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Evolution of the Australian beer glass

 

From pint, to long sleever, to pot and schooner

 By MICK ROBERTS ©

a long sleever Sydney Punch Saturday 9 June 1883

“A Long Sleever” – Sydney Punch Saturday June 9 1883

THE ‘long sleever’ was an impressive looking beer glass that stood 45cm high and held an Imperial pint, or 20 fluid ounces.

In colonial times, when visiting the pub, beer drinkers usually had the choice of a pint or half a pint, delivered in pewter tankards, or large glasses, known as ‘long sleevers’.

The various names given to the vessels that held our beloved beers have also lead to much confusion for visitors to Australian shores. In fact, glass sizes have caused just as much confusion amongst native beer drinkers, who travel interstate, where names can differ considerably.

Colonial drinkers began enjoying their ales and porters in glass when standard pint and half-pint vessels were imported from England and Germany during the 1860s. There were also ‘nobblers’, small glasses containing one fluid ounce.

Nobblers were first introduced in the mid 1850s in Australia and were also a common drinking vessel for beer (as well as spirits) until about 1915.

Beside the traditional handled pint glasses, long, 18 inch or 45cm high glasses without handles began appearing in Australian pubs during the mid 1860s. They were known simply as ‘long beers’, ‘long drinks’ or ‘long glasses’.

The “long beer”, served up as an Imperial pint measure of 20 ounces, was sold at inns and taverns across Australia, including in the colonies of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. The Bendigo Advertiser, while describing the difference in the size of two race horses on December 8 1866, compared them to a “long beer glass, over an ordinary tumbler”. A decade later, during the mid 1870s, the ‘long beer’ or ‘long glass’ had become better known as the ‘long sleever’.

As common as a schooner or pot glass is today, the ‘long sleever’ would dominate as the preferred drinking vessel in pubs for over 40 years before the term fell silent in Australian bars. Basically the long sleever was slang for ‘long glass’.

The story of how the long sleever got its name though is much more interesting.

Sydneysiders named the tall glass of beer after their Anglican bishop, Frederick Barker.

Frederick Barker National LIbrary of Australia

Anglican Bishop of Sydney, Frederick Barker. Picture: National Library of Australia

 

John_Randolph_Bishop_of_London_1811_by_William_Owen

This painting by William Owen shows John Randolph, Bishop of London, in 1811, with ‘lawn sleeves’, like Bishop Barker wore. Picture: supplied.

Barker, a towering 1.96m (6ft 5in) tall, was the head of the Church of England in Sydney from 1854 to 1882, and was a staunch temperance man, often preaching the evils of alcohol.

So in true Australian fashion, Sydneysiders named their 45cm tall glass, a ‘Bishop Barker’. It’s unknown how Barker felt about this honour, or whether he knew. Surely he did. During the 1870s, when he was bishop, drinkers were commonly dropping into their ‘local’ for what they called a ‘Bishop Barker’.

How the ‘Bishop Barker’ became a ‘long sleever’ is a classic example of colonial slang.  Barker was well-known for wearing the puffed, flamboyant ‘lawn sleeves’ on his ceremonial garments. The ‘long sleever’ is said to be a corruption of ‘lawn sleeves’. The slang evolved from an incident that occurred during the 1874 NSW Government election campaign.

 

William Bede Dalley, a lawyer and politician who served in the government of Sir Henry Parkes, was on the campaign trail in the west of the state in 1874 when he dropped into an inn for a beer.

Short and thickset, Dalley was said to be a jovial character. He set trends in colonial dress, wearing colourful cravats and buttonholes, reflecting his unique flair and style. The Sydney Sunday Times explained the story on May 13 1906:

The ‘Long Sleever’

william beded dalleyThe late W. B. Dalley (pictured) was the last, and perhaps the best — barring Denniehey — of Australia’s great post-prandial speakers. And mentioning his name reminds me of the origin of the term ‘long sleever,’ as applied to a straight 18 inches of colonial beer. Everyone knows the late Bishop Barker was a very tall man, and, like all other bishops, he had the privilege of wearing lawn sleeves. One very sultry summer’s day, Edmund Barton, Dalley, Butler, and other legal luminaries of this State were travelling on circuit in the West, and putting up at a wayside inn, Mr. Barton said, “This ‘shout’ is mine, so what will you have, Butler?” “Oh, I’m no bigot!” said the witty Q.C., “so I’ll have a Bishop Barker!” “Very good!” said Barton; “and yours, Mr. Dalley?” “Well,” replied the genial W.B., “I think I’ll have a lawn sleever, too!” “Lawn sleever is good!” said Buchanan; “I’ll have another.” The term ‘lawn sleever’ caught on, and was passed round, and of course when it got down among the shirt sleeved crowd it soon degenerated to a ‘long sleever’…

