As the resident beer nerd in my social circle, I’m constantly introducing friends to beer styles they’d never considered drinking—or didn’t know existed. When I pour a puckeringly sour gueuze or a smoked imperial stout, the typical reaction is, “It’s good, but I couldn’t drink a pint of it.”
“Exactly,” I say. “Not every beer should be drunk by the pint.”
For a lot of Canadians, that’s a revelation. Our beer options have traditionally been limited to English-style ales and mega-brewery lagers, at a steady-as-she-goes four to five per cent alcohol. Today, we’re being flooded with bolder and boozier options than ever, and bars are finally catching up by offering more, let’s say, appropriate serving sizes.
“I don’t want to give you a pint of 12 per cent beer,” says Jason Fisher, owner of the Indie Alehouse microbrewery and restaurant in the Junction, where the typical alcohol-by-volume is closer to 10 per cent than five. “Some cowboy’s gonna sit down and order three of them. Then what do I do?”
Instead, the Indie’s beers come in four glasses: a traditional 20-ounce pint for British-style ales and IPAs, a 16.5-ounce tulip for wheats and Belgians, a 10.5-ounce snifter for boozy offerings, and a nine-and-a-half-ounce rocks glass for funky, acidic sours and super-strong beers.
Our collective worship of the pint is a peculiar habit we’ve inherited from the Brits—other beer-loving cultures aren’t beholden to it. The Aussies use everything from a four-ounce “shetland” to a 40-ounce jug, and some Belgian brewers design glasses for each beer they brew, to highlight colours, flavours, and aromas. Which leads to another reason why smaller can be better—with new and one-off beers being released weekly, a lot of people want to try as many as possible.
“I would rather drink six half-pints than three pints,” says Tomas Morana, co-owner of Yonge Street’s craft-beer haven, Bar Volo. Half of Volo’s 32 draught and cask beers are served by the tulip or wine glass, and drinkers can order 50-cent, one-ounce tasters of anything on tap.
Yes, it usually adds up to be pricier than the average pint. But fine wine costs more than undistinguished plonk—and it’s a whole lot tastier.