Getting a handle on Kiwi 'pints'

By Beck Vass

It's a pint. Yeah right! Photo / Richard Robinson
It's a pint. Yeah right! Photo / Richard Robinson

It's a pint. Yeah right!

While the British and Irish pride themselves on their precisely measured pints of beer, it seems you won't find the same consistency in New Zealand.

A snapshot survey conducted by the Weekend Herald has revealed a wide range in the serving sizes and the type of glasses used when a patron walks in and asks for a pint.

Five Auckland bars all serving Tui on tap had a range of between 400ml and 520ml, which may leave some Rugby World Cup visitors disappointed next year.

British pints are poured at precisely 568ml, fitting with the imperial measuring system.

But out of five Auckland bars selected at random, just two - both with Irish themes - came close to the British measurement, with Danny Doolans at the Viaduct and the Dogs Bollix in Newton using 570ml glasses.

When the contents of each pint were poured into a measuring bowl, just 520ml was recorded.

However, a good beer is supposed to have a small amount of "head" (foam), taking up some space on top, which may account for the missing millilitres.

Staff dishing out smaller serves said they don't call their glasses "pints" but "handles", although all but the Grey Lynn Tavern's receipts recorded Tui pints.

Hospitality Association of New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson is not surprised.

"There's no such thing as a pint," he said. "It's a colloquial rather than a recognised measure. We're in metrics, have been for quite some time, so there is no such thing as a pint measure.

"Normally your most appropriate measure would be a handle and there are different-sized handles, so what you see is what you get.

"The rules around weights and measures work something like this: If you said that you're selling a 500ml glass of beer, if you promote it as that, then there's a requirement for you to ensure that the measure is 500ml [but] given the diversity of the sizes of glasses, that's not really practical in today's industry," Mr Robertson said.

"People know what they're going to pay and they can see what they're going to get."

The manager of the measurement and product safety service unit within the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, said a bar could not legally advertise a pint in New Zealand because it did not fall within the metric system, and there was no law to determine glass sizes.

He said complaints on the issue were rare and usually came from visitors from the United Kingdom, where the term "pint" referred to a specific measure.

Mr O'Brien believed the Rugby World Cup next year could see a surge in complaints.

"It's a colloquial term now that is used to describe a big glass. Consumers in New Zealand have the option to make a decision on the quantity they're receiving. We trust them to make the vote with their feet."

Smaller glass or dearer beer

Paddy Spring doesn't know whether glasses will get smaller or if prices will get higher.

But the owner of the Dogs Bollix predicts one or the other is highly likely as bar owners try to soak up a 3.5 per cent price rise in packaged beer which Lion Nathan and Dominion Breweries will charge from April 1.

The rise will be worsened by expected increases to excise tax and GST by July.

Mr Spring said he hadn't yet decided how he would cope with the price rise. "It's a Catch-22, isn't it?

"You need to keep recovering your margins to keep paying your way but then you need to keep your customers coming in too."

Hospitality Association of New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said price rises on all alcohol products were "inevitable".

"I guess the upside of that is hopefully there will be some reasonably significant tax cuts so people have got more money in their pocket to pay for it."

A DB Breweries spokeswoman said price rises were due to increases to commodity prices including sugar, glass and aluminium.

- NZ Herald

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