By Jackie Hong
Beer, the golden nectar of the poor university student, has been a cornerstone of humanity since the earliest civilizations. It’s one of the finest products that can be crafted from wheat — delicious, refreshing, cold and, most importantly, alcoholic (bread is only one of those four things and therefore inferior).
But what if you don’t always get the amount of beer that you pay for?
Inspired by a Toronto Star investigation and dedicated to the greater good, we used only the finest of scientific instruments to answer a burning question: are the local watering holes screwing you out of a few ounces of hard-earned beer?
Our mode of investigation saw both editors and reporters alike adopt scientific method by visiting a variety of establishments, procuring samples and putting them through vigorous testing to see if they were up to standard (basically, we went to a bunch of bars, ordered pints, poured the beer into measuring cups, waited for it to settle and read the measurement).
But our selfless pursuits would be for naught if the Canadian government didn’t have standards, which it does, occasionally.
Unless otherwise explicitly stated, a pint in Canada is defined as 20 oz. (568 mL) with a half-ounce margin of error — and foam (head) doesn’t count.
This means, in theory, bars that serve less than 19.5 oz. of delicious beer while advertising pints as 20 oz. can face fines of up to $2,000, according to Measurement Canada’s Fairness at the Pumps Act.
The Eyeopener’s extensive investigation found that out of 14 pints ordered at six local watering holes, only four pints lived up to their advertised volume.
Here’s the raw data. Unless otherwise noted, a pint is 20 oz., with 19.5 oz. being the legal bare minimum:
Firkin on Yonge
Drinks: Two pints of Canadian,
Results: Both were 20 oz.
Good job, Firkin!
Note: Lou Dawg’s is a slight anomaly because they serve 18 oz. glasses, not pints.
Drinks: Two glasses of Steamwhistle, $6.75 each.
Results: One glass only contained 14 oz. The second was 18 oz.
Ram in the Rye
Drinks: Canadian, $5.50;
Coors, $5.50 Results: Canadian, 17 oz.;
Coors, 20 oz.
Mick E Fynn’s
Drinks: Moosehead, $7.75;
Coors, $7 Results: Moosehead, 17 oz.;
Coors, 17 oz.
The Marquis of Granby
Drinks: Canadian, $6; house lager, $4
Results: Canadian, 18 oz.;
House lager, 17 oz.
Drinks: Moosehead, $6;
Steamwhistle, $7.20 Results: Moosehead, 16.5 oz.;
Steamwhistle, 15.5 oz.
In case you’re too lazy to do the math, we lost out on a collective 27.5 oz. of beer – that’s almost a pint and a half.
The most credible bar in our experiment was The Firkin on Yonge, which poured a clean 20 oz. pint both times.
The bar that screwed us the hardest was The Library, which gave us an average 4 oz. less than the legal minimum and 4.5 oz.
less than the official definition for a pint, despite explicitly stating on its menu that its pints were 20 oz. The Marquis of Granby, who shortchanged us a collective 8 oz., also explicitly advertised pints as 20 oz. on its menu.
Ryerson’s own Ram in the Rye fell smack-dab in the middle of the pack, filling one pint to regulation but only giving us 17 oz. for another pint.
The Eyeopener measured out exactly 20 oz. of water and poured it into a pint glass, the liquid went up to quite literally the brim. And 19.5 oz. didn’t fare much better, leaving less than a millimetre of space between the brim of the glass and the water. Unless a server has mastered the art of keeping a glass perfectly still while he or she walks over to your table (which they’ve apparently done at the Firkin), it’s pretty damn tricky to deliver a legal pint even if you manage to pour it.
So maybe this isn’t a story about how some bars are screwing you out of a few ounces of beer in every pint – maybe it’s about how, even when the government does have standards, they can be wildly unrealistic.
With files from Jake Scott, Keith Capstick, Alex Downham, Devin Jones, Mitch Bowmile and Chris Blanchette.