Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Consumers Rejoice as Getting Good Head in Your Local Pub Should Be Free of Charge!!

Every  craft beer lover worth their weight in hops knows the head on a beer is an important part of the experience and a must for any good draft craft pour.

And even though the more discerning consumers demand their beer arrive with that essential froth and foam on top of the beer, many of them probably do not know that they do not have to pay for the privilege of having well-poured beer.

That's right - by law, the head/foam/froth, whatever you want to call it, that is on top of the liquid inside your beer glass is not considered part of the serving size volume you are paying for despite what many licensees, and consumers for that matter, tell you.

Measurement Canada is a government agency who, in their own words,

"is responsible for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of measurement in the Canadian marketplace. We:
  • develop and administer the laws and requirements governing measurement,
  • evaluate, approve and certify measuring devices, and
  • investigate complaints of suspected inaccurate measurement"
I wrote Measurement Canada after the weekend hubbub (click the link to get CAMRA Vancouver president Adam Chatburn's version of events), what I have dubbed the shit storm in a beer glass, and asked specifically if the head of a beer was considered by law to be apart of the volume of the serving size.

The response from Measurement Canada was very clear; the foam at the top is not included.

I had also written them about clarification on serving sizes, acceptable  margins for error and what to do if you had a complaint.

Here is their response:

"Vendors are required by the Weights and Measures Act to deliver, within the applicable limits of error, the quantity of product they are claiming to sell.  This includes individual servings of beer sold in restaurants, pubs, bars, etc.

In Canada, a pint contains 20 ounces (568ml); therefore, a vendor selling a pint of beer must deliver 20 fluid ounces of beer. The limit of error for 20 fluid ounces is 0.5 fluid ounces.  So, if a vendor is claiming to sell a pint of beer, then 20 fluid ounces of beer should be delivered to the customer with a minimum of 19.5 fluid ounces of beer in the glass.

When a vendor is not advertising a pint and is claiming a lesser amount, e.g. 14 fluid ounces then 14 fluid ounces is the quantity that must be delivered."

That limit of error, if my math is right, is 2.5% of the serving size volume. Again, not much room for misinterpretation, especially when combined with the "no foam"  response. 

I only found out about Measurement Canada recently when a consumer - an admitted non-CAMRA member and one who tends towards non-craft beers but who has been following #FUSS closely - contacted me regarding a complaint about the Terminal Pub in New Westminster where he was convinced the pint advertised on the menu was actually being served in a 16-oz sleeve. He asked me where he could complain and I directed him towards the LCLB and his MLA, who he contacted. Both his MLA and the LCLB directed him to Measurement Canada who took his complaint, investigated and got back to him with the news that the Terminal was switching to the proper glassware to provide a pint as they were advertising.

I haven't heard back yet if the change has happened, but the point of the matter is, Measurement Canada received to complaint and acted.

To further clarify things, according to the Weights and Measures Act, both millilitres and ounces as long as those ounces are Canadian units which are based on the Imperial System, not the US measurements for ounces. 

So no, licensees cannot advertise a "pint" and serve you 16oz stating "that is an American pint". A pint in Canada is 568ml or 20 Canadian ounces end of story.

So there you have it folks - seems pretty clear-cut as far as the law goes. 

Now take that info and do what ever you want to do with it. Licensees do have the choice to ignore the above posted information from Measurement Canada and/or ignore the legal provincial requirement to have a serving-size-price list but if they do, they do run the risk of being complained about and/or exposed by consumers feeling they are not getting all that they paid for. I know this information will not be popular with a lot of licensees but they have had a good run, the field has been tilted in their favour for a long time and there should be no more excuses about "industry standards" or misunderstandings about what is considered a serving size and what needs to be delivered, "within the applicable limits of error"  to the consumer. 

Consumers can also choose to ignore short pours if they are comfortable with paying for beer that is not in their glass. Up to them. No skin off my nose. It is their choice to do what they want with their money.

But those who do care do seem to be within their legal right to politely bring up the issue to the licensee or their representative and if a reasonable solution is not agreed upon, take that complaint to the next level which is Measurement Canada for short pours and the LCLB for no serving size list. 

For those consumers who do choose to stand up for their consumer rights, see the info about where to lodge your complaints below.

For Measurement Canada they wrote me, If you believe you received an inaccurate measurement, you can find information on how to file a complaint with Measurement Canada on our website.  In this case, the section “Other” applies.  Alternatively, you can call Measurement Canada’s Western Region Office at 1-855-666-3834 or email

For the LCLB for complaints about no serving size list click the link here.


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