Would lined beer glasses solve the pint problem?

It is sometimes claimed by opponents of the metric system that any interference with “the British working man’s pint” would spell political death for any party that dared to touch it. Leaving aside the sexist assumptions behind the claim, let us examine whether there is a practical solution that need not be controversial.

Firstly, let it be said that it is not the beer itself that we are talking about – but simply the size of the glass in which draught (but not bottled) beer is served.

Secondly, the purpose of any regulation should be that customers get what they pay for – that is, the full amount (however measured) that they have ordered.

The current position is that draught beer and cider must be dispensed in amounts of one pint (imperial – not US), or a half or a third of a pint. Metered dispensers are rarely used, and the glasses in which beer is normally served may be either brim measures – that is, the glass must be completely full to the brim, or the glass may have a lined mark (etched, printed or moulded) indicating the amount. Overwhelmingly, British pubs use brim measure rather than lined glasses.

There are two unfortunate consequences of this use of brim measure glasses. Firstly, much beer is spilt as glasses are carried from bar to table, resulting in sticky carpets, and the customer not getting to drink the full amount. Secondly, because beer has a “head” of froth, the glass cannot actually be completely filled. In fact, the brewing industry claims that the froth is part of the beer and may be up to 5% of the glass by volume. In other words, even when the glass appears to be full, you only get 95% of the stated amount. Furthermore, trading standards officers will normally not prosecute for short measure if the shortfall is less than 5%. This means that when you order a pint, you are only guaranteed a minimum of 90% liquid beer.

CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) has long campaigned on this point (see
http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=campaigns)*, and LACORS (the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services) have also argued strongly in favour of the customer being entitled to full measure (See http://www.lacors.gov.uk/lacors/ContentDetails.aspx?id=2432).

However, following a consultation carried out a few years ago, the DTI placed more weight on the views of producers than on those of consumers and did not accept the argument that a pint of beer should be a full pint of liquid.

The obvious solution is to outlaw brim measure glasses and require beer to be served in lined glasses so that the customer can see whether the glass contains a full measure of liquid, with the froth above the line. This would then give the opportunity to deregulate the quantities that may be served and allow for glasses to be marked with more than one line indicating different amounts – as happens in some other countries. Pubs would then be free to sell in any amount (e.g. 1/2 pint, 300 ml, 500 ml, one pint, 600 ml, 1 L) provided that the liquid filled up to the line. It is also desirable that the “unit price” (price per litre and pint) should be shown (so that you can compare the draught price with the bottled or canned price).

Objections on the grounds that replacement of glasses would be too expensive may be discounted. The average life of a beer glass is only a few months, and the cost of gradual replacement over a transitional year would – if noticed at all – be trivial in relation to the overall cost of running a pub.

The following illustrations show how glasses might be marked. The first is a glass produced by CAMRA itself for use at one of its festivals. It shows how a glass can be marked at (in this case) three different imperial levels.

The next illustration is of two glasses as used in some other countries – one marked at the 300 ml level and the other at 400 ml. Note how easy it is to see that the level of liquid is below the line (presumably, the owners couldn’t wait to sample the beer before taking the photograph!).

Finally, we give below a diagram to illustrate how the current legally permitted quantities compare with some possible proposed metric quantities.


*CAMRA says:  Pints of beer are regularly served up to 10% short because the Government will not legislate to give beer drinkers the same rights as other consumers. If you buy a litre of petrol you can expect receive a full litre of petrol. If you buy a pint of milk you can expect to receive a full pint of milk. Beer drinkers are denied their basic consumer rights and as a result are frequently served short measures.

52 thoughts on “Would lined beer glasses solve the pint problem?”

  1. You say “It is also desirable that the “unit price” (price per litre and pint) should be shown ”

    Why is it necessary to publish the price per pint? Price per litre uniquely defines the price of a particular beer, and not other price indication would be required.

    [As long as it is legal to sell by the pint, it is surely reasonable to require the price per pint to be displayed alongside the price per litre – Ed]


  2. The sooner all glasses are lined the better. I really don’t care whether it is a pint or 500ml. An added benefit might be that landlords are discouraged from using a sparkler so they don’t give too much beer away !


  3. One of the things that the consumer should (but often does not) look at is the price difference between pre-packaged good and goods that are weighed or measured at the time of sale. Those goods could be bananas at a market stall, cheese at the supermarket deli counter or beer in a pub. In order to promote transparency, the unit price should be displayed using the same units of measure for any particular product, regardless of how the product is marketed.

    It is worth noting that in supermarkets, the unit price is shown on the price tags of all cans, bottlers and packages of beer and cider.


  4. I have received the following comment from CAMRA. I leave it to others to respond.

    “Dear Robin

    Thank you for emailing me the link to this article.

    CAMRA’s current stance is that the pint measure should be retained. Allowing the use of metric alongside imperial measures would be confusing for both staff and customers. Such a wide range of measures would make it very difficult for consumers to compare prices, without delivering any clear consumer benefit.

    Clearly CAMRA would support the introduction of lined glasses to ensure consumers receive a full measure, but we are not able to support the use of metric alongside imperial measures.

    Yours sincerely

    Jonathan Mail

    Head of Policy and Public Affairs

    01727 798448


  5. There is an issue with our current practice of selling draught beer by the pint and bottled beer in metric sizes that needs to be addressed. It is an issue of competition which puts suppliers of draught beer at a disadvantage and helps suppliers of bottled beer. Since most British real ales are sold on draught and most bottled beers are imported, it surprises me that CAMRA do not take this seriously.