The Australian slang ‘long sleever’ caught-on, and was commonly used in pubs across the country during the 1870s. The earliest newspaper reference I found was in 1876, although there’s little doubt that it had been in common usage well before that year. Newspapers took a while to pick-up on common phrases of the time. The Armidale Express reported that an Aboriginal man and an African shared a “long-sleeved ‘un” on January 21 1876:

The Burrangong Chronicle says :— A black tracker entered one of our public houses one day during the week, wearing a uniform similar to that worn by the police, and, seeing a man of his own colour, but an African, standing at the counter, he accosted him by saying, ‘I say, old man, arn’t you going to shout?’ The sable friend who was thus interrogated looked at him and replied, ‘No, I never shout for traps.’ The wearer of her Majesty’s clothes at once said, ‘I’m no trap; no, I belong to the country work; you go and do something wrong – steal a sheep or a bandicoot, and see how soon I’ll have you, by George.’ The African replied, ‘No, I won’t steal no sheep nor bandicoots; go and do it yourself.’ The aboriginal retorted, ‘Will you track me, then?’ The answer was, ‘Yes, I would go into the first shanty to look for you.’ After some further discussion they shared a long-sleeved ‘un, or what is, properly speaking, a pint of colonial ale, and made friends.

By the end of 1876, The Grenfell Record was reporting on the coal miners’ Christmas picnic, and how the publican booth was doing a brisk business selling ‘long sleevers’ of beer.

During the 1870s there were typically three types of vessels available in most Australian pubs – the 20 imperial fluid ounce pint, and the 10 imperial fluid ounce half pint (both usually delivered in pewter mugs with handles). The ‘long sleever’ was a tall glass, without a handle, usually holding an imperial pint.

The ‘long sleever’ remained popular in Australian pubs, although varying in size, for over four decades. The beginning of the end came for the ‘long sleever’ with the mass manufacturing of glass, and inexpensive imports into Australia, from countries like Japan.

While publicans were required by law to deliver ‘a pint’ or ‘half-pint’ of beer when ordered by a customer, there was no such requirement when a drinker ordered a ‘long sleever’. It wasn’t an official measurement. This enabled the publican to provide various sizes for the ‘long sleever’. By 1887 the long sleever had shrunk to 16 ounces, and by the turn of the century, it had again been reduced to 13 imperial fluid ounces in NSW pubs.

The New South Wales Government declared in 1915 that the retail price of beer shall be fourpence for an imperial pint (20 fluid ounces), and the price should remain at threepence for a ‘long sleever’ and ‘glass’ drinks.

This was a significant turning point, and sounded the death knell for the ‘long sleever’ as a glass. The new law reinforced the publicans’ ability to reduce the size of the long sleever to compensate for increasing the price of pints and half pints. The ‘long sleever’ became much shorter.

The Inverell Times reported on November 29 1918 that at a meeting of the NSW South Coast hotelkeepers, it was decided to replace the ‘long sleever’ by “glasses which hold less”. A similar situation came to be in Queensland. The Newcastle Herald reported in August 1920 that an “energetic protest” was made against hotelkeepers in Queensland “cutting out pints and long sleevers”.

The United Licensed Victuallers Association dictated their preferred vessels to publicans, which were usually stamped with the ULVA logo. The ULVA would eventually become today’s Australia Hotels Associations. Through the 1920s various glass sizes developed in Australian states and territories.

Through the 1920s, the ‘long sleevers’ lingered in some NSW pubs as 13 ounce glasses, and in Western Australia, ‘long beers’ came in nine and five ounce glasses. Pots of 12 ounces were also sold in Perth pubs in the 1920s.

The ‘long sleever’ had vanished from the bars of Australian pubs altogether by the 1930s, with a variety of different glass sizes available in its place in the various states.

