Act (including details on allowable tolerances). It’s also covered by the BC Licensing Policy Manual (and the underlying Liquor Control Act). The BC LCLB has very publicly taken a “don’t like it? Saddle on down the street” approach, but the Federal Government appears to be slightly more concerned about businesses committing what is almost certainly fraud.

    I’ll have more on all that in a future post.


    8 Jul 14 at 00:14

  10. I think it’s pretty straightforward to be honest about serving size and for the most part it’s pretty easy. I don’t expect perfection, however a properly poured beer should at least be very close to the an advertised serving size. Post the serving size, mark the glass if you have to (hey this prevents over pours too) and move on.


    8 Jul 14 at 00:52

  11. Meh, first world problems. We should be so lucky to have this as our concern. To each their own. One side sees it as being duped while I choose to see the cost associated with a single serving size regardless of actual size. Seeing as both price and serving size are inconsistent across all establishments I have always chosen to gauge it by value per serving. Some choose 4.50 some more. A pint a sleeve a glass, I just never cared. It is after all just beer. An ounce is about the amount of saliva I’m about to spit after a cough. I choose to care none. Enjoy the quest of outting all the shamers. Seems like a daunting task. Wonder how patrons in Syria feel about our big problems over here.


    8 Jul 14 at 01:00

  12. “I just never cared”

    You spew an awful lot of words for someone who doesn’t care.


    8 Jul 14 at 12:58

  13. Very observant, Brent. I would say it’s just the opposite: vested interest.


    8 Jul 14 at 15:18

  14. @Chuck Better to compare to other beverages dispensed under pressure from a hose/tap. How much coke is in my McDonalds cup? How much is foam or ice? It is not only draught beer, it is pretty much any beverage pushed with gas. That is what it should be compared to based on method of dispensation and both should be held to the same high or low standard.


    8 Jul 14 at 15:28

  15. My Americano is served in a 16oz paper cup but baristas seem to gauge my room for cream differently. I’m going to write my MP.

    Tom Tom

    8 Jul 14 at 15:35

  16. @Chester – Some good points, but based on feedback from Measurement Canada it would sound like representing less than 31oz of pop as 32oz would also fall foul of the law. Adding caveats such as “cola w/ ice” would take care of the ice aspect, but the foamy head does not count towards the volume total (has anyone measured pop cups to see if they’re slightly over the stated size to allow for this?)

    Sadly, while putting an asterisk with “size indicates glass size” would instantly remove all my concerns for beer servings, the LCLB would frown upon it as now you’re serving an unspecified amount of beer (although, honestly, I highly doubt they’d care).

    Put the asterisk down, or indicate the actual serving volume. Pick one and I’m happy. I just want to have some indication of what will arrive at my table when I order.


    8 Jul 14 at 15:50

  17. I find it particularly ironic that it’s the establishments that focus on craft beer specifically that are being targeted by CAMRA. The same places that are responsible for bringing craft beer culture to the city (which seemed to be CAMRA’s one and only focus for the longest time) are now on CAMRA’s shit list?

    And just to clarify, I’m not taking issue with the concept behind FUSS, but rather am speaking specifically to the ludicrous, blind sided attack on establishments by Mr. Pres on Saturday. Using social media to launch his little tirade (or tantrum, depending on how you look at it) was gutless. I didn’t have a strong opinion on Mr. Chatburn’s presidency either way before this weekend, but I sure do now.

    @Chester (I’m assuming Carey) – GREAT point, and not one that I’ve ever considered or even heard in this whole debate before.

    The solution I’m leading towards: have establishments list glass sizes, not pour sizes. Yes, I know the law is written otherwise, but the law is obviously not being headed or enforced, so who cares what it says? It’s not working, so try something else. Let the bars keep their glassware, let the consumer decide what an acceptable amount of head is. If I know the size of the glass I can confidently compare between various establishments and figure out which ones I want to drink at.

    @chuck: your solution is great in theory, but will NEVER happen without the intervention of liquor inspectors, and they’ve already made it perfectly clear they don’t care.

    Not Impressed by CAMRA

    8 Jul 14 at 16:05

  18. Pulverizer, you seem to be missing the point here.

    If all pours were the same there would be no issue at all as we could all just compare prices across the board. The problem is with the variable pour combined with the variable price.

    How much is a Fat Tug? How much is one worth. I heard tell there was some Fat Tug index that you could use to compare prices out there some place, but of course this is completely useless if different pubs pour different amounts.

    How many times have I sat down at a new establishment, ordered my favorite only to look at the serving glass, and depth and get that sinking feeling that I had been had.