    Customers buying drinks in a pub or bar do not specify the quantity they want – they just buy a “drink” or a standard measure. For bottled beer that will never be more than 500 ml; but for draught beers that will always be a pint – appoximately 568 ml, or some 13% more. That means that the supplier of draught beer must supply 13% more product – making his drinks more expensive – than the supplier of bottled beer. If customers are motivated by price then the draught beers are going to lose out to the bottles. That is a bad thing for English ale.


  6. CAMRA’s position seems quite contradictory – the “pint measure should be retained”, but they are “not able to support the use of metric alongside imperial measures”.

    Bottled beer and other beverages have been sold in metric sizes alongside imperial measures of draught beer and cider for many years. The world’s beer producers aren’t about to drop the use of millilitres for bottled beer any time soon, so the only realistic way to avoid metric and imperial alongside each other would be to dispense draught beer in metric.

    It is patronising to think that customers would be confused by having a choice of more than one measure of beer. People cope perfectly well with different sizes of bottled beer, and personally, I appreciate having a choice of glass size when buying beer abroad.

    During the Germany 2006 World Cup, many pub-owners would have welcomed the option of being able to serve their customers traditional German lager in authentic one-litre steins, to add to the sense of occasion. As it is, however, we have the odd situation where you can buy a 500 ml bottle of beer in a pub but a pub-owner cannot legally sell you a 500 ml or 1 litre glass of draught beer.


  7. What would be wrong with having three different pint sizes? Where the meaning of the word pint would be synonymous with the word glass. There would be 400 mL pints (small size), 500 mL pints (medium size) and 600 mL pints (large size).

    This would give the patron more practical choices. If the patron was dead set on having the traditional size, he could order the 600 mL size and get a tad more then he was use to. If he has a problem asking for the amount in metric he could just ask for large.

    There could be one glass for all sizes with markings for 400, 500 and 600 mL.

    How much simpler can you make it?


  8. As a publican I have some views on this issue that are not entirely in tune with most of your contributors.

    Firstly it is worth noting that there is significant regional variation in customers’ notion of what constitutes a pint of beer. Broadly speaking, southern drinkers prefer their beer with little or no head, whereas such a pint would likely be returned in the north where a deep, creamy head is usually expected; hence the use of sparklers which are recommended by many Northern brewers. This is well known of course, but it is not so well appreciated that this regional preference contributes to the, generally, lower cost of a pint in the north. It follows that if Northern drinkers were to be served a pint of liquid beer topped by the traditional head they would inevitably pay more for it.

    Which leads me on to another point. It seems to be widely assumed that the head on beer is made of nothing but air, although in fact it contains up to 50% liquid (which anyone can prove by pulling a glass of froth and leaving it to settle). Why should the head on a pint be a ‘zero cost’ option?

    Finally a word about the use of lined glasses. If a lined (pint) glass is filled with liquid beer to the line and a head on top then more than a pint will have been delivered. In order to pour an exact pint the barperson will have to judge the point below the line at which liquid beer should end and head begin. This will undoubtedly lead to greater variation in delivered volume than presently with brim glasses.


  9. I am sick of being made to feel guilty by landlords when I ask for a top up of an obviously ‘short’ pint. This very day I was told that a glass which, by external measure, was at least 10% low “was a full pint if the liquid plus foam reached the top”. This, without allowing for the taper of the glass making short measure worse than is visually apparent, MUST be stopped.


  10. The glasses on the link maybe of interest (blatant plug for my business nevertheless)

    They are CE marked disposable plastic 12oz and 22oz (oversized) tumblers, lined at 20oz and 10oz, approved by weights and measures.

    For info, when we asked weights and measures if we could display both metric and imperial measures on the glasses we produce they would not let us, (they thought people would be confused) and we had to remove the metric measurements from the glasses (so much for being part of the EU)
    We are expected to manufacture a separate glass just for the rest of the Europe (we dont bother)


  11. i was taught at school 20 fluid ounces to a pint .SO! !i pay for a pint i want a full pint ,i refuse to pay till it is topped up, Pratt in my local has glasses with internal measurement from rim to bottom 48mm, he claims is allowed to serve 6mm of froth,so pay for 8pints and u get 7pints of liquid and 1pint of froth .AT £2.80P A PINT on 11 GALL BARREL ,HE SCAMS £30 .80PENCE,SOMETIMES even more when he knows punters wont complain if he serves a full inch of froth, lined glasses should be law


  12. In my local, the staff always give short measure, usually about 15mm below the top of the glass. I always ask for a top-up which is given, but body language shows that it is not a welcome request. The result has been that the staff have started giving extra short measure so that even after a top-up the pint is well under an acceptable level. As a result I have changed my local. I recommend this tactic. A sale with a lower profit from a full glass is better than no sale at all.


  13. I hope everyone who reads this will write to their MPs demanding that the Government completes the consultation CA 003/02 which can be read at http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file19498.pdf and that the Government take full notice of the LACORS comments on the consutation which can be found at http://www.lacors.gov.uk/lacors/ContentDetails.aspx?id=2426

    LACORS is the Local Authority Coordinators on Regulatory Services and their comments are scathing against the Government proposal. I would say that any right thinking person who reads the LACORS comments and fails to demand measure to line glasses must be overly influenced by the licensed trade.

