Life gets more Orwellian every day - even the beer we drink in pubs. The following news story - about it being illegal in Canada to serve beer in a pint - is reminiscent of the passage from "1984" where Winston goes into a prole pub and intercedes on behalf of an old man who's upset because the bartender won't serve him beer in a pint:
"...The old man whom he had followed into the pub was standing at the bar, having some kind of altercation with the barman, a large, stout, hook-nosed young man with enormous forearms. A knot of others, standing round with glasses in their hands, were watching the scene.
"I arst you civil enough, didn't I?" said the old man, straightening his shoulders pugnaciously. "You telling me you ain't got a pint mug in the 'ole bleeding boozer?"
"And what in hell's name is a pint?" said the barman, leaning forward with the tips of his fingers on the counter.
"'Ark at 'im! Calls 'isself a barman and don't know what a pint is! Why, a pint's the 'alf of a quart, and there's four quarts to the gallon. 'Ave to teach you the A, B, C next."
"Never heard of 'em,' said the barman shortly. 'Litre and half litres - that's all we serve. There's the glasses on the shelf in front of you."
"I likes a pint," persisted the old man. "You could 'a drawed me off a pint easy enough. We didn't 'ave these bleeding litres when I was a young man."
"When you were a young man we were all living in the tree-tops," said the barman, with a glance at the other customers.
There was a shout of laughter, and the uneasiness caused by Winston's entry seemed to disappear. The old man's white-stubbed face had flushed pink. He turned away, muttering to himself, and bumped into Winston. Winston caught him gently by the arm.
"May I offer you a drink?" he said.
"You're a gent," said the other, straightening his shoulders again. He appeared not to have noticed Winston's blue overalls. "Pint!" he added aggressively to the barman. "Pint of wallop.'"
The barman swished two half-litres of dark-brown beer into thick glasses which he had rinsed in a bucket under the counter....
~ end quoting from "1984" ~
What's additionally Orwellian about the article below is that the Canadian government is mandating that "2 + 2 = 5" in saying that a pint is 20 ounces when in school we learned it's 16 ounces (a cup being 8 ounces and 2 cups make a pint and 4 cups make a quart or - in metric - a cup is 250 millilitres and therefore a pint is 500 millilitres and four cups make a litre). After reading the article below, go figure. ~ Jackie Jura
A pint-sized ripoff
A strange brew of rules means that it is actually illegal to serve a pint in B.C.
by Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, Aug 21, 2009
Had a pint of beer at your local pub lately? Not likely, and certainly not legally. It turns out the iconic, time-honoured working man’s drink does not technically exist in B.C., due to a strange and disparate brew of federal and provincial regulations.
The federal government insists that anyone who claims to be selling a pint in Canada had better pour a full Imperial pint measuring 20 ounces, or 568.26 millilitres.
The province’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, however, stipulates that individual servings of draft beer cannot exceed 500 millilitres or 17.5 ounces — effectively legislating a legal pint out of existence in B.C.
The Vancouver Sun tripped across the contradictory regulations while conducting a random survey of 15 pubs in Metro Vancouver to determine just how much beer customers receive when ordering a "pint". The Sun found pubs served 17 ounces on average, representing a three-ounce or 15-per-cent discrepancy. The Golden Spike in Port Moody served the smallest amount at 14 ounces, followed by 15.1 ounces at the Mountain Shadow in Burnaby. Two pubs that effectively served the legal limit included Steamworks in Vancouver and Jimy Mac’s in Langley at 19.4 ounces. The Sun surveyed only pubs that advertised “pint” sales on their menus or where servers verbally confirmed the establishment served pints.
The concoction of provincial and federal laws means no pub can legally lay claim to selling a pint in B.C. A pub that pours a full 20 ounces meets the federal requirement, but runs afoul of provincial law. A pub that pours 17.5 ounces or less stays within the provincial limit but breaks the federal law. In other words, pubs that want to obey both laws should not be advertising pint sales at all and would be better off to simply state the size of their draft servings so customers know in advance what they are getting.
And what of all those bars such as Steamworks and the University Golf Club that specifically post signs saying they serve 20-ounce pints — a populist tactic that flouts provincial liquor laws? The club's food and beverage manager, Ivan Bilenki, could not be reached to comment. But signs posted in areas such as the toilets boast that "Size matters", and that the establishment serves a "true British 20-ounce pint of beer" and "not a wimpy 16-ounce pint". The Sun actually measured the serving at 17.5 ounces.
Steamworks’ director of guest services, Marnie Burnett, said Friday her establishment recently switched to 20-ounce pints to remain competitive with other pubs in the Gastown area, including the Irish Heather. Burnett said she was unaware of the province’s 500-millilitre restriction on draft beer servings and the federal definition of a pint, and would just as soon not draw attention to the matter. "The liquor laws in B.C. can be quite frustrating at times," she said, noting that no provincial liquor inspector has made an issue out of the serving size of draft beer – so far. "They only worry about it if somebody complains or it becomes public knowledge." You mean, like in a newspaper story? "Yeah, that’s basically why I don't want to comment." A guide to the terms and conditions for liquor licensees, posted on the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch website and dated July 2009 states: "You may serve draught beer in single servings of no more than .5 litre or smaller servings of multiple brands, provided the total served at one time is no more than .5 litre."
The ministry of housing and social development, which is responsible for the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, issued The Sun the following statement on Friday: "This policy has been in place for at least 20 years. In terms of enforcement on this issue, our focus is on the public safety issue of intoxication and whether a server was to serve a customer to the point of intoxication. That is where we focus our efforts. "We have definitions for maximum drink sizes per person as a way of encouraging moderate consumption and preventing over-service."
