Now It's Serious: Shrink Ray Hits Beer

Although we’ve been covering the unpleasant phenomenon of the grocery shrink ray for a while, we’ve been slightly relieved that the shrinking products were things like soap, gum, and orange juice—not crucial staples of our existence. Not anymore, according to the Wall Street Journal: Bars and restaurants are shrinking their beers. The horror!

According to the Journal, some establishments are subtly reducing their “pint” glasses to 14 ounces, rather than the full 16 ounces that comprise a pint, either by using smaller glasses or using heavy-bottomed pint glasses (called “falsies”) that have reduced capacity. Other bars are giving patrons extra head on their pours in order to fill up the glass. When confronted, restaurateurs were alarmingly frank: A representative for Hooters (which, really, should understand that its patrons value size) explained, “We can get 20 more beers out of a keg that way.” Another defended the decision to switch to the 14 ounce glasses: “Someone who comes in and wants a beer doesn’t want a huge glass. Fourteen ounces is enough.” As a connoisseur of forties, mug nights, and gallon daiquiri Sundays, we must stress how wrongheaded a sentiment that is. Some pint fans have begun outing the faux-pint establishments and the Oregon legislature is considering having the state agriculture department monitor violations, but in the meantime, might we suggest a flask?

A Pint-Size Problem (Thanks to Gwen!)
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. plasticredtophat says:


  2. mxjohnson says:

    In Europe, the glasses have measuring lines on them to show you haven’t been underserved. I thought it was silly. Now I’m not so sure.

  3. TioSancho says:

    Bring your own pint glass — drink — repeat

  4. yungjerry703 says:

    they crossed the line!

  5. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @mxjohnson: How could you be sure the 16oz line was really placed at 16oz instead of 14?

    • MauriceCallidice says:

      Presumably the same way you know the gas pump dispenses 1 gallon when it says so – someone (theoretically) occasionally tests it for accuracy.

  6. NiGHTSSTUDiO says:

    Great, I forsee dire consequences at bars with heavy drinkers looking for blood becuase they thinked they were underserved when they didn’t realize that is the new size.

  7. If I used to be paying for 16 ounces and now I’m getting 14, I want to pay less or I’m going to be an angry half-drunk and poor man!

  8. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Outrageous. Beer in a restaurant isn’t cheap to begin with. It really makes no sense how they can justify a price increase like this.

  9. babbitt says:

    @Applekid: Because the gov’t regulates the manufacturer of pint glasses, and the sale of beer in an unregulated glass (presumably in bars) is illegal.

  10. Manok says:

    This isn’t illegal? A pint is a pint and I expect to get just that when I order one.

  11. says:

    …we wanted to be more like europe! smaller everything for the same price!!!!

  12. Baron Von Crogs says:

    Yeah, considering sometimes I pay $4.00 for a pint of Sam Adams when $7.00 gets me a six pack… the prices are already high enough.

  13. rdldr1 says:

    Oh man, that means I gotta drink more before I go out and drive to the bar with my 3 year old son.

  14. veronykah says: Actually they serve imperial pints in England…LARGER than their American counterpart…not sure if that extends to the rest of Europe but still…

  15. centraal says:

    The U.S. needs a law like the British Weights and Measures Act. Greatest law ever invented, barely edging out the Magna Carta and the U.S. Constitution.

  16. mac-phisto says:

    ok, that’s it. i can take smaller country crock, smaller jimmy dean – hell, i promise i won’t even bitch about the smaller cadbury eggs anymore.

    but this? i think walter said it best: “i’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, dude. across this line you do not…”

    where’s my gun?

  17. @mxjohnson: Actually, those lines are totally awesome. Yea for standards!

  18. Overheal says:

    Pfft. Its gone on for years with beer. Didnt you ever wonder why the UK Pint is larger than the US Pint? =P

    seriously though imo bigger ‘portions’ is leading to bigger appetites, bigger stomachs and fatter people. Im happy to let the shrink ray roll on.

  19. thejynxed says:

    The shrink ray has more to do with manufacturing energy costs (fuel, electricity) than with anything else. Those costs go up, package and content sizes get reduced. Quite often, a price increase also accompanies this.