    The following was sent to me in answer to my question to Government as to what had happened to consultation CA 003/02.

    “The answer is that the outcome of the consultation conducted in 2002 was inconclusive, as was the case with the previous two consultations on the ‘full’ pint of beer. You will have seen from the Ministerial reply to your letter of 25th May that the current Government is not planning any change to the policy on the ‘full’ pint.”

    This raises the question – What is the Government Policy on the “full” pint?

    I have written again to my MP asking what is the policy – as it has been mentioned. I have also demanded that the consultation be properly completed as it should never be the case that because the Government does not get the result it wants it can stop the consultation and not publish the results.


  14. It seems that the 568 mL pint glass does not exist. It seems the true size is an actual 570 mL capacity. In the picture above, the line is marked as 1 pint to line. Why doesn’t it also state 570 mL to line in addition or instead?

    Is the metric indication just not required or is it illegal? How would such a marking be accepted in a metric country where the amount of millilitres must be noted?


    Even disposable glasses are in 570 mL increments:


    So why claim 568 mL is the glass size when it is 570 mL?


  15. Phil

    You appear to be confusing the actual definition of the pint with the physical difficulty of manufacturing a cheap product that can be used to measure pints of beer in a pub.

    The actual size of a physical glass “pint” measure used in a pub must fall within specified allowances. These allowances are set out in the Capacity Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Regulations 1988 (for crown stamped pint glasses) and the Measuring Instruments (Capacity Serving Measures) Regulations 2006 (for CE stamped glasses)

    The Capacity Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Regulations 1988 gave an allowance (in excess only) of 34 ml for pint brim measures. This had the effect of making it legal to mark the crown stamp & a “pint” marking on any brim measure which contained any amount between 568.3 ml and 602.3 ml when tested with water and filled to the brim (figures rounded to 0.1 ml)

    Similarly, the Measuring Instruments (Capacity Serving Measures) Regulations 2006 currently give an allowance (in excess only) of 10 ml + 10% for pint brim measures. This has the effect of making it legal to mark the CE mark & a “pint” marking on any brim measure which contains any amount between 568.3 ml and 606.7ml when tested with water and filled to the brim (figures again rounded to 0.1 ml)

    As a result of these allowances, Jeremiah is totally correct. A 568 ml measure would be just under 0.3 ml too small to be stamped as a pint glass, while a 570 ml measure would be comfortably within the allowances.

    Incidentally, there is no provision for marking a supplementary metric marking on a stamped imperial pint glass. It would, however, be perfectly legal to mark a 250 ml wine glass with a supplementary imperial marking, but I’m not aware of anyone that has done this.

    The variation in the size of the brim measures used in UK pubs explains why some test purchases are found to contain a full liquid pint. If the stamped brim measure is actually capable of containing 600 ml and has a 5% head, the actual liquid content will be around 570 ml.

    Unfortunately, the more common scenario is that the stamped brim measure is nearer the 570 ml end of the tolerance, and the head is nearer 10%, resulting in a measure of around 520 ml.

    On average, surveys have found the average “pint” delivered in a brim measure to be around 540 ml. Personally, I would not permit any new brim measures to be placed on the market, instead replacing breakages with new line measures. In a few years time, I would then get the publicans to remove the few remaining brim measures from use. Problem solved!


  16. Good info. Do you have the tolerances available for line measure as well?

    A manufacturer who wants maximum tolerance would set his target at about 585 mL, but with tighter tolerance control, might choose any target in the range 570 – 600 mL. Is a manufacturer allowed to advise his customer (the pub owner) of his actual average capacity? Clearly, the pub owner would prefer glasses that average toward the low end, without imposing such tight tolerances that the cost has to be significantly increased. Lower cost glasses would tend towards the middle of the range.

    I can envision optimization around a minus zero, plus “x” tolerance where the customer wants x small and the manufacturer wants it large, and they haggle over a cost function. For the pub owner, the question is “how much beer will the glass serve before it is discarded” and what savings on beer would smaller x provide.


  17. “Do you have the tolerances available for line measure as well?”

    The Capacity Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Regulations 1988 gave an allowance (in excess or deficiency) of 17 ml for pint line measures. This had the effect of making it legal to mark the crown stamp & a “pint to line” marking on any line measure which contained any amount between 551.3 ml and 585.3 ml when tested with water and filled to the line (figures rounded to 0.1 ml)

    Similarly, the Measuring Instruments (Capacity Serving Measures) Regulations 2006 currently give an allowance (in excess or deficiency) of 5 ml + 2.5% for pint line measures. This has the effect of making it legal to mark the CE mark & a “pint to line” marking on any line measure which contains any amount between 549.1 ml and 587.5 ml when tested with water and filled to the line (figures again rounded to 0.1 ml)

    So, in other words, the tolerance window was identical, but distributed around the line on a line measure instead of in excess only as in a brim measure.

    I’m not aware of any efforts to exploit the tolerance by the glass manufacturers. I don’t know the verification procedures at the large UK glass manufacturers when they were still in business, but on the few occasions I verified pint brim measures, the easiest way was to make sure it didn’t overflow when a pint was poured in, and that it did overflow when you added a further 34 ml. As such, the individual errors were not worked out.