A new kid on the block made an appearance in 1932 – ‘The schooner’.

The term ‘schooner’ was borrowed from the United States of America where it would buy a 13 fluid ounce glass for 10 cents in a saloon bar. It had been used as early as the 1880s. By the turn of the century it was also said to be in use in Scotland. The Melbourne Sportsman reported on November 2 1902:

DIFFERENT BEER MEASURES

In Scotland the sale of beer in ‘schooner’ glasses still continues to excite interest, while in Wales, or rather Cardiff, the ‘sleever’ is in full vogue. The ‘schooner’ is used in Scotland merely to meet the demand for twopence worth of beer, and is not used as a measure in any sense. The ‘long sleever’, which is also largely in vogue in Australian cities and towns, holds about a third of a quart [13 imperial ounces]. Custom has popularised alike the ‘long pull’, the ‘schooner’ and the ‘long sleever’, and it will take a long time here one or the other are relegated to the back ground…”

The NSW United Victuallers Association introduced 18 ounce schooner glasses into pubs in 1932 to combat an increase in the price of 20 ounce pints.

The schooner could be sold at the old price, with two less ounces, with the pint glass increasing in price, without much fuss. This was the first step in the demise of the pint glass in NSW (although it seems to be now making a come back).

Corrimal Hotel Corrimal 1936 anu

Corrimal Hotel 1936. The Corrimal Hotel introduced the new schooner 18 ounce schooner glass in 1932. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

In the NSW industrial areas, like the Illawarra and the Hunter, the new schooner became an instant success with many drinkers ditching their pint for the new glass. The Illawarra Mercury reported on May 20 1932:

CORRIMAL ‘MINE’S A BEER’

Once again Corrimal residents are quenching their thirsts at Grant’s Hotel, and even saying ‘Mine’s a schooner’. Some local residents investigated the replacing of pint measures by schooners, and conferred with Mr. Grant and recognised that he was under considerable expense owing to the added charge under the Transport Act, and pointed out to him that if he replaced the pints, that no exception would be taken if he served a schooner, to which Mr. Grant assented, so all’s well that ends well, and Corrimal residents can have a schooner or a pint just as they wish, and the popular fancy appears to be the schooner. The difference between a schooner and a pint is that the former contains 18 ounces whilst the latter contains 20 ounces. In former days when beer was brought from Sydney to Wollongong by boat and then carted to Corrimal beer drinkers only obtained a mug for their sixpence; which contained 12 ounces. It is recognised that the hotel keeper is hard hit with overhead expenses, and that persons who patronise the schooners are helping him to keep his door open.

The following year NSW drinkers were able to buy beer in glasses of nine and 13 ounces, 18 ounce schooners, and 20 ounce pints at their local pubs. By this time drinkers had given various names to the different sized beer glasses available in Australian pubs. The Melbourne Argus described how the various beer glass sizes had developed in a story published on February 13 1934:

SCHOONERS AND DREADNOUGHTS

POPULAR NAMES FOR BEER

Beer in Australia is known by many names. Whether a customer asks in a Melbourne hotel for a ‘pint’, a ‘mug’, a ‘beaker’ a ‘tankard’, a ‘handle’, a ‘jug’ a ‘noggin’, or merely a ‘pot’ or a ‘beer’, the barman seems to have little difficulty in understanding what is required.

The interstate traveller, however, sometimes finds himself momentarily at a loss. In Brisbane a tall 16 ounce glass of beer is served to the customer who demands a ‘schooner’, but if he should give the same order in Newcastle the barman may raise an eyebrow and ask, ‘You mean a pot?’

It is debatable what the South Australian visitor to Melbourne would receive were he to follow his home custom and ask for a ‘butcher’. A similar reception might await the visitor from Western Australia who asked for his ‘jack’ – a term surviving from days when there were leather drinking vessels known as ‘black jacks’, or ‘flagons’. But the ‘pot’ is recognised almost everywhere. A pot of beer in Melbourne is strictly speaking, a 12 ounce glass with a handle, but the inquirer for a pot may be served with a metal pot of 20 ounces – an Imperial pint. He may make sure of it by asking for a ‘tin’, a ‘can’, ‘tankard’, ‘mug’, ‘stein’, ‘pewter’, or ‘bucket’. However, as the one costs sixpence and the other at least tenpence, glass pots are the more popular. In one famous hotel the thirsty may demand a huge vessel of fragile glass filled with a quart of ale. This is a ‘dreadnought’. Another interesting variation between State and State is the custom in Queensland and Western Australia of bulk distribution in five and ten gallon casks, whereas in the southern and eastern States ‘nines’ are the vogue.

