Barley Mowat 

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Glass Size vs Pour Size

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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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2013 CAMRA Beer Awards

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The CAMRA Vancouver Member Awards were this weekend past, and since I knew ahead of time I was on the award-ee list, I decided to go, because I like external validation.

Much to my surprise, though, the awards were not just a 3-hour gala dedicated to yours truly, but instead I had to share the stage with some other “deserving” folks. Oh well, in the sake of at least seeming interested in things other than myself, I guess I’ll re-post the results here.

Okay, enough of the faux self-absorbed beer blogger persona. In all honesty, congrats to the winners. These rewards represent some serious beer-geek cred. The CAMRA Vancouver membership represents perhaps the crustiest top tier of beer snobs in Vancouver, which is the beer capital of BC and, by extension, Canada. Sorry Victoria, I know you have both Driftwood and a higher brewery-to-populace ratio, but how many new breweries did you open last year? Thought so.

Amongst the just-over 1400 CAMRA card-carrying beererati are a large number of professional brewmasters, retail store owners, restauranteurs and actual professional beer reviewers (remember, I’m just an amateur). Impressing this lot is not an easy task.

Overwhelmingly I agree with the results. Perhaps my only complaint would be that Four Winds Saison Brett didn’t make the Best Seasonal cut, but so little of that was produced that likely not enough voters had tried it. (Also, Howe Sound coming in first for Best BC BrewPub yet only placing third for Best Local BrewPub is a bit odd, but maybe too many folks didn’t consider it local despite the explicit note that Squamish was in-area)

So, without further adieu, here is the full list of CAMRA Member Award Winners. I’ll include their Twitter handles so you can give them a follow or two. Please do so.

Best Beer Blogger or Writer:
Bronze: Jan Zeschky (@JanTweats)
Silver: Joe Wiebe (@ThirstyWriter)
Gold: Chuck Hallett (@Barley_Mowat)

Best Beer Name (Gold only):
Gold: Toques of Hazzard (@Parallel49Beer)

Best Beer Artwork (Gold only):
Gold: Craft Beer Month Collaboration Spruce Tip Stout (@CraftBeerMonth)

Best Local Beer Event:
Bronze: BC Beer Awards (BCBeerAwards)
Silver: Hopapalooza (@AlibiRoom / @VCBW)
Gold: Vancouver Craft Beer Week (@VCBW)

Best BC Beer (Non-Seasonal):
Bronze: Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears (@Parallel49Beer)
Silver: Central City Red Racer IPA (@CentralCityBrew)
Gold: Driftwood Fat Tug (@DriftwoodBeer)

Best BC Beer (Seasonal):
Bronze: Driftwood Singularity (@DriftwoodBeer)
Silver: Driftwood Lustrum (@DriftwoodBeer)
Gold: Driftwood Sartori Harvest (@DriftwoodBeer)

Best Local Beer Server/Bartender:
Bronze: Nicole Coetzee (Alibi/Brassneck) (@XGingerBeerX)
Silver: Alex Wilson (Alibi/Brassneck) (@A_P_Wilson)
Gold: Nigel Springthorpe (Alibi/Brassneck) (@AlibiRoom)

Best Local Beer Establishment:
Bronze: BierCraft (@BierCraft)
Silver: St Augustine’s (@StAugustinesVan)
Gold: Alibi Room (@AlibiRoom)

Best Local Private LIquor Store:
Bronze: Central City Liquor Store (@CentralCityLRS)
Silver: Legacy Liquor Store (@LegacyLiquor)
Gold: Brewery Creek Liquor Store (@BreweryCreek)

Best Local Cask Night:
Bronze: The Railway Club — Tuesday (@RailwayClub)
Silver: St Augustine’s — Monday (@StAugustinesVan)
Gold: The Whip — Sunday (@WhipRestaurant)

Best Local Brewpub:
Bronze (tie): Howe Sound Inn & Brewpub (@HoweSoundBeer)
Bronze (tie): Yaletown Brewing Company (@YBC_Brewing)
Silver: Steamworks (@SteamworksPub)
Gold: Central City Brewpub (@CentralCityPub)