    As a life long supporter of Real Ale, I was pleased when my son-in-law paid for a CAMRA membership at Christmas. Taking advantage of free admission as CAMRA members we attended the recent Northern Beer Fest in Manchester. We bought the festival 1/2 pint tankard marked both 1/3 & 1/2 pint to the line and spent a great afternoon sampling a wide range of real ale

    Next week I was explaining to my grandsons that 100grams of water occupy 100cc and using the CAMRA tankard tried the same experiment of 1/2 pint weighs 10oz or measures 10 fluid ounces. We were using an electronic digital scale and for calibration an ‘old style’ 1/2 pint crown glass filled to the brim confirmed it contained 10 fl oz

    The festival tankard filled with a 10 fl oz measure of water indicated a level about 1/8 inch above the ‘1/2 pint to the line’ mark. Using a straw to remove 1/2 fl oz moved the level to the marked line. For greater accuracy I have subsequently repeated using metric units and on testing a 175ml line marked wine glass it measured 166ml


    Research into the weights & measures law confirms that drinks may be dispensed 5% under or 1% over measure. So it would appear the manufacturers of lined glasses use 95% when marking measures to the line – but still indicating a full measure!

    Returning to CAMRA who strongly support full measures – on their festival website they promote the use of their lined glasses with the statement that it was saving us money by giving a full pint rather than the usual pub short measure
    See http://www.alefestival.org.uk/winterales/ and the CAMRA section on full pints which states ‘ There is also evidence that some pub operators have adopted a deliberate policy of serving short measurers to get 5% more out of every barrel. If we did this at National Winter Ales Festival you would be overcharged by 15 pence on a £2.00 pint’.

    In my opinion the lined glass seems to have perpetuated short measures still within trading standard and apparently also adopted by CAMRA.

    I may not be renewing my CAMRA membership


  19. In response to Bill Morton, I would submit the following:

    “I was explaining to my grandsons that 100 grams of water occupy 100 cc and using the CAMRA tankard tried the same experiment of 1/2 pint weighs 10 oz or measures 10 fluid ounces.”

    The above would only be correct under certain strictly defined conditions. If you are trying to accurately determine volume by gravimetric methods, temperature and barometric pressure will have an influence. When you are working really accurately, you even have to take account of the cubic coefficient of expansion of the glass measure under test. This sort of level of accuracy is not required for testing measures in use for trade, but there are many other factors which will introduce uncertainty into your measurements.

    “We were using an electronic digital scale”

    How do you know that the scale was reading correctly? Had the scale been calibrated using weights traceable to National Standards? Was the scale capable of displaying both imperial and metric units? What was the capacity of the scale? What resolution did the scale work to (1/8 oz?, 1/16 oz?, 1 g?, 2 g?)

    “and for calibration an ‘old style’ 1/2 pint crown glass filled to the brim confirmed it contained 10 fl oz.”

    How did you ensure that your reference measure was correctly filled to the brim? Surface tension will allow you to overfill a brim measure. How did you overcome this?

    An old style ½ pint crown stamped glass could have contained any amount between ½ pint and ½ pint plus 20 ml (approx.. 284 ml and 304 ml) at the time it was stamped. As such, when used as a delivery measure (even if it was correctly filled), it is likely to deliver slightly over ½ pint

    “The festival tankard filled with a 10 fl oz measure of water indicated a level about 1/8 inch above the ’1/2 pint to the line’ mark.”

    How did you measure this? There are 4 options:

    1) top of meniscus to top of line,
    2) top of meniscus to bottom of line
    3) bottom of meniscus to top of line
    4) bottom of meniscus to bottom of line

    Only one of these 4 methods will produce a correct result.

    Also, was the measure under test wet or dry? Again, only one condition will produce a correct result

    “Using a straw to remove 1/2 fl oz moved the level to the marked line.”

    Without taking into account any of the other errors that may have been introduced, I’m not surprised that a brim measure which can legally contain any amount between approx. 284 ml and 304 ml will deliver an amount that may be slightly above a line which may legally be marked at any point between approx. 277 ml and 291 ml on a line measure.

    This is an obvious consequence of the fact that a brim measure has an error allowance in excess only (to make space for a head on the pint) while a line measure has an error allowance in excess or deficiency as the head will be above the line.

    “For greater accuracy I have subsequently repeated using metric units and on testing a 175 ml line marked wine glass it measured 166 ml”

    What standard did you use to measure your 175 ml? Was this done on the same scale you used to test ½ pint glasses?


    Assuming that the measure was CE marked, this is perfectly acceptable for any measure of 200 ml or less. Above 200ml, the error allowance gradually decreases. At 500ml, it would be 3.5% and at 1 litre it would be 3%

    However the apparent sample of 2 glasses (and potentially inaccurate methods used) hardly demonstrates that every measure is manufactured to exploit the allowable tolerances. No manufacturer is going to try to make glasses that are all on the limit of the tolerance – he’s going to use these tolerances to try and minimize his own manufacturing costs – if he is manufacturing lined glasses with a nominal capacity of 200 ml, he is going to be happier with a batch of 1000 glasses that average 200 ml +/- 8 ml than he is with having to destroy or rework around 250 glasses from a batch that average 192 ml +/- 4 ml

    “Research into the weights and measures law confirms that drinks may be dispensed 5% under or 1% over measure. So it would appear the manufacturers of lined glasses use 95% when marking measures to the line – but still indicating a full measure!”

    Not correct. I’m not sure where you get your 1% over figure from – there’s no such allowance as far as I’m aware.