The different states and territories were off and running with their own names for a variety of glass sizes by the end of the 1930s.

By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the schooner glass in NSW had shrunk again, this time to 16 Imperial fluid ounces. In Western Australian, Perth drinkers were ordering eight ounce schooner glasses, prior to the outbreak of the war.

new beer glasses 1939

Smaller beer glasses have been introduced in Sydney hotels, following an increase in the excise duty. The old and the new glasses are shown in this picture, taken to-day in a city hotel. – Sydney Sun September 19 1939

During the war years 12 ounce pots were the norm in Perth, as were nine ounce schooners, and five ounce glasses from the public bar.

A 10 ounce beer glass was introduced into the beer market in 1941. In Sydney it’s known as the middy, while in Melbourne or Brisbane, it’s called a pot.

middy nsw 1941

Barmaid, Bonnie Reece in a Sydney hotel with the new “middy” February 1941. Photo: Daily Telegraph.

The 10 ounce glass has been a popular beer drinking vessel in Australian pubs for over a century, although the means in which its been ordered has varied from state to state.

The middy appeared in Australian pubs in February 1941. Prior to 1941 drinkers could enjoy their beer in various size receptacles, ranging from four through to 12 ounce glasses, including the schooner, right up to a pint.

Queenslanders have been drinking their beloved 10 ounce ‘pot’ of beer in its current form for almost 80 years. But the ‘pot’ as Queenslanders know it, wasn’t always 10 ounces.

Prior to 1941 the pot held 12 ounces of beer and was sold at sixpence. That same year, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner sanctioned a new size beer glass. The new measure would appease disgruntled customers who would not mind having two ounces less in their pot after a beer price rise.

The inconvenience of an extra penny had cause for many to grumble at an increase to seven pence a pot. The 10 ounce pot was introduced to meet the demand of the price rise. Pots that contained 12 ounces were sold at seven pence, while the new 10 ounce pot was sold at six pence.

The new 10 ounce glass first made its appearance in Queensland pubs on Saturday February 15 1941, and over the following years the 12 ounce pot gradually disappeared from bars.

In most Australian states, with the exception of NSW, the term ‘pot’ seems to have been used for all size glasses, up until the 1940s.

Victoria in 1940 had a five ounce glass of beer for three pence, a 10 ounce glass for five pence, and a 12 ounce glass for six pence – all known as ‘pots’.

When a Victorian ordered a pot of beer in the 1940s, he or she would be pulled an 11 ounce glass of beer, and pay six pence for the pleasure.

new pot beer queensland 1941

The new beer glass which will make
its appearance in Queensland hotels to-day
compared with the 12oz glass at
present in use. –The Brisbane Courier Mail Saturday 15 February 1941

Over in Western Australia during the 1940s, you would receive a 10 ounce glass of beer when ordering a pot. That has now changed, and a 10 ounce glass of beer in Perth today is generally known as a middy.

South Australia has the most confusing names for beer glasses. A 10 ounce glass of beer is labelled as a schooner. The name originated in the mid 1930s, and has stuck to the present day.

The South Australians also have the ‘butcher’. The seven fluid ounce glass of beer had its origin in the meat trade. One version has it that Frances Badman, who kept the Newmarket Hotel on North Terrace, Adelaide, kept aside special glasses for the use of the dust-choked butchers for a round of beers in the late 1880s. She allegedly coined the term ‘butchers’ for these glasses.

The 10 ounce middy glass, priced at six pence, was introduced into NSW pubs in February 1941. The history of the middy glass in NSW is similar to that of Queensland.

The glass was introduced to appease disgruntled drinkers who were upset with the rise in beer prices. The middy glass was introduced to meet the demand for a sixpence drink, and a 12 ounce “half schooner” was sold at sevenpence.

