City Paper

There is a Voice in the head of every Alco-Journalist engaged in this latest adventure in Pseudo-Science, and the Voice says: I absolutely must remember to perform the Scientific Portion of this mission before I take even one sip out of this pint of beer before me.

How much is a Pint? Does anyone expect 16 ounces when they order “A Pint?” Does anybody really care if the “Pint Glass” into which they pour a delicious beer contains exactly 16 ounces of beery liquid, especially after they are done with their first “Pint” and well into “Pint” two? 15.5 ounces? 14 Ounces?

12? Ounces?

What contains more liquid, a pint of beer or a pint of water? What? How much liquid is on the outside of a single beer bubble in the multitude of beer-angels dancing upon the foamy head atop a pint of beer?

Why didn’t we do this story when we did the Weed Issue? 

“A pint is 16 ounces, period. A head on top might take up some of that pint, but, really, a pint’s a pint.” —UNIDENTIFIED CITY PAPER BEERVESTIGATOR ANONYMOUS NUMBER 1

“Have you had any that actually hit 16 oz? I am beginning to suspect that, like Niels Bohr and Heisenberg, we are inevitably affecting our own results. So, when beer comes out of a tap by means of the force of a gas contained within the liquid, that gas will take up some of the space. When that is disrupted and poured a second time, more of that gas escapes. [UNIDENTIFIED CITY PAPER BEER INVESTIGATOR NUMBER 3] and I found it very difficult to get a good pour into the beaker—mine had a big head, his spilled. I imagine that we will find that ALL pints of beer are actually closer to 15 oz. when poured into a beaker. We should start doing the same experiment with water. Fill a pint glass with water and then pour it into the beaker as some kind of control. All of this is to say that there probably really is no story . . .” —UNIDENTIFIED CITY PAPER BEER INVESTIGATOR ANONYMOUS NUMBER 4

How did this begin? It’s not my fault, I swear, somebody else came up with this mission, they (and you know who They are) simply hired me to organize the I-Team™ for this episode.

"Hmm, let’s see what I remember. I was complaining at Wharf Rat about how the new place where Shucker’s used to be seemed to be selling pints of beer that were less than 16 oz, and the Wharf Rat bartender said something to the effect that the Cat’s Eye now has pints that are something less than pints. This suggested to me that there might be a glassware trend in the biz that’s shorting customers out of ounces of beer per serving. That was the extent of it, all rather speculative. So now we go see if it’s actually occurring." —UNIDENTIFIED CITY PAPER BEER INVESTIGATOR NUMBER 4

What is a Pint? Why does it matter? When is Happy Hour? Is the pint glass already dead to serious beer people? According to The Atlantic’s Citylab, the 16-ounce pint glass, the “sturdy, straight-sided, stackable vessel” also known as the shaker glass, isn’t really optimal for enjoying today’s modern micro and craft-brewed beer, better beer, if you will. You should be drinking stuff that has flavor and nuance and all those other better-beer qualities from something curvier, with some sort of bowl, unless, of course, you’re just drinking brackish watery piss-water beer to get drunk. Ahem. Yeah.

So anyway, equipped with newly purchased 32-ounce Accu-Pour™ measuring pitchers (made in Taiwan, recycling number 5) Your City Paper I-Team™ visited approximately 30 bars around The City That Belches, which were selected—sort of—based on how Serious of a Beer Bar they seemed to be, but also we went to some just regular bars, because you never know, and at first we might have been looking for some outrageous violation of the consumer’s trust, but we also started to think (arguably a first in I-Team™ activity), “Hey, maybe there are some places that deliver a ‘Pint’  that is more than 16 fluid ounces, that would be commendable, and would at least partially justify this exercise!”

We heard things, though, about the Less-Than pints. We heard about “Falsie Pints,” described, in a voluminous piece in The Wall Street Journal, as 14-ounce glasses, sold to restaurateurs who “want more of a perceived value” for themselves, apparently, by stiffing the paying customer out of two ounces of beer. Consumer Outrage! In an old blog called The Honest Pint Project out of Oregon, a state that cares about beer, we also found out about a thing called the “Profit Pour.” That’s basically simply not filling the damn glass all the way up. If you do that consistently and short-pour customers an ounce per pint, then you’re creating one pint of Pure Profit for every 16 you serve. Consumer Outrage again!