    A code of practice (see below) says that 5% short is acceptable for a draught “pint” of beer. This relates to the amount of beer delivered, not to the error allowance on the measure used. This practice is only regarded as acceptable to sales of draught beer, however – not wine or spirits

    What the actual law says is that the head is part of a pint (Marshall v Searles and Dean v Scottish and Newcastle are the relevant cases). It is accepted that the head is a mixture of liquid and froth.

    The code of practice states:
    “5. When dispensing beer with a head into a brim measure glass the head must reach the brim or above it to ensure that the quantity of beer (liquid and head) dispensed is at least a pint or half a pint. As the head collapses the small proportion of liquid it contains will fall into the rest of the beer and the gas will disperse into the atmosphere. When the head has totally collapsed the amount of liquid may be less than a pint or half pint. The deficiency will depend on the size of the head and the type of beer. The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association and the Retail Organisations listed have agreed that a head of froth is excessive and unreasonable if the measure of draught beer does not contain a minimum of 95% liquid after the collapse of the head. They recommend as strongly as possible that all licensees follow this principle. The recommendation that the measure of draught beer should contain a minimum of 95% liquid applies whether or not a top-up has been requested.

    This is far less relevant when a line measure is used, as vast majority of the head will be above the line, so it is far less likely that short measure will be delivered.

    “In my opinion the lined glass seems to have perpetuated short measures still within trading standard and apparently also adopted by CAMRA. I may not be renewing my CAMRA membership”

    I would have to disagree with your opinion. Your methods of testing the small sample of measures you refer to above would appear to be seriously flawed. I would prefer to trust the CE mark or stamp applied by the authorised verifier.

    In addition, it has long been accepted that line measures provide a larger measure than the equivalent brim measure when used to deliver beer. Why else would publicans be so reluctant to adopt them?


  20. In response to Ken Cooper

    The issue I was attempting to investigate was that the lined glass should ensure that at least a full liquid measure was provided regardless of any head. The benefit of the lined glass is that the head is contained unlike the brim measure where a full measure could only be available without a head. My observations indicated that lined glasses appeared to measure 95% to the line rather than full measure.

    I would be happy to attend a test session where my domestic kitchen experiment could be repeated and enhanced to minimise any errors in line with the issues detailed by Ken Cooper. Ideally in the presence of a trading standards officer who could compare results using the suitably calibrated equipment they would normally use when checking measures in a public house.


  21. It is obviously illegal to sell short measures, but is there a law against serving excess beer?

    i.e. Would it be legal to serve a “pint” of draught beer in a litre glass that had a CE approved 1-pint line marker at the 1-pint level, but fill the glass past the 1-pint line and up to the 1-litre mark? So long as it was sold as being a pint (albeit a very generous one) would this be a way of legally serving a litre of beer?


  22. As a real ale drinker I am defending the position that we should receive a minimum of, say, a full pint measure of liquid at the moment of purchase regardless of any head and subsequent settling. Not as I suspect 95% as a result of all the rounding down of possible errors re meniscus, witdth of line and wet or dry glass. The suggestion of a lined litre glass would still be subject to the above and I for one would not wish a pint of liquid plus a head of froth to the brim of a litre glass whether or not it was legal tender


  23. It is not illegal to serve more than the stated amount but it is highly unlikely that a glass manufacturer would submit a 1000 mL capacity glass for approval to serve 570 mL quantities of beer.


  24. I disagree that it would be ‘highly unlikely’ that a glass manufacturer would submit a 1-litre glass for approval to serve 1 pint (568 mL) quantities of beer. In principle, it is no different from a 600 mL glass being approved to serve 284 mL (half-pint) and 189 mL (third-pint) quantities (see picture at top of this article).

    On the contrary, manufacturers of 1-litre glasses currently cannot sell such glasses for draught beer in the UK. However, if they added a CE-approved 1-pint line they could then sell these glasses to UK pubs that might want them for special events such as Oktoberfest celebrations, or other themed occasions – so long as the litre of beer served in them was declared as “1 pint”.


  25. http://www.oldham-chronicle.co.uk/news-features/8/news-headlines/65093/pintsized-row-comes-to-a-head

    Here’s a link to the latest news story regarding the 95% pint.

    Effectively, Samuel Smith’s Brewery are asking their bar staff to commit criminal offences or to face the sack.

    According to the British Beer & Pub Assosiation guidance, customers should expect a MINIMUM of 95% in a pint brim measure. If Samuel Smith’s expect an AVERAGE of 95%, then every measure that they consider to be overmeasure (i.e. over 95%) must be balanced by an corresponding short measure of less than 95%.

    I assume that Samuel Smith’s Brewery are amongst the supporters of retaining the 95% imperial draught pint. One wonders if this support is conditional upon them being allowed to continue to exploit these tolerances to achieve systematic corporate short measure?


  26. The real issue here is ‘overheads’, running costs differ from region to region and the price of a drink will make a customer go to another pub if they think the service and product do not appeal. We have to accept that a 568 ml pint is something the landlord WANTS to sell you, through his choice of glasses, although some branded glasses are made in the metric rim-fill measure which enables as little as 238 ml in a ‘half’ pint and 475 ml in a pint, a potential short measure of 93 ml on a line measured pint glass. Shocking.


  27. With respect, “Alan”, I believe that you may have misunderstood the situation.

    Firstly, institutionalised short measure in pubs is caused by the design of brim measures and the fact that most beers are served with a head. It is not a metric/imperial issue. Both a 500 ml brim measure and a pint brim measure will deliver 5% short on average.