The new middy proved an immediate success, and the half schooner was gradually phased out in NSW pubs.

Tasmania is probably the most sensible of all our states and territories. In that state all glasses of beer are ordered by their size – a 10 ounce glass is simply that – a ‘10’.

Despite threatened boycotts and an outcry from NSW drinkers, the schooner glass was reduced from 16 fluid ounces to 13 fluid ounces by the United Licensed Victuallers Association in 1945. The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported on October 10 1945:

The State Government had no control over the size of glasses of beer sold in hotels, the Chief Secretary (Mr. Baddeley) said in the Legislative Assembly yesterday. He was replying to a question asked by Mr. Arthur (Lab., Hamilton) last week. Mr. Arthur asked if the Minister had noted a statement by U.L.V.A. officials that the size of the schooner was to be reduced from 16 ounces to 13 ounces. He asked if the Minister would approach the Federal Government for a return of powers to the State for re-introduction of the imperial pint and half-pint as just and equitable measures. Mr. Baddeley said control exercised before the war disappeared when National Security Regulations prohibited the sale of pints and half-pints and stipulated prices for different-sized glasses, such as middies and schooners.

Purchaser Not Protected

As these terms had no meaning under the Weights and Measures Act, the purchaser was not protected on the measure even in the hotels. Even before the war control had been limited, Mr. Baddeley said. If a customer asked specifically for a pint or half-pint, he was entitled to exact measure. But most hotels had used glasses of varying sizes. These were not required to be stamped or marked with any measure. If they were not filled, no charge could have been laid under the Weights and Measures Act. Mr. Baddeley said he assumed that when the National Security Regulations lapsed the embargo on the sale of pints and half-pints would be re-moved, but there was no power under the Weights and Measures Act to compel hotelkeepers to restock with pint and half-pint glasses.

The following newspaper article published in the Daily Telegraph on April 13 1946 describes the evolution of the Australian beer glass.

Beer drinkers are mugs

By VICTOR COLLINS

ulva 12 oz glass 1941

An official NSW ULVA 12 fluid ounce glass, 1941

AUSTRALIAN beer drinkers are mugs. I ought to know. I’ve sold beer glasses and I know most of the tricks of the trade as they affect the ordinary drinker. If Sydney drinkers knew as much about deceptive beer glasses as I do, they mightn’t have been so anxious for B-Day to dawn last Wednesday after the brewery strike. The Australian drinker’s love of fancy names for the glasses he drinks beer out of — ‘mugs’, ‘pots’, ‘schooners’, ‘middies’, ‘lady’s waists’ — has enabled hotelkeepers to avoid serving standard measures, in all classes of hotels. The only standard of measure that the law compels a hotelkeeper to have on his shelf and to supply on demand is the Imperial pint measure of 20 ounces. This container has two shapes — a handled mug and a conical tumbler, which are known colloquially as a ‘mug’ or ‘pot’ and a ‘schooner’. When the public fell into the habit of calling for a ‘mug’ or a ‘schooner’ instead of for a pint, the way was opened for short measure. There is no law which defines the capacity of a ‘schooner’, ‘mug’, ‘glass’, or any other of the containers with fancy names. The British scale of weights and measures knows no such containers.

English and German glasses imported into this country were standard pint and half-pint sizes. With the arrival of the Japanese glass — cheap to import and, because of primitive methods of manufacture in Japan, unreliable in capacity — a new era opened for both the hotelkeeper and the glassware importer and distributor. The drinker was accustomed to a glass that was tall and heavy. Would he notice if it were a little heavier in the base and the sides? Hotelkeepers thought he would not and a trial showed that they were right. There was nothing illegal in serving a glass containing less than 20 ounces of beer when the drinker called for a ‘schooner’ or a ‘mug’. Everything was right enough so long as the drinker did not notice the deficiency and raise objections. A heavy “collar” he might object to, but he was unlikely to notice a heavy bottom. In the country, where freight charges on beer brought the price above city rates, many licensees found that, by using glasses of doubtful capacity, they could sell at a lower price than the man who sold pints and half -pints, and even sell at “city” prices,’ which was good for business. The chief selling points of the glassware distributors were that “deceptive” – glasses looked as large as glasses which contained two or three ounces more, and that by using deceptive glasses the publican could snake a greater profit from each keg of draught beer. From my own experience as a glass salesman, I can state that many hotelkeepers readily paid three or four times more for “deceptive” glasses than for the true type. The U.L.V.A. put the stamp of its approval on this practice by having the Australian Glass Manufacturers turn out three styles of glasses in three sizes each, stamped with a scroll bearing the initials U.L.V.A. and a figure (since reduced) 9, 13, and 20 — implying that the contents were, respectively, 9 ounces, 13 ounces, and 20 ounces. None of these glasses was a certified measure. If a glass actually contained as many ounces as was implied by the figure stamped on its side, it was purely coincidental.

