The value of ‘a pint’ in New West: a (semi) scientific exploration (AKA ‘pub crawl’)

It started like most scientific research: someone asked “why?” then sought the answer.

Except that I asked “how much”, and I was hardly the first to ask. As any scientist will tell you, most science is just collecting more data to confirm results already collected by others, so we boldly followed the trend to where many had been before.

In this case, the people we were following were the good people at the Campaign for Real Ale. Following a story that hit the regional media, a minor #NewWest Twitterstorm addressed important issues in the local pub scene: namely sizes of pints, and value for the money. This caught the attention of a few good people loosely affiliated with Tenth to the Fraser, and with many new options for the pub aficionado popping up in New Westminster, it seemed like a chance for a little compare and contrast exercise to better inform your summer pubbing. The actual research was performed on a summery day in early May, but now that summer has arrived, the results are ready for peer review.

Very official scientific experiment here. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.
Very official scientific experiment here. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

We assembled a cracked research team. At the first pub, attendance included no less than two PhD physicists, two MSc geoscientists, and two Professional Engineers. Our technical team consisted of stenographers, computer scientists, photographers, measurement professionals, teachers and poets. All would be put to test.

Being good scientists (or science fans… or science fiction fans…or poets) we sought to control all variables. All pubs were visited on the same Saturday night. We were rigidly consistent in our orders, and we used the same precise measuring tool at each pub. Being environmentally conscious, we would not think of wasting the beers we ordered, so they had to be consumed. This worked out doubly well, as it forced us into carbon neutrality, as it took driving between pubs completely off the table…

There were various ordering techniques amongst the assembled research party, but I attempted the greatest constancy: ordering “A pint of your second most expensive beer, please”. There may have been some discussion after this, as apparently it is an unusual way to order, but I invariably agreed to the first beer offered by the waiting professional, deeming that the Second Most Expensive Pint™. I’m not above mixing beers, and all this fluff about “starting light and moving towards fuller flavours” has no place in science.

Throwing caution to the wind, Research Team 2, code named “Tig”, ordered “whatever’s on special tonight” to provide an extra dataset for the less-beer- inclined. Mixing drinks in this manner is usually advised against, but science is not without its risks.

Dublin Castle, 7:30pm

Pat shows off the Official Pint Measurement Device. Photo: Harry Pehkonen
Pat shows off the Official Pint Measurement Device. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

For the first week of May, the deck was remarkably crowded with what are presumably the denizens of Fraser View frolicking in their native habitat. The view is just short of really good, the food is above good, the waitress is named Kelsey.

Upon the warming up of the Graduated Cylinder of Truth®, I ordered the Second Most Expensive Pint™, which was apparently the Guinness-produced import “Kilkenny”, served in a tall branded glass. The service pint ordered by a member of our technical staff (Stanley Park Lager) was served in a standard BC-issue b509 “dimple” pint glass, served a little above the line to a measured 520mL.

All beers were enjoyed, including the one on special. The walk west began.

  • Pint: Kilkenny – 510ml for $6.75 ($6.62 per Metric Pint)
  • Special: Okanagan Springs Pale Ale: $4.75.

Brooklyn, 8:20pm

A crowd entered the Brooklyn to the dulcet tones of Huey Lewis and the News, which called for immediate occupation of the Billiards Room. The remarkable view of a non-eponymous bridge was hardly enjoyed, as a furious game of push-the-coloured-balls-towards-a-corner ensued. Certain River Market Staff displayed suspect caroming skills, while being stared at down the nose of more professional science-management staff. It seems dedication to data gathering has already begun to fade. Then Pink Floyd came on the stereo, and a more erudite discussion of the merits of ice-filled urinals ensued. I’m starting to like this team.

The Second Most Expensive Pint® was the quasi-local Granville Island PI, served in a glass of suspect volume but compelling pinty-shape. The B-team reports a Long Island Iced Tea of the vodka-coke-syrup variety, but with the “double” serving size on special, it was an easy choice (although, the fact it was a double probably bodes poorly for future data gathering).

  • Pint: Granville Island Pale Ale – 325ml for $4.24 ($6.52 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Double Long Island Iced Tea: $6.10

The Met, 9:00pm

Until the group sauntered into the Met at 9:02 on May 5th, this reporter had completely forgotten about both Cinco de Mayo, and that Lenny Kravitz, bereft of any irony, recorded a version of “American Woman” that grooved less than the original performed by Burton Cummings and his merry band of Mormons.

Further, the Second Most Expensive Pint™ at the Met, an India Pale Ale entitled “Green Flash” was similarly unknown to me. It was, to the concern of our data collection team, sold as a “sleeve” in a tulip glass (OMG, the variables are adding up…). I told them not to worry. Don’t let it frighten you, let it liberate you! Collect the data, we will worry about getting it through peer review later. If measured by hops per dollar, this would be the clear winner, but we had a graduated cylinder, not some magic bitterness-epiricizing device.