    Secondly, metric brim measures are currently not legal for use in UK pubs. Even if they were, they would clearly be marked “500 ml” and would not be able to masquerade as “pint” glasses as you appear to suggest. Personally, I have never come across a brim 500 ml measure in any UK pub, although I have seen lined 500 ml measures in use across Europe.

    As such, your 93 ml difference between a filled to the line imperial pint and a short-measure metric brim half-litre is purely hypothetical, as it doesn’t actually happen in real life in the UK. Nice try though.

    I am surprised, however, by the sudden influx of unfamiliar “new” anti-metric posters to this site. That’s two of you in a week. Ho hum.


  28. A lined glass would save so much hassle. Now bar staff are told they can legally sell short pints, (95% liquid)its getting to boiling point. Something needs to be done.


  29. Now pubs can sell beer legally short, 5% head causes problems because there is no way of accurately measuring 5%, so the customer feels cheated.


  30. I’ve found that there has been a strong trend towards pint-to-line glasses, especially for outdoor events and festivals. It can be as much about reducing spillages as the measures issue discussed here, but i believe festival goers are becomming wise to the “short pint” syndrome – i’m amazed it’s even legal!

    We stock oversize glasses for both major types of disposable pint now, only a few years ago there was scarce demand for these: http://innsupplies.com/disposable/plastic-cups/plastic-pint-glasses


  31. Surely the vogue for fluted glasses has increased the degree of short measures?

    of topic but does anyone know what the m prefix on glasses stands for (as in m08, m11 and m12)?


  32. @imaginarynumber

    The Measuring Instruments (Capacity Serving Measures) Regulations 2006 set out the required markings on measures of this type. Regulation 12 & Schedule 5 require the CE mark and the M mark to be applied.

    In essence, the CE mark tells us that the equipment complies with the relevant directive and the M mark tells us that the glass is a piece of Metrological equipment. The two digit number after the M tells us the year of stamping and the 4 digit number identifies the notified body that verified the measure.


  33. All of this discussion has become far too complex and pedantic. The solution is a no-brainer.
    The key issues are:
    1. All pubs using brim measure glasses cannot deliver a full pint and if they did you would spill it as soon as you picked it up.
    2. Most pubs deliver around 10% less than a pint and benefit from the extra income.
    3. Lined glasses are an obvious solution to this problem.

    So the obvious answer is to re-introduce lined glasses as a mandatory requirement as and when replacements sre required by pubs.
    End of story.


  34. @ Charles

    In the link you provided the distributor (not manufacturer) had distorted the unit descriptions for the glassware. They should have stated: 1140 mL, 570 mL & 660 mL. That is how they are made.






    The glass makers favour the rounded metric sizes and only pay lip service to to the traditional names.


  35. Though not really a defence I do recall reading a while back that many establishments actively avoided using lined glasses because it saved having arguments with customers who insisted on them being filled to the brim.

    To some extent though I do see it as a good indication of the sort of folk we’re dealing with when it comes to the size of a beer glass when the unit being used is more important than how much you spill.


  36. Glasses are mass produced in metal moulds that wear down over time, meaning that a glass made at the start of production is smaller than a glass made at the end of the life of the mould. This variation is unavoidable, but usually under 4.75% of the capacity.
    Brim measures under EU regulations enforced in the UK only have ‘positive’ tolerance, by which I mean they can be over a pint but never under.
    A pint for CE marking purposes on a brim measure is between 568ml (a pint) and 606.4ml (maximum legal pint defined as 568ml plus 5% plus 10ml). Depending on when your glass was made, you could be getting more than 5% free anyway.


  37. I usually get my pint filled to the brim. If the bar staff will not fill my glass I will not return to that bar. Today I found it particularly galling that my daughter (behind the bar) would not fill my glass. Family lunch on mother’s day spoiled for me!


  38. They only want to sell you ale in a 500ml glass for the same price as a pint. That’s what it’s all about.

    Keep the pint!


  39. I would say that CAMRA, as its name suggests is more interested in the so called ‘traditional pint’ than any other issue. That implies that bottled beer is not on their menu, so the imperial metric divide does not really interest them too much.
    One logical step to bridge the gap between the pint and demi-litre under current UK law, and also with EU law, would be to retain the ‘traditional’ brim full pint glass, with a clearly marked CE line at the 500 ml level. As this line would be at minus 13% of a pint the customer would more easily be able to check that the actual liquid level is not below the 90% that seems to be the agreed minimum level.


  40. On the comments about unit pricing, should beer be unit priced as per pint or per litre. In order to compare draught or pump price with bottled price then the price per litre it should be (that is how it is taxed).
    Being a supermarket wine drinker myself it annoys me more than just a little to see some wine priced per litre but others priced per 75 cl (standard bottle). This also applies to other items side by side on the same shelf one priced per kg, the next of same value per 100 g, no big deal in this case, but the question arises, why? Is it to confuse or just sloppy management?


  41. “They only want to sell you ale in a 500ml glass for the same price as a pint. That’s what it’s all about.”

    So what? It is a very normal thing for costs to rise. There are two ways to pass costs on. One, raise the price or two, give less product for the same price. The pub is in business to make money and if providing less product for the same money is what works best, then let them. Would it make a difference if the raised the price for 570 mL by 15 %? You would bellyache anyway.

