RWC: Nice beer, but it's not a pint

By Abby Gillies

Irishman Tom Buckley likes a pint. Photo / Janna Dixon
Irishman Tom Buckley likes a pint. Photo / Janna Dixon

They say nothing will keep an Englishman from his pint. In Britain, the Weights and Measures Act - summarised on British pub walls - ensures when you order a pint of warm bitter you get a pint of warm bitter.

The Aussies and the Irish are sticklers on that point too. Both countries use metrics but have laws to ensure drinkers get what they order.

So when rugby fans arrive here, they will expect to get what they order - a pint, or 568 millilitres for those brought up on metric measures.

But New Zealand law bans the sale of any food or drink using imperial measures, so it's illegal to advertise a "pint" of beer for sale. If a drinker asks for a pint, it's legal to serve it - but it must be the full 568ml or the publican can be fined as much as $5000.

Confused? So are pubs, apparently. A snap survey of a few Auckland licensed premises showed that none were complying with the law. One of the city's top hotels, the Langham, served a 370ml glass of beer when asked for a pint.

The $10 "pint" of Monteith's Original arrived in a goblet-shaped glass.

The Langham is promoting its bars to visitors who want to watch Rugby World Cup games on big-screen TVs - but they may be bound for disappointment at the bar, never mind when their team loses. The Langham describes itself as the closest hotel to Eden Park - a boast that at least a couple of nearer hotels would dispute.

Bar manager Adrian McInroy apologised for the confusion but said he wasn't concerned about locals or visitors feeling ripped off. "As long as the gentleman gets the beer cold and it's got a bit of head on it and it's not in a soda glass, he's happy," he said.

Other bars to serve short pints included the Neighbourhood Brewbar in Kingsland, overlooking Eden Park, The Right Track Sports Bar and Provedor in the Viaduct. Provedor served the smallest "pint", a 350ml handle. A pint was simply "street talk" for a handle, said bar manager Wilbur Smith. "I think if they say pint they mean beer on tap." He did not know it was illegal to sell the imperial measure, but said he would make sure staff told customers they sold handles, not pints.

Two bars visited served full 568ml pints - so were theoretically breaking the law. The Muddy Farmer and QF Tavern, both in the Auckland CBD, sold full "pints" - a breach of the imperial ban.

Muddy Farmer manager Gillian Offringa was "gobsmacked" to learn they should not be advertising or selling "pints".

"That's crazy," she said. "That's not going to stop me advertising a pint because that's what everyone calls it."

Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson said bar staff needed to make it clear they did not sell pints. "There is no such thing as a pint," he said. "They should be marketing it as a handle, not a pint."

How about the Langham's claim to be the closest hotel to Eden Park at 3.5km away?

"If they're that desperate to use whatever claim they can, good on them," said Denise King, general manager of the Quality Inn West End, which is about 1km from the park.

A Langham spokeswoman promised to amend the marketing claim to "closest 5-star hotel".

- Herald on Sunday

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