With conversation veering towards political and religious minefields, and the surprise appearance of a City Councillor in our midst, things had the potential to get seriously out of hand here. Not helped by the “theme of the day” special: a Cinco-de-Mayo Margarita. Good thing it wasn’t national Dog Bath day.

  • Pint: Green Flash IPA – 434ml for $6.25 ($7.49 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: a Tig-Approved Margarita: $4.50

The Heritage Grill, 9:45pm

I can only assume this is a Rock-a-Billy band. Lesee: Hollow-body Gretsch, skinny jeans and straw hat, drummer and bassist both standing up, bandana tied around a limb. Yep, that there is Rock-a-Billy. Where does Paul find these guys? I gotta hang out here more often.

At this point, it was probably prudent to put this rag-tag group in the back room, for the courtesy of the Rock-a-Billy fan base. Just how many cigars did Thurston Howell pack for this supposed Three-Hour-Tour? Did he have cigars? I seem to remember cigars.

It appears a poetry context has broken out on the little stage in the back room. A researcher is relating a rhythmic tale of “…a young man from Kent”.

Shooters? No-one said anything about shooters. Yes, those appear to be shooters. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Another funny-shaped glass, apropos for the Weisse-beer, I guess, but there are a lot of cloudy beers lately, they don’t cause headaches, do they? Don’t measure the orange! Fruit is good – gotta keep up the Vitamin C, but not part of the measure… damn variables. How am I going to get that out of the cylinder? Must think of peer review, they can be real jerks about stuff like that. What did you call that shooter again? Tastes like trouble.

  • Pint: Kronenburg Blanc – 503 ml for $6.25 ($6.22 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: The Julian (Rum & Coke): $4.50

The Drink, 10:40pm

Look, if you are out drinking pints as fast as you can- a hockey net in the urinal not only looks like the coolest idea ever- it helps with certain aiming situations that you ladies may not understand, OK? If you didn’t want to know about it, why did I come out of the bathroom encouraging you all to go look at it?

Man, this place is cool. They seem to have got the hipster thing down without the grimy bits. Like your hipster brother-in-law got showered and dressed up for a wedding, just enough tweed and leather to know he listens to Modest Mouse, but not drinking from a mason jar.

More cloudy white beer- these branded glasses are messing with our science, and my head. Orange is good, though. Eat the peel- that’s why Belgians never get hung over. That was Eddy Merckx’s secret: orange peels and amphetamines. Whattya mean Kronenbourg is French- Really? Eddy’s gonna kill me.

Special? That looks like some fancy cocktail. No crappy ounce-o-liquor-n-pop here: those are actual berries floating in a pool of vodka. This place is like a freaking Orange Julius with mood lighting, only fuzzier around the edges – actually, most of the edges have been fuzzed right off. Or is that me?

  • Pint: Kronenburg Blanc – 495 ml for $6.72 ($6.79 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Bliss: $7.28.

Hops, 11:25pm

Att his point, I am clearly getting smoother- at the peak of my charm. Seeing as how I strode into the place and ordered “a Pint of your second most expensive beer”, and the waitress said – I quote- “OK” [make note on pad, walk to bar to place order], like the last 17 people who stumbled in off the SkyTrain ordered the same thing – As un-nonplussed as I have ever seen. Actually a little creepy in her plussed-ness. How does she stay so plussed? What have I got if not a shock value? Is she onto us? Hide the Cylinder! They called ahead! They are all against us! The guy over there with the sombrero- I’ve seen him before, we are bring followed… or maybe he beat me to the punch, looks like the kind of jerk that saunters into a bar and asks for the second most expensive tequila….

This place is great- where are all the construction workers? Is that real wood? What did you say!?! Oh, Deschutes, I thought you were calling me names. This stuff is definitely the schute. In a good way. Pity the fool over there on Team B with the fruit-less martini.

  • Pint: Deschutes IPA (“Sleeve’)– 383 ml for $7.00 ($9.13 per Metric Pint).
  • Special: Martini w/Grey Goose (but no floating fruit): $8.55.

Terminal Pub: 12:15

Depressing Halo song, then Cyley Myrus….starting to get me down. What!?! A Scientist never leaves his cylinder behind! This is unacceptable! Run Forrest, Run! Is that waitress giving me attitude? Hope she doesn’t spit in my beer… whattya mean I’m the surely one, you sure it wasn’t her? I just ordered… second most expensive beer TEE-EM… think she likes me? Cuz her 20oz. pint is actually 520ml… that’s like 21 ounces or something… don’t you double it and add thirty? Lemee countee my fingers. Where are my fingers? Dunno… maybe making up for it being Rickards… Not sure I can drink this whole thing… Red Bull? Who gave the B Team Red Bull and Vodka after midnight? They’ll be up all night. You ever hear the sirens in this town? Gimmie some of them Nachos…you sure are prettier than your twitter… than on the twitter… Loudest Bathroom Ever… I SAID LOUDEST BATHROOM EVER! What was that about an after party?

