Barley Mowat 

Archive for July, 2014

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

Tagged with

Why You Should Complain About #Unhappyhour

with 26 comments

tl;dr: Here’s a link to the form letter to Suzanne Anton if you’d rather not read my blatherings.

As a general rule of thumb, you don’t do a lot for your political livelihood if you raise taxes. It’s unpopular, to say the least, and might eventually cost you the election. However, in terms of removing you from office as fast as possible, raising taxes has absolutely nothing on fucking around with the price of beer.

Yet the BC Liberals did just that recently, slipping a new minimum price for all forms of liquor into their so-called Happy Hour, perhaps with the hope that no one would notice.

I cannot stress how difficult setting up this shot was.

Well, we noticed. People are hopping mad about a “Happy Hour” that comes with an “All Hours” minimum price so high that many bars now have to raise their prices to meet them, effectively negating the whole point of the legislation for vast swarms of beer drinkers Province wide. (Old minimum was roughly $0.11/oz; new is $0.25/oz)

Note that I didn’t include myself in that list. “Happy Hour” doesn’t hurt me much, at all. The new pre-tax minimum of $5.00 per 20oz pint is frankly a lot less than the regular prices at pubs I frequent (where prices range from $8 to $15+ per pint). I guess I might actually save some money, but likely not.

You see, I don’t order beer by price. I’m fortunate enough to have a high paying job, and to be honest its been literally years since I’ve seriously weighed the price of a beer as part of my purchase decision. A beer on special is not likely to attract my attention. A special beer is.

This reminds me of an actual conversation I had at a local LRS a few years back during the release of a hot new local beer.

Me: “Hey, Beer X has no price. How much does it cost?”
Them: “Do you care?”
Me: …
Me: <quiet clinking as I put beer in basket>

In a similar vein, the LCBO closest to Rob Ford’s Business Plan is “500% Price Hike Plus Waiting.”

Bear with me; I’m making a point here. Despite not being affected, I still care about this new law, and it upsets me. Why? It’s a shitty, poorly thought out law that clearly doesn’t have the best interest of the electorate in mind. I’m the one most likely to benefit from it, but I’m also the one who frankly doesn’t give a crap how much my beer costs.

Other people, with less income (or more mouths to feed and/or more desire to retire some day) care a bit more about their beer prices, and the 43% at-till jump some are seeing from $3.50 (incl tax) to $5.00 (or more, plus tax) is a Big Freaking Deal to them. These folks have entirely different concerns, budgets and desires when it comes to beer, yet they’re being saddled with the exact same cross-the-board minimum price that is so beneficial to people like me.

At this rate, we might as well just cut to the chase.

And that, my friends, is a Shitty Law. It benefits the select few who are fortunate enough to not need the benefit, while it harms the many who either care very deeply about beer prices, or simply cannot afford an increase.

My beer prices aren’t going up, and it wouldn’t make a difference if they did. For a sizeable chunk of people, their beer prices are going up dramatically and now they have to have fewer pints in the pub, less often, or not at all.

Less people ordering less pints means less people serving pints and cooking food, and the individuals who make their daily bread performing those same tasks should be very concerned about this policy, indeed.

Suddenly expensive beer seems
like a problem one hopes to have, one day

So, dear Suzanne Anton, can you honestly say that you made this change with the belief that the majority of British Columbians truly wanted it? Who stood up and said “You know what? Raising minimum pricing by over 100%, establishing the highest minimums in the entire country, by a wide margin, is just a rutting grand idea! Let’s do that! Why? Why not? Sometimes you just have to innovate, dammit!”

Is this change that >2.4 million people in our province truly want? I’m not talking about “in their best interest” or “for the greater good” but rather “Do >50% of British Columbians want a minimum $5 pint?”

If the answer is “yes” I’d love to see the data. If the answer is “no” and/or “political side-step” then I would gently remind you that representing the will of the people is YOUR FUCKING JOB. You’d best start doing it.

If you’d like to voice your own displeasure about this change, but lack a convenient blogging soapbox on which to do so, click here for a form letter. Alter it. Sign it. Click send. Feedback is the only way to let them know they’ve gone too far.

Or, if you want to get fancy (and fancy gets more attention), Paddy Treavor has a great post listing the various people in the government you can yell at, including a link to all BC’s MLAs. If your MLA is in The Opposition, they might even listen to you.

Note: The email link might not work so hot for all folks. If it doesn’t, here’s the email template so you can copy/paste:

Subject: Opposition to LCLB Policy Directive No. 14-07

The Honourable Suzanne Anton, M.L.A.
Minister of Justice

Room 232
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

Dear Minister:

I write to express my displeasure with the British Columbia Liquor Control and Licensing Branch’s recent Policy Directive No. 14-07, which implements “happy hours.”

While the implementation of variable pricing itself is a welcome change, the government’s inexplicable decision to tie this improvement with a massive increase in minimum liquor pricing is a decision that I simply cannot support.

The result of the Policy Directive is to increase, by more than 100%, the minimum price a licensee may charge for beer. To comply with this new minimum, many establishments in low income or rural parts of British Columbia have actually had to increase their regular beer pricing.

The notion of variable pricing–the very intent of recommendation #16 of the Liquor Policy Review Report–cannot and will not enter into the picture in such establishments. The new minimum pricing is now the only pricing. As such, many areas of the Province will never see a happy hour, and many patrons will simply forgo having a beer in a restaurant and pubs.

This policy is bad for restaurants; it is bad for service industry employees; it is bad for British Columbians as a whole, and I urge the British Columbia Provincial Government to reconsider this decision, and to fulfill their mandate: to implement policy that represents the best interests of all British Columbians.

Yours sincerely,

Written by chuck

July 4th, 2014 at 10:06 am

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with