With the outbreak of war in 1939, imports of Japanese glassware were cut off by the National Security Regulations governing non-essential imports. Production of deceptive tumblers was immediately taken up by local glassworks. Slightly different shapes were introduced, all of which successfully carried on the deceptive appearance now demanded by the Trade. Footed Ironglas tumblers, which held 9 ounces and were as large as the old 10 ounce glass, are now in regular use in milk bars.

The introduction of an Australian conical tumbler containing 9 ounces while maintaining the appearance of the 10 ounce glass resulted in Press protests, and a leading city distributor was criticised for retailing the glass. What escaped the notice of the general public was that the glass had been in use for some considerable time as one of the large number of “deceptive” sizes made in Japan to Australian indentors’ instructions. Nowhere was the drinking public imposed upon more than in booths at country race meetings and stock shows. The standard glass used for the booth trade was a ‘lady’s waist’ tumbler as tall as the standard 7 ounce glass used in the saloon trade, yet so filled at the bottom and sides with glass as to contain only 3½ ounces. This glass was used for sixpenny drinks, and booth keepers paid 13 shillings and sixpence per dozen for it, against four shillings and threepence for the non-deceptive 7 ounce glass. In pre-war days, the 13 ounce glass was known as a “half -schooner,” and the name persisted even while the size was being whittled down by the Trade, which was not game to increase the price in cash because it knew the public would not stand for such a thing. Now the schooner is down to the 13 ounce size, which means that the drinker is paying nearly twice as much for his beer — and not all in taxes. In nearly every instance where beer Excise has been increased, the increase per glass has been so small as to be impossible to allocate on anything less than pint sizes. But in every instance the sizes of the glasses have been reduced to compensate. Every time the Excise is increased, the publican— and the breweries — get a proportionate (or disproportionate) increase in their profit. The truth of this assertion is supported by a glance at the prices of brewery shares, the published figures of profits for the year to June, 1945, the amounts spent in repair and maintenance of hotel property. Since the Minister for Trade and Customs assures us that beer production was reduced by one -third during the war, it must be assumed that the wartime beer glasses have the property, not only of containing beer, but also of drawing an appreciable amount of the increased national income into the treasure chests of the Trade. Maybe the term ‘mug’, applied to a person easily imposed upon, was originated in a hotel bar.

schooner

The 10 ounce middy glass, the 16 ounce schooner glass and the 20 ounce pint glass in 1941. – The Sydney Truth August 10 1947 

The mess was finally put to rest in 1946 when new standard size glasses of 5, 10, 15, and 20 fluid ounces, were gazetted by the NSW Government under the Liquor (Amendment) Act. Under Part 3 of the Act, which was gazetted in September 1946 set down the beer glasses that are served today in most NSW pubs – the 140 ml (5 fl oz) ‘pony’, the 285 ml (10 fl oz) middy, 425 ml (15 fl oz) schooner and 570 ml (20 fl oz) pint glasses.

In recent times the 350 ml (12 fl oz) ‘schmiddy’ has also made an appearance – mostly in Sydney pubs.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2020

 

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Categories: Australian Hotel Association, beer glasses, NSW hotels, Queensland hotels, South Australia Hotels, Sydney hotels, Tasmania hotels, United Victuallers Association, Victoria hotels, Western Australia hotels

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1 reply

  1. I always have thought Australian beer drinkers get dudded.Take a 10 oz glass for example.Its 10 oz to the very brim.If you have a head of say 10mm I reckon you end up with about 9 ozs of beer.In Europe the actual measure is marked on the glass.l get filthy looks from the bar staff to top the glass up when they serve up a beer with a huge head on it.

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