    Giving less is also more healthy. Fewer carbohydrates, less fat, less chance of cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, etc. and best of all a smaller belly. Less is better.


  42. Look, let’s keep this simple.
    In the UK we serve pints and half pints. End of.
    I’m sick to the back teeth of being served pints that are clearly not pints and I’m also sick having to ask bar people to top the alleged pint up.
    It’s simple. A line on the glass will clear EVERYTHING up in one fell swoop.
    The cost of new glasses is trivial and we, the consumers, will immediately stop being fleeced by sellers to the tune of many hundreds of millions of pounds every year.
    Call me sad if you like but I spent three hours one night in a pub watching customers getting served with ‘pints’ of beer/lager. Not one of them in my view was actually a pint.
    What more evidence is needed to change behaviours and outdated attitudes for God’s sake.


  43. I was informed by a fellow beer drinker that draught beer in Southern Ireland is still possibly served up in pints. Can anybody confirm this? I assume bottled beers are in metric.


  44. Bruce Phillips,

    I find it hard to believe that an adult would get so upset that his or her glass was not filled fully to the top. Would you make the same complaint against a restaurant of they gave you a few millilitres shy of a full cup of a soft drink?

    Glassware is designed to hold 570 mL and in most cases this is a few millimetres from the rim for the reason that a glass filled to the rim loses a part of its contents as the glass is handled and moved. Thus a mess on the counter and the floor.

    If the bar tender is holding the glass under the spigot and the spigot is not at eye level, as he is looking down at it, the glass can appear full even if it isn’t. When busy and in a rush, there is no time to stand there to make sure that the glass is filled to full capacity.

    To stand there and watch the glasses being filled instead of socialising with the other customers, is insane. Is that your whole purpose in going to the pub to make sure the last millilitre is in the glass? If that is the case, then do yourself and everyone else a favour and stay home.


  45. Rob,

    All beer sold in Ireland is metric. It depends on what size you are referring to. In bottles it may be different amounts with 500 mL being common. In pubs, the standard glass size is 570 mL and standard 570 mL glassware is used. you may call 570 ml a pint, but it still is 570 mL.


  46. Dear Daniel Jackson,
    Have you never heard of the term ‘getting what you pay for’?
    It’s simple. If I pay for a pint I don’t want 90% of a pint. I want a pint.
    I find it hard to believe that an adult would not care about not getting the correct measure of beer given that many pubs sell the stuff at a fiver a time these days.
    Your comparison to a soft drink is weak. It is not the same thing.
    If we had slightly larger glasses with pint lines on the side none of this spillage nonsense would happen and pub landlords would have dry carpets.
    I don’t care about the bar tender being under pressure. I pay for a pint so I want a pint. Don’t make feeble excuses for them. That is their problem which they need to deal with.
    I wasn’t standing, I was sitting down with three friends putting the world to rights as usual. The odd glance over to the bar every 5 minutes is hardly insane and gave me enough evidence to support my argument that the majority of pints are not pints.
    If I drink 20 pints a month and the pint costs a fiver that’s £120 a year I’m letting the landlord get away with. To many people that is a lot of money. If you think this is a trivial situation think again, I suggest you go and have a long hot bath and think about it for a while.
    Hope the diet is going well.
    Bruce Phillips


  47. @Bruce it seems to me that whichever way you do things somebody is going to lose out. Even with a lined glass there will be differences in how people interpret the level of the beer thanks to a little thing called surface tension which may make the level of the liquid appear to some to be different to that at the edge of the glass.

    You also need to bear in mind that measuring liquid out of any sort device cannot be done to the tolerences that seem to be expected by some, short of having devices installed in pubs that are able to measure flow to the precision of petrol pumps you’re never going to get that.

    Even commercially bottled containers will be done so to within certain legal tolerences rather than a hard limit and liquid sticks to things… if you empty your bottle into a glass and then leave the bottle on the table for 20 minutes you’re bound to find more than a dribble at the bottom of the bottle.

    Simply put, it doesn’t really matter whether you buy your beer in imperial or metric, there is always going to be a margin of error. When the bar man overfills the glass then he’s the one losing out, when you spill it on the way to your table you’re the one losing out. What about the dregs on the side of the glass that settle at the bottom in the 10 minutes between putting your glass down and the pub clearing it up? Should pubs measure that and dish out refunds for that too?

    Absolutely, beer is not cheap, and over time the cost does add up, but everybody is going to lose somewhere. It is no different to any other measured product and not really worth getting that upset about.


  48. @Alex,
    Thank you for that, makes sense and a really good argument.
    FYI, I’m really not upset about this at all, frustrated at times, but not upset.
    However, whilst you’ve got a good common sense argument, I still see that having a (target) line on the glass is significantly better than having no line at all. It will avoid the 10% (or so) ‘under sold’ scenarios and at least make it appear that the consumer and the seller are getting their part of the bargain.
    I also think that not taking any action is not an option. I’ve only just came in to this argument recently believe it or not and I can’t believe that we have no ‘solution’ that might satisfy all involved stakeholders.
    Sorry Alex, but we need a ‘some you win some you lose’ line, otherwise we will all continue to be somewhat disgruntled.
    Thanks for your comments.


  49. Alex and Bruce,

    If the UK defines the pint as 568 mL and all pint glassware is 570 mL and the fill is slightly under the rim or the line, the customer may still be getting the legal amount. It’s a 2 mL difference that works in the customers favour.