Best BC Brewpub:
Bronze: Spinnakers (@Spinnakers)
Silver: Central City (@CentralCityPub)
Gold: Howe Sound (@HoweSoundBeer)

Best BC Brewery:
Bronze: Four Winds (@FourWindsBrewCo)
Silver: Parallel 49 (@Parallel49Beer)
Gold: Driftwood (@DriftwoodBeer)

Special, Lifetime Achievement Award: John Mitchell (no Twitter)

That’s it, folks. No smarmy trash talk, no funny pictures. This list is about handing praise over to deserving folks, so please go do that now. Tell them you love them, buy their beer, go to their pubs. If you’re really into learning more, do some Googling on this “John Mitchell” character above.

I’ll resume my self-indulgent navel gazing in another post.

Written by chuck

February 17th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

CAMRA Sessional Cask Fest

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One of my all time favourite CAMRA events was the Spring Sessional Fest of Ale of two years past (review here). Sure, it wasn’t perfect (few things are), but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. The company was entertaining, the crowd was friendly, and the sun was shining in through the London Pub’s windows (remember when pubs were required to have darkened glass? WTF was with that?) Adding to this general mood of happiness was the beer itself.

The past decade or so has seen two forms of arms race in the craft brewing world. First, there’s the “how many hops can we cram in this beer without actually turning it green” race, which has slowly morphed into the “so what, it’s green, wanna make something of it?” race. Running parallel to this is the “let’s jack up the booze” trend. A long time ago a 6% ABV IPA would have been considered quite the strong ale. These days, table IPAs regularly top 7 or 8%, with the higher Imperials reaching for (and sometimes exceeding) 10%.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t make these high ABV monsters. They high alcohol helps blend together/take the edge off some of the stronger malt/hops flavours that come with the big beer crowd. Additionally, high ABV beers tend to cellar better, and man am I ever a sucker for a cellaring ale. Plus, there are other, less subtle benefits.

Like making baseball tolerable. You thought I was going with pictures of drunk co-eds doing regrettable things, didn’t you? Shame on you; I’ve matured since my early days.

It’s just that I feel we’ve lost something by moving away from our humble end-of-the-workday table beer roots. Remember how awesome it felt to be able to crack open a bottle of beer on a Tuesday and finish it with no fear of impeded performance on Wednesday? Me neither, but my diary reports the feeling to be awesome. We’ve left those days behind, and now find ourselves in The Time of 8% ABV Saisons. (Aside: I like both beers, especially Deckhand, but Saisons were originally low ABV refreshers for the end of a long day’s manual labour)

That leads us to CAMRA’s latest event: the 2013 Spring Sessional. Sessional’s are low-ABV beers that don’t skimp on flavour. Sure, they might not punch in you in the face like their bigger brethren, but how often do you find yourself thinking “Man, I could go for a full pint of Singularity right about now.”

The goal with sessionals is to create a beer that can be enjoyed 20 ounces at a time, without fear of waking up in the bathroom stall at the Alibi Room, under a blanket, with a note to let yourself out pinned to your chest (note: not actually a thing that happened. I swear. It was a poncho). To accomplish this, they focus on more subtle flavours that build up in your mouth over the course of a pint but don’t wear you out. As I like to say with great sessionals: “This beer tastes like another pint.”

The focus of the event has slipped a bit from 3.5% ABV to 4.5% ABV, and the tasting glasses have shrunk from 10oz to 6oz, but the spirit is still the same. As well, since low-ABV beers are not exactly hugely popular, or even produced by most breweries, we are virtually guaranteed that the entrants will be interesting, novel experiments, which is what I most love about casks. Throw onto that pile of awesome-sounding-beer-event CAMRA President Adam acting as “cask police” and things get even better: many “casks” served locally are really just beer in a cask-shaped vessel–Adam will ensure that is not the case here.

Am I going? Damned straight. And you’d best too, if you know what’s good for you. I heard this AM that there are tickets still available, and for an event of this calibre, that’s been on sale over a month, that is a bloody crime. Shame on you, beer public. You call yourself beer geeks and you allow THIS to happen? Go buy tickets. Buy them all. Buy one for your dog, if you have to, he likes beer.

Okay fine. Here you go. Happy now?

Written by chuck

April 26th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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