In Search Of An 'Honest' Pint Of Beer

A lager lover catches some Portland establishments serving pints that actually measure a few ounces under. Does a real 16-ounce beer exist in Portland, Ore.?

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Ever wonder if you're really getting what you're promised? It's easy enough to check your dozen eggs and make sure all 12 are there. But what about the quarter pounder? How can you know if it weighs exactly 4 ounces? Or how about a pint of beer? One beer drinker is upholding a new standard of truth. From Oregon Public Broadcasting, April Baer reports on the Honest Pint Project.

APRIL BAER: Honestly, Jeff Alwarth(ph) wasn't trying to stir up trouble. But living in Portland, Oregon, it was hard not to notice what was going on at local breweries.

Mr. JEFF ALWARTH(ph) (Beer Drinker, Portland, Oregon): This is Beervana after all.

BAER: Beervana, a reference to Portland's thriving microbrew industry, is also the title of Alwarth's blog - the same place where, last October, he wrote about a dark secret of bar service. Most pints of beer don't measure 16 ounces. The discussion began one day among friends over beers that Alwarth suspected were lightweights.

Mr. ALWARTH: Nobody believed me. So, my friends demanded that the waiter come over and exonerate the pub, and he went and got his own measuring cup from behind the bar, and it was 14 ounces. ..TEXT: BAER: Alwarth wrote about the incident on his blog, calling out these smaller glasses, the so-called cheater pints. Bartenders know them as shakers and keep them around for mixing cocktails. Filled all the way to the brim, they do measure 16 ounces. But that almost never happens.

Ms. TERRY FARNDORF (Retired Brew Master, Portland, Oregon): No one will ever pour you a beer that full. You couldn't bring it to the table without spilling.

BAER: Terry Farndorf(ph) and her husband, John Craiver(ph), are retired brewmasters. They're fans of the Honest Pint Project and not above a little sting operation now and then.

Ms. FARNDORF: The weight is a little more than 16 ounces weight. We were just...

Mr. JOHN CRAIVER(ph) (Retired Brew Master, Portland, Oregon): I'm thinking maybe the scale is not so...

Ms. FARNDORF: Honey, you'd have to talk to your weights and measure people to see if - I mean, I know...

BAER: Terry is a real hardliner on these matters, and she thinks most beer drinkers will agree.

Ms. FARNDORF: You know, pint - they're using the word pint. You know, they should really be selling you a pint.

Mr. CRAIVER: And I don't quite agree with that because I expect to get a pint glass of beer with a half an inch of head, which means I just know I'm getting above 14 and half ounces of beer.

Ms. FARNDORF: If it was a cheater glass and there was - started with 14, you would be getting 12.

Mr. CRAIVER: You're right. And then I might be a little annoyed.

BAER: In the year since Jeff Alwarth founded the Honest Pint Project, at least one local pub got rid of its shakers and bought all new glassware without raising prices. But Oregon and the rest of the states still lag far behind the higher standards observed in places like Germany and the UK.

Mr. ANDREW HALL (Publican, Rose and Crown in Oxford, England): Twenty fluid ounces is a pint, and all glasses are government stamped. You can't serve a drink, a drink, a draft drink, unless it's in a glass with a government stamp on it.

BAER: That's Andrew Hall, publican of the Rose and Crown in Oxford, England.

Mr. HALL: There are some systems that dispense beer as exactly in England called Porta Lancastrian systems, and they actually dispense 20 fluid ounces of liquid.

BAER: Sounds, very mechanized.

Mr. HALL: Yes it is, horrible, horrible. You just press the button and you stand back, and there's no skill in pouring a drink at all.

BAER: The regulated British system was one of the inspirations for Jeff Alwarth's Honest Pint Project. Back in Portland, he says he'll continue to raise awareness on truth-in-pouring issues, in hopes that Oregon's measurements will someday be as good as its beers. For NPR News, I'm April Baer in Portland, Oregon.

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