    Quite simply, companies want the same or better profits, so they pass the buck onto you, the consumer by making smaller product that costs more. They can now ship more packages per truck trailer than previously and you end up paying the difference.

  20. LintySoul says:

    As an Oregon resident, I would vote for a keeping a pint at 16 ounces. If the feds won’t hold up a standard then its up to the states.

  21. krispykrink says:

    As someone who regularly enjoys several pints of Guinness over the weekends with friends, THE SKY HAS FALLEN! It’s time to panic…

    OK, not really. The local pub we go to prides themselves with real pint glasses and the owner is an Irishman who would probably kill anyone who sold a pint in a non-pint glass.

  22. donkeyjote says:

    This actually needs some explanation. Beer in Supermarkets in Utah is weak, 3 points instead of the normal 6 points of alchohol. It’s the religious influence, and a pain in the ass. Now to me it makes no sense. If you’ve got alchohol, you’ve got alchohol. So why 3 instead of 6? You know a drunk’s just going to drink twice as many beers to get drunk, so you not only have a drunk on your hands, you have a drunk who’s fat and gross. There’s nothing worse.

  23. donkeyjote says:

    Also, beer sucks, and shots will never be less then one ounce.

  24. ninjatoddler says:

    I noticed this trend with a few bars in St Paul couple of weekends ago during the Grand Old Days festival. Not only were the servings smaller, the prices were jacked up too.

    The upside to that is, we can now drink more glasses of beer at the bars.

  25. Cliff_Donner says:

    Well, are they posting a sign that says “At Hooters a 16-ounce pint is 14 ounces”??

    More to the point, are they posting a sign that says “At Hooters, a D-cup is really a B-cup”??

  26. fever says:

    I’m still pissed that some bars serve 16 oz “pints” instead of 20’s. @ninjatoddler:
    Dude, Grand Old Day, what did you expect. You’re on the wrong side of the river anyways, Mississippi to St. Croix is a no-man’s-land.

  27. JackAshley says:

    @Overheal: You’re right! Getting less for your money (ergo paying more for your product) is a great thing!

  28. petrarch1608 says:

    henry’s tavern already has ridiculously expensive beers, this article just sealed it for me, i’m never going back.

  29. psychos says:

    I actually just emailed the North Carolina Standards Division a few minutes before reading this post. I asked for a pint at the Carolina Beer Company at CLT (the Charlotte airport) a few days ago. I was offered a “large” instead, though the waitress didn’t know how many ounces it actually was. I said I’d just have a pint, and asked to make sure that it was indeed 16oz of beer, to which I was told “so, a small?” I asked again, “so a small is a pint, 16oz, right?” She said “yeah, that sounds right.” I got served what was obviously 14oz of beer with one of those super-thick glass bottoms to make you feel like you’re actually drinking out of a pint glass.

    Under-pours, obvious over-heading, etc, just annoy me. I think the most annoying, though was at a Great Lakes Brewing Company-affiliated bar at CLE. They served beer as 12oz or 23oz. I wanted a pint. Not 12oz, not 23oz. They had a ton of pint glasses along the shelf. I asked for a pint, pointing to the pint glass, and was told “we don’t serve beer in those.” I finally got the bartender to pour me a pint, in a pint glass, and just charge me for 23oz (fair enough if they don’t normally serve that size; that’s just how much I wanted to drink at that point.)

  30. magdelane says:

    This is actually old news.
    Most bars have been using “American” pint glasses, which are 14 oz, for years. (take one of the glasses you’ve stolen/bought from your favorite bar, and measure for proof.) True pints mainly have been served at British/Irish themed pubs and costlier connoisseur establishments. Guess most folks didn’t know that that those glasses with the bar’s logo on them have been cheating them of 2oz per glass for quite a long while…
    As for more head in the pour… shame on them!

  31. coren says:

    I like the logic of people who come in for a pint not wanting a pint, but wanting 7/8 of a pint. And I’m sure that no one ever orders two pints. Because clearly they don’t want a pint to begin with, so getting 1 and 3/4 pints is just ridiculous!

    16 oz of any drink isn’t that much. They’re trying to say that having a can of beer and a half isn’t what consumers want.

  32. magic8ball says:

    oh noes they be stealin mah beer!

