Wednesday, July 23, 2014

beer column

here are my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio one's on the coast
wherein i explained to matthew lazin-ryder what all the fuss is about:


You may have heard about the tempest in a pint glass that has hit Vancouver. Wondering what all the FUSS is about???
Who cares about accurate measuring of beer?
Frankly, YOU should.  And here's why:

CAMRA Vancouver's President and Treasurer recently (July 5, 2014) went to some licensed establishments in town and measured how much beer was being poured, and found out that very few places were actually serving as much beer as their menus stated. And they reported their findings via social media.  Why did CAMRA do this?

CAMRA is a beer advocacy group - the Campaign for Real Ale - part of whose mandate it is to "encourage the responsible enjoyment of beer and actively support laws and regulations that contribute to that objective".  
 
To that end, CAMRA's Vancouver Chapter has had a campaign called FUSS, Fess up to Serving Sizes, for a couple of years now. CAMRA was aware that some beer-serving establishments were not living up to their advertised beer size, short-pouring their customers.  CAMRA asked the provincial government to enforce the laws that you must state your serving size and actually serve that much beer, to no avail.  CAMRA produced FUSS cards for its members to hand out to establishments not living up to their resposibilities, but had little success in having those establishments change their practices.
 
As a beer advocacy group, CAMRA decided to take the next step:  measuring the amount of beer being poured and reporting the results to the public.
 
The FUSS campaign is a couple of years old now. It should not have come as a shock to any establishments that at some point CAMRA was going to take further steps.  CAMRA did not intend to shame any of the establishments.  They were just taking measurements and reporting them.  Some establishments lived up to their advertised serving size.  Some did not.  CAMRA reported both, with videos of the measuring to ensure there was no perceived bias in their measuring.
 
When they reporting their findings, they got quite a lot of feedback. Some of it negative and some of it positive. CAMRA's aim was to provide information to its membership so that the consumer can make an informed decision about where to spend their beer dollars.  And if the measuring caused an establishment that was found to be short-pouring to stop doing so, either through changing their advertised pour size to what they are actually pouring, or pouring the actual amount advertised, then the beer consumer wins.   And if I sound like I am defending CAMRA, it is because I am.  I think they did the beer drinking public in Vancouver a great service by taking measurements and reporting them in an unbiased manner.  I like being able to make informed decisions.
 
A couple of establishments have changed their serving methods after being found short by CAMRA. I commend them for taking the information that they were short-pouring for the constructive criticism it was meant to be and remedying the situation.
 
The easiest fix is to buy glassware that has a pour line on it - so that everyone knows how much is in the glass. Stateside Craft, a newly opened bar on the Drive did just that right after CAMRA informed them that their advertised serving size was not actually how much was in their glasses. CAMRA passed that news along to all of its members as soon as it was informed of the change.
 
CAMRA isn't the only organization to be concerned with pour sizes in Vancouver.  The Vancouver Sun went out and measured the pour size in several different establishments than those tested by CAMRA and they found similar issues. The Vancouver Sun based its measuring trip on making sure that bars that advertised a pint were actually serving 20 oz, which is the defined size of a pint in Canada.  Their findings were reported in the July 17, 2014 edition of the Sun:

A pint-sized ripoff is costing thirsty B.C. beer drinkers tens of millions of dollars annually.

A Vancouver Sun investigation of 15 pubs and bars in the city claiming to be selling “pints” of beer found that nine of the establishments — or 60 per cent — failed to pour at or near the legal requirement of 20 Imperial ounces.

The average pint purchased by The Sun cost $6.19 and the average serving size was just 17.5 ounces, equal to an overcharging of 77 cents.

If all 42 million litres of draft beer consumed last year in B.C. were sold on the same basis, the consumer ripoff would total more than $50 million, and the equivalent volume of more than two Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

“Michel Cimpaye, a spokesperson for Industry Canada, explained that pubs and bars are required by the Weights and Measures Act to “deliver the quantity of commodity that they are claiming to sell.” In Canada, a “pint contains 20 ounces” and Ottawa defines the “limits of error on a pint as 0.5 ounces (about one tablespoon) above or below 20 ounces, not including the head or foam.””

Okay, so CAMRA and the Vancouver Sun are concerned about pour sizes, but why should the average beer drinker care?

As a beer drinker, and perhaps I'm not average, it is a concern for me, especially now that the government has introduced a minimum price for beer. It is more important now than ever that the advertised beer size is what ends up in your glass just from an economical point of view. If I like two beer establishments, but know that one charges x dollars for a 14 oz pour and the other charges that same x amount for a 20 oz pint, all other things being equal, I'm going to frequent the bar that is easier on my wallet. I also want to know if a happy hour deal is actually a deal. If an establishment is offering a pint for $5 at happy hour, but the pour size isn't actually 20oz, I might as well keep going to my local where a pint is regularly $6. Mostly though, I don't want to be lied to, or mislead. I like craft beer. Most places charge more for craft beer than they do mass-produced lager. I don't love that, but I would rather drink the good beer, so I choose to pay more for it. However, I expect to be served the amount of beer that has been advertised.
 
It is also a concern for me because it is important to know the serving size of your alcohol, along with the alcohol by volume so that you can be aware of how much alcohol you have consumed. The government understands this, and has laws to keep the public informed. They just don't seem to want to enforce their own rules. I applaud CAMRA and the Vancouver Sun for going out and testing serving sizes and informing the public about them.

Want to report an establishment that is not actually serving the amount of beer they advertise?

Paddy Treavor suggests you contact Measurement Canada as they seem more willing to take action than the Liquor Control and Licensing Board.
 
He obtained the following advice from Measurement Canada:

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 Peter.Wakeland@ic.gc.ca.


 

Beer Picks:

I cannot get enough of Radlers!  They are just the perfect hot weather beverage (assuming our hot weather comes back again!)

So my beer picks today are all locally made radlers:

Parallel 49 (Vancouver) Tricycle grapefruit radler - 355 ml cans

Tree Brewing (Kelowna) grapefruit radler - 500 ml cans

Mission Springs (Mission) lemon ginger radler - 355 ml cans

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