|Woman with a third pint glass.|
There are those who advocate pubs going further than this and operating a "try before you buy" policy, where you are given a small free sample. It is argued that this will encourage more people, particularly women, to try give real ale a go. It seems such a simple and obvious idea that you might expect it to catch on, but I can see reasons why it isn't as good as it sounds.
Firstly, it will cost the pub money, especially if hopping along the bar trying out beers until you find one you like becomes a regular occurrence in your pub. Several free samples will soon add up to a pint - £2-50 to £3 lost. With the outrageous mark-ups that Pub Cos put on their supplies to pubs, the margin of profit on a barrel is not large and could be seriously eroded or eliminated by free samples, which would surely lead to higher prices.
Secondly, my beer festival experience is that it tends to be the more experienced real ale drinkers who ask for samples; the person tentatively looking at the array of beers not knowing which to buy won't usually ask for one unless it's offered. This suggests to me that it would tend to be the experienced drinkers who would ask for samples in pubs, not the novices, so I'm not convinced this would usher in legions of new women real ale drinkers. Besides, waiting to be served behind someone who is going through the beers, sniffing, sipping and holding them up to the light, is not what I want to be doing in a pub. And there would always be the selfish oaf who would insist on doing that three minutes before closing time, not caring about the queue waiting to be served behind him. It's no good saying there should be more staff ~ perhaps in an ideal world there should, but most of us know the precarious financial state of many pubs.
Thirdly, while a sample may let you know you'll strongly dislike a particular beer, it may not do other beers justice. Sometimes it takes several mouthfuls rather than a quick sip before my palate adjusts to a beer, especially if I've just finished one with a very different character. As a result, I've sometimes been initially disappointed with a pint, only to find I quite like it about a quarter or a third of the way through.
If a pub feels confident it can afford to offer samples, then that's all well and good, but I don't think it's reasonable to expect this to become general practice. That's why I welcome the use of third pint glasses, even though I doubt I'll ever use them myself.
Not all third pint glasses look like the one illustrated; many just look like very small halves.