  33. ptkdude says:

    The solution? Four words: Taco Mac Passport Club

    20 ounces of beer for the price of 16.

  34. psychos says:

    Sorry, but “American” pint glasses are indeed 16 oz, and “most bars” do not use 14oz versions. An Imperial pint is more like 19oz. You’ll often see them looking like American 16oz pint glasses, but with a bulge near the top. The 14oz glasses are a new thing. Now, you can easily tell them due to the thick bottom. However, they’ll probably soon start making them slightly narrower, so they don’t have the tell-tale thick bottom nor are shorter. I have dozens of pint glasses as I collect them, and I’d like to think that I could tell the difference. I have yet to see an American 14oz glass that’s been narrowed or anything of the sort to more easily masquerade as a pint glass; they just all have that extra-thick bottom. I don’t know what bars you go to, but I certainly have found them to be the exception rather than the rule.

  35. SBR249 says:

    “Someone who comes in and wants a beer doesn’t want a huge glass. Fourteen ounces is enough.”

    By the same logic I guess when I pay for the 14 oz. beer, the owner wouldn’t really want $4.00 for the “pint”, $3.00 is enough…

  36. Trai_Dep says:

    Watch as industry flacks begin spinning that a pint is actually a “pint”, a colloquial term first popularized by Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. As in, “Pint whare the bird is, luv.”
    No, I haven’t seen Mary Poppins, but I’ve read Sandman, and if Death loves Dick’s Cockney accent, that’s well and good for me. I mean, she’s Death.

    …To be followed by Big Oil claiming that a gallon is actually a “gallon”.

  37. psychos says:

    Oh, and I just actually read the article and noticed that they quoted Jason Alström of The Alström Brothers are awesome, as are the BeerAdvocate beer festivals that they host in Boston.

  38. jpp123 says:

    an Imperial pint is 20oz not “about 19” – and in the UK they made pubs switch from pint glasses to oversized glasses marked with a line because froth doesn’t count.

  39. …ok that’s it. hell has frozen over. a pint is a pint. don’t sell me something that doesn’t measure up :(

  40. psychos says:

    I think there may be some confusion here, as you are indeed correct that an Imperial pint is 20 Imperial fluid ounces. However, that equates out to approximately 19.2 US fluid ounces. Now, if only I could order a half-liter of beer (about 16.9 US fluid ounces) worldwide and get the same measure without resorting to stupid units that don’t even correspond between different countries…

    It is nice that UK bartenders are smart enough (even without the line!) to pour you a proper pint with the right amount of head. In the US, 3″ or more of head seems to be considered acceptable at most places. It’s always nice to find an establishment that will either let it settle (and ask if you mind waiting while it does), or pour off the head and pour more beer into the vessel to top it off to a proper level.

  41. donkeyjote says:

    @Trai_Dep: Then again, Death drinks tea, not beer ^__^

  42. fuzzycuffs says:


  43. battra92 says:

    Well, this is one thing I don’t mind. :)

  44. TechnoDestructo says:


    Yeah, when you’re already buying one of the high-profit-margin items (which drinks, even the alcoholic ones, are), there really is no excuse, EVER.

  45. 12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich says:

    Ha…in my college town, 14 oz (we always figured it was 12oz) is a standard, a 16 or 20oz pint is a diamond in the rough….

    Then again, that pint usually costs a couple bucks, not 6ish (like I paid in the non-college town I lived in)…

    But I have noticed that what used to be $1 pitchers (of natty, etc) or $1 bottles (bud light, etc) have suddenly turned into $1.50, and happy hour that used to last from 4-7, now lasts from 5-7…

  46. Major-General says:

    @mxjohnson: And here I thought that was so you couldn’t be overserved.

    @jpp123: Sure the head doesn’t count. But every beer needs some to breathe.

  47. @jpp123: an Imperial pint is 20oz not “about 19”

    One imperial pint is 19.2152068 US fluid ounces or 20 imperial fluid ounces.

  48. @Major-General: Sure the head doesn’t count. But every beer needs some to breathe.

    The metered mugs leave the proper amount of room for head space. They are the perfect vessel. I wish they were coming stateside. It would nullify this controversy, but our government is too busy pretending alcohol is evil to do something good for it.

