Looking at the article, I conclude that some of the reaction seems to be that taking the licensee, Michelle Craggs, to court is disproportionate to the offence, especially as the council incurred costs of thousands of pounds, including the hiring of a barrister, at a time of serious cutbacks, only for the case to be thrown out anyway.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) guidelines suggest:
- A measure of beer served with a head must include a minimum of 95% liquid
- The beer should not be made available to the customer until bar staff are satisfied with the measure
- Requests from customers for top-ups should be received with good grace and never refused, subject to avoiding spillage of liquid.
Serving just the right amount of beer can be problematic, mainly because the product, whether real or not, has conditioning which gives it life and creates the head on your pint. I've worked at many CAMRA beer festivals and I know that it can sometimes be quite difficult to pour an exact pint even if you're using lined glasses. The liveliness of beers can vary a lot: some beers create big heads no matter how carefully you pour them, while with others you struggle to get a small head. It is not always immediately obvious whether a pint will settle into an acceptable measure; to be certain, you might have to let it stand for perhaps a minute, but a bar full of glasses slowly settling is not what you want on a busy Friday night. This is a problem that is unique to beer and does not apply to any other liquids sold in pubs such as wines, spirits or ciders.
I like handpumps: they add the the atmosphere of a pub, and tell you at a glance that real ale is available, which you could never do with electric pumps. I think we have to accept that always getting 100% liquid in brim measures from handpumps is not feasible. Oversized glasses will never catch on generally because it is inevitable that too much will be served; you only have to look at some of the measures served at CAMRA beer festivals to see that. The usual response I've seen from full-pint advocates is 'improve staff training', but no amount of training will adequately address all the problems that I've mentioned: part of the problem is the nature of the product itself. A once-a-year CAMRA festival can afford to give excess measures because nobody's livelihood depends on it; a pub cannot afford to give away free beer all day every day.
Where beer is served through handpumps into brim glasses, pubs would be wise to display signs stating that beer will automatically be topped up on request. In turn, drinkers should try not to be shy about taking them up on it, and should accept that 100% liquid is for the most part unrealistic. I realise such tips are neither original nor perfect, and that it's not always easy to ask for a top-up when drinkers are six deep at the bar, but it's probably the best we can do as things are. After all, life isn't perfect either.
I wonder whether the trading standards officers asked for a top-up.