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Drawing the line at larger pint proposal; Real ale campaigners believe it's time for beer to be served in larger glasses to accommodate a more generous head. Landlord GRAEME OSWALD explains why he thinks such a move could mean last orders for some publicans.


AS a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) for the past 16 years I must applaud the group's efforts over the years. Cask ale is now the only sector of the drinks market showing any signs of growth and the proliferation of new breweries must, at least in part, be down to CAMRA's campaigning.

Whether the super-complaint lodged with government in order to tackle the pub companies' business model was wise or not is a moot point, but there is one campaigning point that I implore them to give up on - the fight for oversize - or lined - pint glasses, which offer extra room for a generous head on the beer.

I will declare right now that, as a publican, I have an interest in this matter, although the only real reservation I have to oversize glasses is the prohibitive initial cost to the trade.

This would not be insubstantial - many millions at a conservative guess - and this for a trade already struggling under the multiple threats of supermarkets, taxation, changing social trends, the credit crunch and the ever strengthening anti-alcohol brigade.

If the customer gained even slightly then this may arguably be worthwhile but, measure for measure, they certainly will not.

Let me explain. Currently I buy casks containing 72 pints of beer. Due to wastage I probably sell 70 pints out of that container and the sale price is calculated accordingly in order that I hit a preordained profit margin.

If we moved to lined glasses then the pints I sold from a cask would reduce by however much, say to 63 pints (representing the average serving actually being 10% bigger than at present), but to compensate the sale price will go up by same amount in percentage terms.

Measure for measure, millilitre for millilitre, fluid ounce by fluid ounce, the customer will pay exactly the same as before. Altering profit margins is not an option. That way leads to bankruptcy.

There are other reasons why the brim measure system is superior.

At present some pubs will, undoubtedly, rip you off by serving a thick head, while others will not. This gives the customer the opportunity to ask for a top up, or if he can't be bothered simply pick and choose which pubs to give his custom to.

An equalisation of service style will reduce the customer's ability to differentiate the 'bad' pubs from the 'good'. These 'bad' pubs, however, just like the more respectable outlets, will also look to maintain margins so still the man on the street does not benefit.

At present a customer cannot only ask for a top up but they can also ask to have a pint with no head (a full pint of liquid up to the brim) if they so wish. What do you think will happen if anyone asks for this when lined glasses are used? Much of the time I would guess that "just let it settle for a few minutes" would often be the response which, as any good beer drinker knows, really is not the same or acceptable.

I must stress that even though it is currently possible to get a full 'flat' pint in a brim measure glass, the majority of customers want some head on their beer. I have heard say that this is irrelevant because if you order a pint, you should get a pint. I agree, but a typical serving will settle to around 95-98% of a pint in a brim measure glass. The alternative is to serve at least a pint (which would be slightly over a pint) in liquid in a lined glass but by the time any head has settled this is actually 105-110% of a pint.

This is even further away than the current system and, as has already been explained, the customer ends up paying for the extra anyway. The only way to absolutely guarantee an exact pint would be to develop a measured flow system similar to that formerly used in pubs and clubs for their keg products. This would severely reduce the ability of the bar staff to control how the beer is pulled and, I am sure, be opposed vigorously by CAMRA.

Maybe it is best to accept that when you buy a 'pint' what you are actually buying is beer in a pint glass - and stop thinking that every landlord is deliberately trying to rip you off. Graeme Oswald is landlord of the Oddfellows pub in North Shields
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 24, 2011
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