  49. Kounji says:

    @Cliff_Donner: Yes that’s exactly what they are saying

  50. glass says:

    british pint glasses only, please.

  51. oneswellfoop says:

    It makes more sense to patronize places that pour a proper 20oz pint. Go to an Irish pub that’s run by Irishmen If you go to a crappy sports bar or the like then oh well. If was I was a bar owner I’d happily separate the sort that hangs out at a sports bar or club from their hard earned cash more efficiently.

  52. bonzombiekitty says:

    Well, now it’s time to start a violent revolution. Hike gas prices? Ok, I can live with that I knew I’d probably be paying a lot by living so far from work. Shrink the size of my ice cream? Meh, at least it will help me from eating too much. Shrink my beer? Now it’s time to get out the automatic weapons.

  53. linbey says:

    I dont know where you people live, but were I live bars dont sell “pints” of beer. They sell a glass of beer that happens to be about the amount in a pint. So even if there WAS a measurements law they would NOT be violating it since they arent advertising as a pint.

  54. robocop is bleeding says:

    I know that there are problems with the hops and barley supplies (plus the rising cost of actually transporting beer), but really, if you’re going to reduce the amount served, you need to post a notice!

    “Due to rising costs, beers are now served in 14 oz glasses. If this makes you unhappy, vote for better fiscal and energy policy.”

  55. bonzombiekitty says:

    @linbey: It’s the same around me (Philadelphia). I never heard of ordering a pint of beer until my sister moved to England. Everyone around here just orders “a ” a few places, mainly chain restaurant, will ask if you want 16oz or 20oz. Most of the time it’s just a 16oz glass, and I tend to go to bars and pubs that fill them properly. I also tend to drink beers that are a little bit flatter and don’t form as much head.

    I don’t know of any place around here that has advertised beer as being sold by the pint. Perhaps it’s different in Oregon. But still, if my favorite places to drink suddenly started serving 14oz of beer instead of 16oz, I’d be pissed off.

  56. catnapped says:

    Weights and Measures is so 20th century anyway…

  57. catnapped says:

    Customary “Why is this even a story” post, just to keep equilibrium here:

    “People are fat enough as it is! You should be glad you’re getting 14 ounces you fatties! Kwit yer whining!”

  58. @catnapped: You also forgot the obligatory blame the consumer comment. Noting that people should carry around their own measuring devices to the bar.

  59. HungryGrrl says:

    It’s only illegal if they call it a ‘pint.’ They’ll sell it as a ‘glass of draft beer’… some establishments have more than one size, possibly now you’ll be offered the 14oz or the 18 oz instead of the 16 and 20.

    The times, they are a’changin’….

  60. V-effekt says:

    The Germans have it figured out. You get your ‘beer’ filled up to the line, which marks the contents of the glass to that line. The rest of the glass is head, as it is the indicator in Germany of good quality ingredients. Here is an example of a 1/2 liter glass with sufficient head, filled up to the line. (Once the head settles) ;)

    And how I love all the different types of beer.

  61. PinUp says:

    For those that haven’t seen beer sold in pints, it depends on where you go. Places that call themselves “pubs” as opposed to sports bars (Keegan’s or o’Gara’s as opposed to Champs) will be the ones to have “pints.”

  62. jpx72x says:

    @Applekid: It’s too risky. Evidence of an under-poured beer disappears with the first sip. Evidence of cheater glasses will last for the life of the glass.

  63. jpx72x says:

    @psychos: Liter-ah-cola?

  64. Fatty Shcock says:

    It’s like at Chili’s, where you go in, and their special on beers (every day) is 2 for 1, and in all actuality, it’s not!
    It’s just a friggin pint of beer, split into 2 small mugs.

    Yeah, that’s a great marketing ploy. Fuck with the customers head to make them THINK that they’re getting double. Just throw it in a pint glass, and stop calling it “2-for-1’s”.

  65. @Applekid: The weights and measures department pours exactly one pint (500ml in Europe) of liquid into the glass and verifies that the mark indicates what it is supposed to indicate.

  66. theblackdog says:

    @12-Inch Idongivafuck Sandwich: They’re screwing with the price of Natty Bo? BASTARDS!!!