    Alex, I’m sure that even if the pub owner has to overfill the glass from time to time to make an pedant customer happy he is not losing out. I’m sure the price he charges has a few pence or cents added to make up for any losses. Otherwise his looses would add up significantly and he would go out of business.


  50. This is all about the line, the head and the barman . . .

    Without quoting from the above posts – even without reading the above posts – it is obvious that we should chill out and accept that a volume to line with enough space above the line for a head is the only intelligent answer.
    The vast majority of people on this planet prefer to drink aerated beer.
    The Government have been weak and spineless for not simply regulating to create that obvious solution.

    If some people insist that their landlords remove the sparklers and serve flat beer then that is their prerogative.
    The issue of Southern English people insisting that if their beer is served draught then it must be flat (non-aerated) but if it is served keg then it must be aerated is part of the reason the weak politicians did not resolve the issue and scurried away from it – because it might temporarily upset a few voters.
    If you buy keg beer, lager or stout (Eg. Guiness) in London it is not served flat. It is aerated with either carbon dioxide or a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

    However, all is not lost, sparklers are appearing in pubs in areas where they have not been seen before, including Devon and Cornwall – and it is by local demand from younger people who are prepared to try things out and not be stuck with an oddball legacy.

    It is astonishing that the reason the regulations are not fit for purpose is spineless politicians wrestling with the fact that in certain parts of England some people want to be served flat beer slopping over the brim if that beer is hand-pulled.

    Draught beers are so variable in their ability to create and retain a head that the regulations, when they finally become fit for purpose, have two options:
    1.) We rely on the barman to serve a beer that, if it was left for long enough for the head to convert to liquid, would settle on the line.
    2.) The barman serves liquid to the line, the glasses are made with enough space above the line to accommodate whatever head the head-brewer has achieved with his/her recipe for that particular beer and the landlord calculates the price of the pint based on it’s cost including the head.


  51. This discussion seems to be largely on the question of how beer is dispensed, with occasional mention of whether sales should be metricated. I’ll start with the dispensing aspect.
    As I understand it, in public houses the law permits lined glasses only for cask beer, premeasured at electric pumps. Beer dispensed by hand pump or gravity must use glasses of exact size, filled to the brim.
    In clubs and other private organisations, the law is less stringent, and oversized lined glasses are permitted for all types of dispensing.
    Largely owing to the success of CAMRA, cask beer is not common in pubs nowadays, so lined glasses are rarely seen there. One does come across them in private organisations. The CAMRA beer festivals are essentialy members’ clubs. Non-members pay a small admission fee to the beer tents, effectively giving them a day’s membership of CAMRA. Hence CAMRA is able to serve beer in lined glasses, as it prefers.
    A customer is entitled to have the exact-size glass topped right up to the brim. This invariably results in some wastage of the head, which overflows and is caught in the drip tray. When the customer takes the full glass it is difficult to avoid spillage of a few more drips onto the floor. If the floor is solid and not carpeted, as is frequently the case round the bar area, this is a slip-hazard. It is amazing that this is apparently outside the requirements of Health and Safety regulations.

    Many customers like to see a head on beer. It makes a statement about the quality of the drink. It has a liquid content but this is only a small fraction of the volume it occupies. Dispensing beer into a lined glass enables a head to be presented, a full and just measure to be served and spillage avoided. It can be argued that an oversized lined glass permits long measure. Perhaps, but is up to the bar staff to check that. Whereas to fill a glass to the brim takes time and care and inevitable wastage. My observations show that beer served in exact-sized glasses is usually filled to slightly less than the brim. It takes time and care to get the glass exactly full. Bar staff are sometimes quite busy, with customers queuing. So the customer usually gets short measure.
    Overall then, the current practice of serving to the brim does not serve the customer well.
    Now let us look at the metric aspect of this. Over the years, other types of drink have been metricated, giving a fair range of serving sizes. Wines are sold in quantities of 125 and 175 ml. The 125 ml size is usually doubled up to 250 ml. Hence a fair range of serving sizes is made available. Similarly, spirits are now sold in servings of 25 ml and 35 ml, with the smaller size available to double up to 50 ml.
    Beer on the other hand is sold in multiples of half a pint. The third-pint measure has restricted availability and is not available in multiples.
    If sale of beer were to be metricated we could consider adopting similar lines to those adopted for other drinks. We could consider, for example, measures of 350 ml and 500 ml, which would double up to 700 ml and 1 l. I am sure many would welcome the opportunity to order beer in a German style stein.
    Simple metric units would simplify the counting of alcohol units. A unit is 10 ml of alcohol, so the size of the serving and the percentage alcohol content would create an easy mental calculation of the units of alcohol. In the past there has been a guideline that a half pint of beer is one unit. This is true only if the alcohol content is around 3.5%; most beers nowadays have alcohol content of over 4%.
    CAMRA says it would not support the idea of both imperial and metric measure offered in the same establishment. I agree this would risk confusion. It may be true that bottled beers sold in the same establishments are in metric quantities but let us not make a bad situation worse, even only temporarily. Pubs and other establishments would need to make the changeover on a certain date within a set changeover period, as was done with other types of drink.
    And, by the way, don’t worry about all those old pint glasses becoming redundant. Many drinks served in pubs come from bottles. The measuring has already been done and the drinks can be poured into any glasses big enough to contain them.


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