BEER: Give me a real pint or give me death, Or: Your beer ration has been increased to 16 ounces

Adam McDowell has two minutes of hate for the shrinking of the Canadian draft serving

If this is your first visit to Moose Milk, welcome! This post explains what this newsletter for Canadian booze lovers is all about.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, there’s a scene that takes place in a pub. Protagonist Winston Smith risks detection by the Thought Police to cross class lines and visit a working men’s establishment in London. He’s on the lookout for someone who’s old enough to remember what life was like decades earlier, before the rule of Big Brother. 

Winston strikes up a conversation with an elderly man. Does he pine for democracy? Can he recall what life was like under capitalism? No. To Winston’s chagrin, what he yearns for is beer by the pint.

You see, under Big Brother’s regime, England has gone metric. And like many an Englishman even today, Orwell regarded the metric system with suspicion. The old man in Nineteen Eighty-Four feels cheated by the half-litres that Big Brother has wrought, since only a full pint really satisfies. 

As I type this, I have just been handed a 14-ounce serving of porter, and I may be just as resentful. 

I, too, miss the pint. And I mean a full, 20-ounce, Imperial goddamn pint, because that’s what pint means (and I’m with Orwell that we should be very careful about meanings).  

You have a complaint, comrade 6079 Smith W?

Let’s consult Wikipedia about the pint so we’re all on the same page before we move along: 

Draft beer in Canada, when advertised as a "pint", is legally required to be 568 ml (20 fluid ounces). With the allowed margin of error of 0.5 fluid ounces, a "pint" that is less than 554 ml of beer is an offence, though — to the detriment of consumers — this regulation is often violated and rarely enforced.

I know this is news to some people, including some who work in the bar industry, but a pint is a unit of measurement. It doesn’t just mean “big glass." As I told a bar manager in Ottawa once after I got handed a “pint” that was maybe 12 ounces, you don’t get to decide that your pint is smaller any more than a gas station owner gets to decide to serve his own little made-up “litres” of gas. That’s cheating

Anyway, I’m complaining about this because everyone seems to be downsizing their beer servings and I don’t like it. I don’t know about every Canadian city, but it’s getting really hard to find a proper pint nowadays in Toronto. 

The really egregious offenders are the establishments that knowingly declare a sub-20-ounce serving a “pint” in defiance of the law — two federal laws, actually: the Fairness at the Pumps Act and the Weights and Measures Act, which I dare you to cite when you get short-poured at a seedy dive bar. 

Other establishments get confused and serve you beer in what appears to be a 16-ounce glass. That’s a U.S. pint, which — and I hate to keep beating this drum (ha ha, no, I actually enjoy it), but it is against the law to serve that as a pint in this country. (A friendly note: Brewers, some of you are committing this offence on your very packaging, ahem.) 

Finally, many establishments — and I regret to say this seems especially common with beer-focused properties, like beer bars and breweries — have dialled back the standard suds serving to 18, 16 or even smaller, while declaring the new size on the menu. Bars that accurately list these volumes are staying within the bounds of the law*, but they are still contributing to the problem of less beer for me. 

(*I mean it’s legal as long as the server corrects the customer when they order a “pint,” which I’m sure always happens, right?) 

I’m fed up with the shrinking of the Canadian beer. It’s time to use Moose Milk as a force for positive change. Let’s celebrate the establishments across Canada that still serve a proper pint by naming and praising. I’ll get us started by noting The Pilot and The Crown & Dragon pubs near my office, both of which still serve beer by the godly 20-ounce glass. Good on you. 

If you know of other establishments, email moosemilk.editors at gmail dot com. Or, if you’re a paid subscriber, you can just comment below. Later, we’ll publish a handy list of MOOSE MILK APPROVED REAL PINT PUBS. 

Meanwhile, you can make a difference by spreading the word. You’re now aware that a Canadian pint is a legally prescribed, and appetizingly large, serving of beer. By law. Don’t settle for anything less. 

Bar and brewery owners (some of whom may be hate-reading by this point): I get that it’s becoming tricky to keep the cost of beer under control. I suspect some of you are trying to avoid crossing the psychological threshold of $10 for a large glass of beer. Understandable. 

But at some point we’re all just going to have to accept that we’ve become a country where beer is unavoidably pricey. (Doug Ford’s failed efforts to turn back the clock prove that the battle is lost.) At some point you’re going to have to bite the bullet and charge $12 for large beers. 

You may as well do it now and save the pint as a standard, predictable, no-surprises serving size — which, after all, is what units of measurement are for. 

Hey, you got us tipping 20%; I know you can get us paying $12 for a big beer. 

Conversely, I don’t think you’d get away with charging $8 for a 15-ounce glass when it used to be 20 ounces unless people were ignorant about stuff like the Weights and Measures Act.  

I personally believe it’s cynical to exploit that ignorance. Giving consumers less and less while pretending everything is the same as it always was? 

Well, it’s positively Orwellian.

“I confess to short-pouring my comrades…”