    I’m going to be watching my bar glasses much closer when I order a draft these days, and if I start witnessing consistently bad pours or the glass is a falsie, I’ll just go elsewhere.

  67. strangeffect says:

    @SBR249: Well said.

  68. I noticed recently that the chain restaurants around me have stopped calling them 16 and 20 oz sizes but rather small and large. Not that 20 oz is a large beer. I’d say 64 oz is a large beer and 20 oz is a tease.

  69. Nic715 says:

    Forget the measuring devices! It sounds to me like it’s time to revert to the ‘ole college trick of bringing along a six pack in my purse…and drinking it really fast.

    It would probably save me a huge amount as it stands….real pints or not!

  70. Bladefist says:

    this is because of the hop shortage. :|

  71. freshyill says:

    I can’t count the number of times I was in the middle of a beer and said to myself, “well, I think that was plenty!”

  72. freshyill says:

    @theblackdog: It’s highly unlikely that he’s talking about National Bohemian. I think he means Natural Light or Natural Ice.

    Natty = Natural Light, etc.
    Natty Boh (note the “h”) = National Bohemian.

  73. Wormfather says:

    @rdldr1: That’s completely irresponsible, at least let yours son drive if you’re going to drink!

  74. zentex says:


    More to the point, are they posting a sign that says “At Hooters, a D-cup is really a B-cup”??

    Well…the past dozen times I’ve been to hooters you’d think they were saying “the A-Cup is the new D-Cup” and “if these girls look ugly, drink another beer”

    When will the consumerist cover the shrink-ray hitting the boobs of Hooters?

  75. linedpaper says:

    Being such a beer connoisseur, to start with a real pint is actually 20oz, but if going by US standards 16oz will suffice. I’ve seen this already happening at many of the chain type places, which I typically avoid. My watering holes serve either a full Imperial Pint or by the 1/2 liter. While 2oz isn’t a huge difference, when they are already raising prices due to last years hop shortage it compounds the issue.

  76. privatejoker75 says:

    this is why pint glasses in ireland and the uk have offical stamps on the side stating that they carry a full pint

  77. Imakeholesinu says:


    We so need that here now. All in favor of the Offical Pint Glass stamp on all beer glasses say “Aye!”

  78. HIV 2 Elway says:

    And make sure you tip your waitress well, she is making less than minimum wage.

  79. battra92 says:

    @zentex: Damn, guess I’m never going to check out Hooters if that’s the case.

    Granted, I don’t have any problems finding Cs and up around here … ;)

  80. Poster99 says:

    Time to start brewing my own beer again!

  81. shitty bars on bourbon street pull this shit all the time. that’s why i stick to drinking my guinness on tap, instead of from the 14.9 oz pub cans.

    if gallon daiquiri Sundays EVER END, i’m fucking emigrating. <3333 NOLA

  82. BeerFox says:

    Yeah, I was thrilled when I hit a new brewery recently, and was served my beer in what I swear was a juice glass. With a huge head. I think I got maaaybe 11 oz. of beer.

  83. IF the establishment is careful in advertising the product (ie “Glass of Beer”) there is nothing wrong with shrinking product size.

    But in the UK where the advertised product is a “Pint” it better darn well be a Pint.

  84. DH405 says:

    On the Happy Hour signs at Chili’s they have a disclaimer saying “measurements denote the size of glassware, not the amount of liquid served.”

    This is a sad, sad world.

  85. DH405 says:

    @Bladefist: Then explain how it works equally on the very malty beers that I drink. Very little in the way of hops.

  86. cyclade says:

    @psychos: Actually magdalene’s totally right on this – if by “pint glass” we’re talking about the Anchor Hocking, tapered, heavyweight glass that became a sort of “standard” draft beer glass (as opposed to the old mug) back in the early 90s. That glass is and always was 14 oz. as a standard. There were 16 and 20 oz. versions available, too – but those were sold for home use or special promotions, and few, if any, bars used ’em.

    Back when I was serving beer in an Irish pub in the early-to-mid 90s, only our stouts came in a “true” pint – the 19 oz. “imperial” pint, often provided by the Guinness or Murphy’s vendors. The rest of our beer came served in the nearly impossible to break (hence their popularity) Anchor Hocking glasses.