About a year ago in Michigan, the Associated Press reported crusading lawmakers getting tough on poor pours by introducing a bill combatting “cheater pints” and any establishment that might “advertise or sell any glass of beer as a pint in this state unless that glass contains at least 16 ounces of beer.”

And of course, Beer-Buyer Beware: We give you the ”Piaget” Beer Gauge (Fig. 1):

Do not get short-poured again at a bar!

Ask yourself the following:  Is your bartender sloppy, cavalier, or imprecise when pouring your favorite micro-brew, or is he just trying to increase his profit margin?

When your local pubs say they are selling you a pint of beer, you should get a pint (i.e., 16 oz). Not 12 oz or even 14 oz, but 16 oz of beer. A “pint” is a standard U.S. liquid measure,  or precisely 16 oz of liquid.

As it turns out, the majority of the volume in a standard US pint glass is in the relatively small height in the top part of the glass. In fact, if a beer is poured to within about 1/2 inch from the top, 13% of the beer is GONE.  If the beer is poured to about one inch from the top of the glass, an astonishing 25% of the beer is missing from your pint.

At this point in our Investigation, we remind you this is not a competition, but we may have a Winner or two anyway:


“Bertha’s, with a 16.5-ounce pint! Served in a New Belgium ‘goblet’ pint glass, which holds 18 ounces of fluid (based on the water test). Max’s, meanwhile, rang in at 12 ounces. Generally speaking, the head seems to displace about 1.5 ounces of beer. Quote from Bernard, longtime stalwart behind the bar at Bertha’s: ‘Bertha’s, keeping it honest.’ Bernard also explained that ‘back home’ they have ‘large pint glasses that account for the head, so that you still get a pint of beer because they put it in a bigger glass.’”

Goddammit, “large pint glasses that account for the head!” That’s a story, right? HEADLESS BEER FOUND IN HOPLESS BAR, or something.

Anyway, yeah, in a real-deal 16-ounce “Pint,” a reasonable pour into that glass would include some foamy head, and that means you’re not getting 16 ounces of liquid. Science!

Off topic: In the middle of this Investigation we were called away to Las Vegas, Nevada, America, for Urgent Business. It was there we encountered The Largest Pint in America. Actually it’s a restaurant and tavern housed in a silo painted up to resemble a gigantor pint of beer, but inside, they serve a 36-ounce Pint. We consumed same. Back to the Science!


“Our system is fine. Carefully pour what’s in the glass into the beaker and read the number on the side. DONE! Why would anyone want to complicate this?” —UNIDENTIFIED GRUMPY CITY PAPER BEERVESTIGATOR ANONYMOUS NUMBER 2

Tom Creegan of the Hamilton Tavern reacting to 14.5 oz. reading of a pint of Union Balt Alt:

“We get our pint glasses where everybody else gets ‘em, at Restaurant Depot.” (Fig. 2)


“It was in a glass that looked like a ‘pint,’ and it was full. It sorta becomes an Existential/semantical thing, when is a pint a ‘Pint’ and not a Pint?”

Bartender at the Hudson Street Stackhouse:

“You coulda just asked me, they’re 14-ouncers.”

Beer drinkers, readers, anyone still here, we present the first and probably last in-depth (to the bottom of each and every “Pint” glass) City Paper I-Team™ Investigation of approximately how much beer is in that thing you thought was a pint glass. You can round the chart-results up a coupla ounces for a Scientific Margin of Error, probably. We did it all for you, the Beer Consumer. We meant well. We care about Science. And beer.


Your 2014 City Paper I-Team™ Pint-Measuring Division, Retired: Edward Ericson Jr., Charlie Herrick, Joe MacLeod, Evan Serpick, Van Smith, Anna Walsh, Wendy Ward, Brandon Weigel, and Baynard Woods.

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