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What Is A Pint? Will It Cause Intoxication?

By Jami Sanftleben

As the season for soups, chili and shepherd’s pie approaches, many of us (myself included) like to accompany these hearty confections with a seasonal or year-round, free-poured brew affectionately known as a ‘pint’. They are often featured in social gatherings after work or a sporting event in “going fora pint with the team”. The term certainly sounds innocuous enough, as it is short, direct and begs for alliteration in the name of an ale house establishment such as “The Pig and Pint,” “The Parson’s Pint,” “The Pickled Pint” and so on and so on and so on. Most people are aware that a pint is actually a unit of measure, but popular use as a term almost exclusively to describe a serving of ale, cider or lager, and the marketing opportunities attached to the cutesy, poppy sound of the word itself, has blurred its definition somewhat.

So what is a pint? We could rewind here to the 19th century when the British Weights and Measures Act defined it as blah blah blah, and the U.S. used the longer standing measurement of blah blah blah, but, to the point, let’s delve into the implications of consuming these mysterious measurements as it relates to blood alcohol level. We will deal with beer in its various forms, as a pint of spirits or wine at a higher alcohol percentage will no doubt put even the most seasoned reveler well over the limit prescribed by law as the no-no line.

Let’s start with the concept of ‘having a beer’ which for many is interchangeable with having a pint. Well, if we look at a six pack of the traditional standard serving sizes available at the Beer Store or LCBO, we’re looking at approximately 355 mL. With the popular and value driven “king cans,” that grows to approximately 473 mL, which aligns with the American definition of a liquid pint.  The British measurement, which is used inmost former colonies like we here in Canada, grows again to 568 mL, 20% larger in volume than an American pint and our beloved king cans, and a whopping 60% bigger than your favourite standard can to sip. Our American friends start out in the hole the moment they sit down to order. This makes three different amounts to describe one unit of measurement and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Consider now how various establishments have invented their own definition of a pint to offer greater value to the consumer and drive the bottom line. Surely you’ve been offered a “Boston Pint” or to make i t”Keg-Sized”. One establishment here in Peterborough offers five different serving sizes all listed on the beer menu as pints, right up to a “yard” of beer, which is a full two 2.5 pints or 1.4 litres. People with ‘mathphobia’ may want to reach for a pint at this point! Consider NOW that a limitless number of beer cocktails are served in pints, such as a Boilmaker (an ale with an ounce of whisky), a Black Velvet (stout mixed with champagne), or a Dog’s Nose (beer and gin). These bolstered beer-based beverages can as much as triple a typical pint’s capacity to intoxicate.

When gauging one’s ability (or more accurately, disability) to drive, there is a lot more to consider than number of drinks had. As always, the safest calculation would be determining if you have enough for the cab ride home.

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