    If they say it is a 12,14, 16 or whatever number of ounces then by some simple napkin math I can easily get in the ballpark on whether or not I am getting good value or not, before I order; but the situation now is that most pubs frankly don’t even post their glass size, to speak nothing of the pour size.

    The is about accountability. This is about knowing what you are paying for and about getting what you pay for.

    Of course, if your money is just some sort of magic paper that appears in your wallet then I guess you don’t have to worry about these things; as long as they are willing trade some for a little of that liquid gold, that is.


    8 Jul 14 at 16:12

  19. Short pours are an important albeit unscrupulous (read:illegal) way for bartenders to put extra bucks in their pocket every night. Unless glasses are marked with a fill line, this problem is not going away.
    If they short pour by 2oz, and “forget” to ring in every 7th cash sale, the money goes right into their pocket and at the end of the week the volume of beer in inventory still jives with the sales receipts.
    Sadly, this is an ingrained practice that is not going to vanish easily. No bartender is going to admit it in the first place. Ironically, the amount of technology and money that bars employ to prevent long pours (where bar owners loose cold hard cash) actually enables the short pour scam…

    I would like nothing more than to get what I pay for. I support FUSS, and I support CAMRA. But this problem goes a lot deeper than it is being presented as.


    8 Jul 14 at 16:45

  20. I don’t know how anyone who isn’t profiting from this scam can possibly be against what Adam did. This IS a black and white issue and the law is clear. And its good that he also targeted craft beer establishments. Why should they get a pass? Whats a worse crime: short pouring me 2oz on a $4 pint of a 5% molson canadian or short pouring me 2oz on a $7 14oz sleeve of a 9% RIS? What if they are shorting you 1oz on every 4oz sample on that paddle you ordered?


    8 Jul 14 at 22:43

  21. I think that, considering the lengths that pubs would go to hide the cheating (ie spending money on glasses that have massively thick and tapered bases) then I say hit the buggers hard. Some pubs are actually only giving you 11oz in a ‘sleeve’.

    Coniferous Gloom

    9 Jul 14 at 00:49

  22. I still do not understand why people bitch about this issue rather than looking into the simplest solution to this issue:
    As Chuck wrote:
    Put a marking on the glass that clearly indicates the appropriate fill level.
    Europe has done it for centuries and it works perfectly fine. It even helps the bars to not over-serve!! An aspect that is unlikely to happen but it may.
    Why not work with the legislation to only have certified glassware with a clear marking? This should apply to any drink which will fold the whole discussion about your cola serving sizes etc. at the same time.
    Serving something in an unmarked container AND not providing a tool to verify the serving size (remember that where something is sold by weight a calibrated scale must be handy)should be illegal. Simply put.


    16 Jul 14 at 12:18


    I read your blog when it came out. I just saw this article from the Vancouver Sun today. A reporter decided to investigate the pours he was getting.


    18 Jul 14 at 11:28

  24. At my local pub they use a lot of glassware from breweries for their “pints.” Does anyone know if hoyne, lighthouse, central city or driftwood glasses are the same size? There is usually a little head on their pours, but not too much. This could be another solution to standardizing the pints.


    2 Aug 14 at 22:10

  25. Go get a growler, seriously control your own destiny…or if it was soooo easy open your own craft beer establishment.

    If you don’t like a product a bar is serving don’t go! I understand the principles and deception of what has been presented. It sounds to me like a whole bunch of complaining about particular establishments that are providing a service to which you continue to support.

    So I’m opening a spot for craft beer… I’m getting US pint glasses because that is what is economical… I will use promotion glassware from companies who will donate and I want to carry the best product.

    It is the law to post the quantity, and sounds like you want gawdamn digital readout of every pour.

    Here is a pint, a US pint….glass! Its what everyone says at the bar. Assuming you’re smart enough to realize that is 16oz, and it will be posted 16oz not a “pint.” Now you’re still going to gripe because I give you head on the glass? The volume will always be slightly variable. You can see how big the glass is, you can ask how many oz are in a glass, you can see what the price is… if you’re still bitching about the bartender, well perhaps you’re in the wrong establishment!

    Sure I can get you exactly 16oz… that means I need an 18oz glass which are 6x the price and I will gross up the price for all those hipsters out there complaining. The price was 5 bucks, but now because of hipsters the price is 8.50 with a special posted note saying it’s an 18oz glass and has a nice little white line on it.

    The problem is the price you’re paying if you’re complaining about value. STOP buying 14.5oz glasses of craft beer for 9 bucks in Vancouver. The skinny jeans are making you grumpy.


    28 Jul 15 at 11:34

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