You’re at your local craft beer bar and you look up at the draft options for the day, obviously written in chalk. Your eyes glaze over the name and straight to the listed alcohol by volume. Spotted: 12 percent alcohol by volume beer. It’s a winner. Yet when it gets to you, it’s in a smaller glass than you were expecting. That high alcohol pint is actually a high-alcohol, eight-ounce serving. What gives?
Bars and restaurants can serve your beer in whatever size they please. The decision to size down (or up, because that can be the case as well) generally depends on three factors: the alcohol by volume, price, and custom glassware.
The most likely time you’ll receive a smaller glass is when the beer is more than seven percent alcohol by volume. It’s the same reason why bars don’t give you five-ounce shots of liquor or 10 ounces of wine. More alcohol means that it takes less of the beverage to equate to a standard drink (one point five ounces of liquor, five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer). But if that beer is 12 percent alcohol by volume, then it’s more like a wine in terms of how much alcohol is in it; hence the smaller glass.
Smaller servings can also come about when the beer is a specialty craft beer. Smaller producers sell beer at a higher price for many reasons, including better ingredients. The only problem is that people aren’t used to paying the $15 it would cost for 12 ounces of said beer at the bar. So the bar serves eight ounces instead and drops the cost.
Finally, your beer might be in a smaller glass because people can get particular about the type of glassware their beer is served in (even though fancy glassware doesn’t necessarily change the taste of a beer). A tulip glass that is wide at the bottom, thin near the middle, and then flares at the top, for example, holds the foam head of a double IPA better than a pint glass. That allows you to take in all the aromatics that make the beer great. It also happens to hold around eight ounces.
So before you go ahead and order the highest alcohol beer or the most crafty beer you see on the menu, ask how big the serving size is. No one likes a small surprise when it comes to beer servings.