The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch reports that pubs and restaurants last year poured 40 million litres of draft beer, the equivalent of 70 million Imperial pints. Ottawa’s official word on the issue comes from Josee Millette, spokeswoman for Industry Canada's marketing and business operations: "In Canada, vendors are required by the Weights and Measures Act to deliver the quantity of commodity [within the applicable limits of error] that they are claiming to sell. "This includes individual servings of beer and alcohol sold in pubs, bars, etc. In Canada, a pint contains 20 ounces; therefore, a vendor selling a pint of beer must deliver 20 fluid ounces of beer." Ottawa defines the limits of error on a pint as 0.53 ounces (about one tablespoon) above or below 20 ounces, not including the head or foam.
Kim Haakstad, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said pubs follow the lead of the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. "Federal law I don't know," she said. "We have to go by the provincial law because they're the ones who govern us, issue our licences and hold us to account." Ian Tostenson, president and chief executive officer of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said The Sun's findings provide a wake-up call for outlets on the issue of pints. "It takes someone like you to bring it to everyone's attention and get people smartened up." He encouraged consumers to speak up to their servers if they feel they are the victims of a short pour, and not to be concerned about looking like a cheapskate.
Dave Mott, general manager and instructor at the Metropolitan Bartending School in Vancouver, said the practice of pouring short on a pint is common within the industry. Part of the problem is the fast-and-loose use of "pint" when establishments are actually selling a variety of volumes in various glass shapes that can be confusing to customers. Another issue is the head or foam created during pouring. Mott said a quarter-inch to half-inch of head on a beer is considered desirable because it provides a velvety texture, but that bars often provide more head and less beer. Potential reasons include the type of beer, the line carrying the beer, the individual bartender, and the bar’s scruples. "I went to a restaurant that had just changed from sleeves to pints and were promoting Imperial pints in these huge glasses, but I had two inches of head," he said. "I was in shock. They did all this advertising and ... I was looking at exactly what I would have got before. It was totally deliberate, 100-per-cent deliberate, and the price was raised, as well. "They were making more money off the same amount of beer. They were training their bartenders to under-pour and overcharge. And that's just not cool."
The Sun found pub managers widely unaware of the legal federal requirement that pints sold in Canada must measure 20 fluid ounces, or even that Ottawa had any role in the matter. Cheryl Semenuik, manager of the Golden Spike, said, "We are governed and licensed provincially and not sure how federal regulations affect operations in British Columbia." Some servers tell customers their pub serves pints, unaware, perhaps, the term carries legal weight.
The chalk board sign inside the entrance to the Flying Beaver in Richmond advertised a special on Okanagan Springs Pale Ale without specifying the size. Asked specifically if the beer would be a pint, the server replied yes. Later, bar manager Paddy Gallagher said the server had erred and that the Flying Beaver serves 16-oz. sleeves, adding that the terms sleeve and pint are often used interchangeably. "There's not a lot of places you get a pint." The server at The Golden Spike also confirmed verbally the pub sells pints, and the menu for the daily beer special specified pint. Semenuik blamed the pint reference "on a misprint from one of my new office gals." She said the pub normally refers to a "mug" of beer, which has no legal definition and avoids federal legal requirements. Billed as the "home of the working man's pint," the Cambie in Vancouver is a gritty social melting pot that sells Labatt draft beer for $3.50 a pint. The Sun splurged on a pint of Kokanee for $4.50 that measured 17.5 ounces. Unemployed cook Michael Bailey, sitting nearby, accepted the beer without complaint. "Cheapest beer in town," he said of the bustling bar. "That's why they come here. I don't think anyone's complaining."
At the Gillnetter in Port Coquitlam, manager Sharon Evans said she has been in the business 30 years and was not aware of the federal view that the head is not supposed to be counted towards a pint serving. She complained that if every glass was filled to the top, servers wouldn’t be able to deliver an order without spilling, although the obvious solution is to get a bigger glass. Evans and The Sun then watched one of the bartenders filling a glass of draft that clearly had too much head and not enough beer. "Fair comment," she said. "I'll fix it." The Mountain Shadow pub in Burnaby offered a radically different response. Informed by The Sun that the pub's "pint" of Granville Island honey lager measured only about 15.3 ounces, manager Chris Jolly asserted a "pint in Canada is 375 millilitres," not the 568.26 millilitres stated by Ottawa (nor the 473.176 millilitres in a U.S. pint, for that matter). "I guarantee you're wrong," he said, leading The Sun to his locked basement office where he proceeded without success to look for a reference supporting his position. Then he stated he didn't want his name in the paper, warning: "If you do, there'll be hell to pay. It's in your best interest not to." Informed The Sun could make no such guarantee, Jolly then demanded the reporter's notes containing his comments. Told he would not get them, Jolly said he would call the police and was, in fact, pleading his case over his cell phone in the pub parking lot when The Sun left. "He's leaving now...." Jolly was last heard to say.
CHEERS TO ORWELL'S PINT (Kyle explains a pint of beer in metric, imperial & US customary)
DAVE HOOK RANTS I'M CANADIAN
A pint-sized ripoff. Vancouver Sun, Aug 21, 2009
ORWELL AGAINST METRIC CONVERSION and ANIT-METRIC MARTYRS
VISITING ORWELL'S LOCAL PUB and VISITING ORWELL'S LONDON PUBS
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~