    While I recall checking the catalog on this, the real reason I’m certain of the volume is that I won a $50 bet with a customer who insisted that those glasses held a full, 16 oz. pint. After pouring a 12-ounce bottle of beer into the glass with a modest, 1/4 inch head, the glass was esentially full to the top and could in no way have taken another four ounces.

  87. Why not be honest and just raise the cost of the beer rather than screwing your customer?

    This sends a clear message to me: Go somewhere else for beer. Thanks for the update.

  88. jvandub says:

    Yet another reason I love living in the beer guzzling state of Oregon. Our state motto is, “Don’t fuck with our pints!”

  89. veronykah says:

    @oneswellfoop: Agreed, if most people just quit going to shitty chain bars this would usually not be a problem. I am a bartender, as well as a lover of beer. I NEVER pour a glass full of foam, that to me is a hallmark of an inexperienced bartender. Its not that hard to pour a pint, that is a pint, with a small head on it.

  90. Breach says:

    Inst a pint a set size? Im pretty certain that if you change the volume, they can no longer call it a pint.

  91. cerbie says:

    If you’re ordering a glass, cup, etc., then I don’t see a problem.

    If you order a pint, then there’s a problem. The price should increase, rather than amount of brew decrease.

  92. theblackdog says:

    @freshyill: Well now I feel foolish.

  93. BoomerFive says:

    @bonzombiekitty: Pissed off, poor, and drunk. What could happen?

  94. drftjgoj says:

    ive also noticed that some beers are coming in 11.2 oz bottles, rather than the standard 12 oz ones.

    cant remember which ones specifically.

  95. A pint’s a pound the whole world round. Except at Hooters.

  96. If the wait staff serves a beer with a head of foam that looks like it belongs in a razor commercial, make sure to blow it off the top of your beer directly onto the floor, where it belongs.

    That ought to get the message across.

  97. @Michael Belisle: Gordon Biersch in San Jose serves their brews in metered German-style glasses.

  98. So far, my survey of Murphy Street pubs in Sunnyvale and finer beer-drinking establishments in the San Francisco Bay metro area shows that west coast establishments serving predominantly German, English, Irish, or Belgian beers have not sunk to this practice yet – probably because they are too damned honest and like beer too much!

  99. CyGuy says:

    Maybe McCain has already vetoed full-size pints of beer?

  100. bcsus83 says:

    What happened to the good old days when they’d serve you the first 3 ‘full’ and then beginning pulling stunts to short you on your full glass after you were buzzed?!?!?!?!?!

    Giving a sober person a 14 oz beer instead of a pint isn’t gonna make your customer satisfaction go up ;)

  101. failurate says:

    Draft beers are to be served 16-22oz at a time. Raise the damn price 25cents if you are really that hard up. 99% of the time, the price isn’t even on the menu at these places.

  102. Trai_Dep says:

    Well, if they’re pouring American beer, maybe the bartender should just tinkle the missing 2oz into the glass instead. Keeps the guy behind the bar longer and most patrons won’t even notice!

  103. Smaugster says:

    Went to my local Chuy’s, ordered a pitcher. Let the head die down, and asked to have it filled up.YES! It does make a difference if you pay for this and get that, it’s wrong.
    I buy a six pack of Miller High Life 16oz cans for $5.
    .473 L = one pint. Hops shortage is bullshit. They are trying to sneak wheat into all beer! Yuck!
    Sam Adams for $7? Forget it!

  104. geoffhazel says:

    One of these days, they will start selling gasoline by the liter instead of the gallon. When gas hits 5.00/gal, we’ll just be paying $1.32 per liter. And then we can watch the price rise to $5.00 all over again!

  105. Android8675 says:

    I feel for the craft breweries, there’s such a place near where I live that I visit often and they had to raise their monthly gathering pints by a dollar, prices are KILLING small breweries. It’s a sad state of affairs. I can’t stand budweiser, and with the most recent bill going through congress, a disaster of this magnitude hasn’t struck craft breweries since the start of Prohibition. (Pre-Prohibition there were apparently 20x more craft breweries than there are today, and Prohibition pretty much wiped em all out).

    Love your beer, support your local breweries!
    “What kind of ‘Local Beers’ do you carry?”

    It’s a simple question and it could save this country from the Annheiser Busches.