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Honest Pint Project Seeks 'Truth In Pouring' For Oregon Pubs

Ever wonder if you’re really getting what’s coming to you?

It’s easy enough to check your dozen eggs and make sure all twelve are there.  But what about that quarter pounder?

How can you know if it truly weighs in at one hundred thirteen grams? Is that cup of Starbucks coffee really … a cup?

One beer drinker in Portlander is upholding a new standard of truth in pouring.  April Baer reports on the Honest Pint Project.

Honestly, Jeff Alworth wasn’t trying to stir up trouble. But  it was hard not to notice what was going on at local breweries.

Jeff Alworth: “This is Beervana, after all.”

Beervana, a reference to Portland’s thriving microbrew industry, is also the title of Alworth’s blog. About a year ago,  he wrote about a dark secret of bar service: most pints of beer don’t measure sixteen ounces.

The discussion began one day among friends, over beers Alworth suspected were lightweights.

Jeff Alworth: “Nobody believed me. So my friends demanded that the waiter come over  and exonerate the pub. He went and got his own measuring cup from behind the bar, and it was 14 ounces. And he was shocked, they were shocked. Everybody was shocked. And I said ‘Yeah! I thought everybody knew!’ “

Alworth 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 sixteen ounces, but that almost never happens.

Teri Fahrendorf: “No one will ever bring you a beer that full. You couldn’t bring it to a table without spilling it.”

Teri Fahrendorf and her husband Jon Graber are retired brewmasters. They’re fans of the Honest Pint Project, and not above a little sting operation now and then.

Teri and Jon: "That's about right."  "About seven…."  "The weight is a little more than sixteen ounces weight."  "Honey, I — you'd have to talk to your weights and measures people, but…."

Teri’s a real hardliner on these matters.

Teri Fahrendorf: “I grew up in a German-American family in the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin. When I was 10 years old, my girl scout troop went on 2 field trips to McDonalds and to the Miller Brewing Company. You can guess which one I liked better.”

…and she thinks most beer drinkers will agree.

Teri Fahrendorf: “You know, ‘pint’—if they’re using the word ‘pint’, they should really be selling you a pint.”

Jon Graber: “And I don’t quite agree with that, because I expect to get a pint glass of beer with a half inch of head which means I just know I’m getting about fourteen and a half—“

Teri Fahrendorf:   “If it was a cheater glass, and it started with 14, you’d be getting’ twelve!”

Jon Graber:   “You’re right! And then I might be a little annoyed.”

In the year since Jeff Alworth founded the Honest Pint Project, at least one pub –Beaverton’s Raccoon Lodge — got rid of its shakers and bought all new glassware.

In fact,  manager Lisa Crombie says the lodge went one step further. It  now serves jumbo-sized Imperial pints, instead of the standard sixteen.

Lisa Crombie: “We did get some comments, all favorable—everyone loves more beer. We did not raise prices when we went to the bigger glasses. We wanted to give them sixteen ounces or more.

But most places in Oregon still lag far behind the higher standards observed in places like Germany and the UK.

Kristian Foden-Vencil: “There isn’t a pub police but what there is, it's a standard—ok this is interesting."

Mild-mannered OPB reporter Kristian Foden-Vencil tended bar in a previous incarnation.

Kristian Foden-Vencil:   "There are two types of glasses. Both of the glasses have marks on them that show where the beer should come up to so you didn’t get shorted.”

We were able to confirm Kristian's story with Andrew Hall, publican at the Rose and Crown in Oxford, England. You can hear his customers carrying on as he explains nearly two hundred years of pint regulation.

Andrew Hall:  “There are some systems that dispense beer exactly in England. They’re called Porter Lancastering systems. They actually dispense twenty fluid ounces of liquid. That was very, very popular in what, 1970s, 1980s. It was more for high-volume late-night discotheques and things like that."

April Baer: “Sounds very mechanized.”

Andrew Hall:  “It is. Horrible. Horrible. You stand back and push a button, and there’s no skill in pouring a drink at all.”

This regulated British system was one of the inspirations for Jeff Alworth’s Honest Pint Project.

Alworth says he’ll continue to raise awareness on “truth-in-pouring” issues, in hopes that Oregon’s measurements will one day be as good as its beers.