Are beer drinkers getting shorted when they buy a pint of their favorite brew? According to beer enthusiasts such as Elie Mystal of the "Above the Law" blog, the answer is a resounding "yes."
The problem, according to the beer fans, is a legal one. When patrons in a U.K. pub order a pint, they can be confident the bartender will pour them the 20 fluid ounces they paid for because it's required by law (It's worth noting that a pint in Britain is 20 ounces, while in the U.S. it is only 16 ounces.) But American suds enthusiasts have tried and failed to enact similar consumer protections for years. As a result, they say, people often don't what they're paying for.
"I'm sure you're all familiar with the tactics: oversized glasses with comically undersized spaces for liquid," Mystal writes. "Bartenders who act like you asked for a glass of foam. It's false advertising to drunk people, and it should be stopped."
Efforts to address the problem by lawmakers in some states have gone flat. In April, for instance, Maine Gov. Paul LePage vetoed an "Honest Pint" law, while similar bills mandating a minimum 16 ounce poor have failed to pass in recent years in Michigan and other states.
Earlier this year, three legislators in craft beer-mad Oregon introduced a measure that would allow the state to certify that the beer pints sold by a particular establishment contain as much liquid refreshment as advertised. But for now the proposal is going nowhere. According to The Oregonian, the legislation was referred to the state's Business and Labor Committee in March. No votes have been held.
Rep. Ken Helm, D., the bill's chief sponsor, told the ABA Journal people in Oregon that "we know that there are establishments out there that serve beers in different-sized glassware."
Some opposed to beer pint regulation question whether that would put too much of a burden on business, arguing that beer drinkers are already protected by existing laws. In a letter explaining his veto of his state's proposed law, LePage claimed that if Maine residents didn't like the service they received from an establishment they would vote with "their feet and their wallets."
The "Honest Pint" movement in the U.S. dates back to the 1990s, when Portland writer William Abernathy measured the beer he was served in a Pyrex measuring bowl and found he was getting less beer than he'd ordered. Blogger Jeff Alworth took on the cause a decade later and founded the Honest Pint Project in 2007, enabling consumers to "certify" pours at their favorite watering holes.
In an email to CBS MoneyWatch, Alworth, who has authored books on beer and runs the Beervana blog, said there are many reasons why states haven't embraced the movement to protect the pint, including concerns about costs and how the rules would be enforced. Another:
"Legislatures nationwide are confronting some big issues, so this falls the bottom of the list of priorities," he wrote.