  • Pint: undetermined… technical difficulties… please stand by….
  • Special: Vodka Red Bull – It’s not what you pay, it is what it costs you…

Conclusion

... and a fun time was had by all. Photo: Harry Pehkonen
... and a fun time was had by all. Photo: Harry Pehkonen

For the record, there only thing for certain about “the pint” is that it changes with location and product. It was once said “a pint is a pound, the world around”, but it was also said “a pint of pure water is a pound and a quarter”. Worse, they are both right. Almost. For those raised in the warm socialist cuddle of the Metric System, this all seems baffling, so I will use the Metric System to try to make sense of pints.

Canada, being a Commonwealth country, uses the Imperial Gallon (for most things), and one eighth of the Imperial gallon is an Imperial Pint: 568ml. When you sell things like drinks in Canada, the Federal Government regulates that a pint is 568ml. Anything else is not a “true” pint. This is equal to 20 Imperial ounces, which are 28.4ml each. It also happens to represent the amount of water that weighs about 1.25 pounds. Which is equal to 568g, but you knew that already.

Down in the Excited States, they invented their own, smaller US gallon, which comprises 8 US pints, which are each 473ml. Ever pragmatic, their pint weighs just a little over a pound, and when divided up liquid ounces, each weighs an ounce (allowing for spillage). Since there are 16 ounces in a pound, there must be 16 liquid ounces in a pint. So US liquid ounces are about 29.6ml each, slightly larger than the Imperial ounce.

Ever wonder why a can of beer is 355ml, but a bottle of beer is 341ml? 355ml is exactly 12 US fluid ounces. 341ml is exactly 12 Imperial ounces. I realise that doesn’t answer the question, but it’s gotta mean something! It is also a better explanation than the one I gave my nephew: that the little bit of beer you can never get out of the can because of the rim of the can is exactly 14ml, and they put that much more in the can to make it fair. I’m a favourite uncle.

None of this explains the hybridized “Metric Pint”, which is the defacto pint served in British Columbia and much of continental Europe, and measures 500ml. Those round glasses with a handle and deep dimples that make it look like a hand grenade- what we call a “pint glass”, is typically 500ml to the line (although more will fit, up to a full pint if filled to overflowing). As are most of the “branded” glasses in which you may receive your Stella, Kronenbourg, or Kilkenny. A “sleeve” is a straight-sided tapered glass, and it is anyone’s guess of its capacity, as glass thicknesses and base heights vary widely. The one person who almost certainly does not know the capacity of the sleeve is the waiting staff delivering to you, so take it easy on them.

I could go on at length, but I’d rather do this over a pint. Of any size.

NWEP a haven for green ideas, open minds

This is a guest post from Pat Johnstone, President of the New Westminster Environmental Partners. NWEP is looking for new members, volunteers and community allies. In Pat’s words, here’s a summary about NWEP and what they do. If you’re interested in learning more, the next regular meeting of the New Westminster Environmental Partners will take place at New West Public Library at 7pm on Wednesday April 14th.

For anyone not in the loop already about the NWEP, I thought I would let people know who we are, so here goes the sales pitch from the President.

The New Westminster Environmental Partners comprise a diverse group of community members who work together towards environmental sustainability in New Westminster. We do this through advocacy of environmental causes, through lobbying to various levels of government, through outreach and collaboration with other organizations, and through direct action by members. Our members include environmental activists, environmental professionals, concerned citizens, local politicos, young and old, tall and short, loud and quiet … we have one of every type.

What we are NOT is a top-heavy organization. We have an executive, president, etc., as per the requirements of the Societies Act, but all of our initiatives are membership-driven. The executive only exists to facilitate the actions of our members, and to provide an umbrella of support for members. This is a direct result of our collaborative structure, described below.

Most of our initiatives arise out of discussions at our bimonthly “regular meetings”. Typically an issue of interest is raised at the meeting (say, community gardens, or the City’s garbage bin plans), and we quickly find if there is enough interest in the group to follow up on the initiative. Talk around any particular issue results in a lot of information sharing, and preliminary discussions of approaches to an issue. If a critical mass of interest is raised, a sub-group will start up and “run with it”. The executive is useful at this point to help with communications, planning, budgets, connections with outside groups, etc., but at no time does the executive take “control” of the initiative, it is up to the sub-group to follow up with their mission. This structure is atypical for people more familiar with top-heavy committees, but we find both liberating and effective.

The flexibility of this structure means that if you are really interested in (for example) transportation issues, but could care less about (for example) community gardens, you are likely to find a group of like-minded individuals to support your great idea about improving sustainability in New Westminster’s transportation infrastructure, while there is no pressure on you to take part in the community gardens. This also means you can concentrate your valuable volunteer time on issues that matter to you, and not get burned out fighting someone else’s battles.

Does it work? The NWEP in a few short years has fought successfully against the City about pedestrian access to the New West Skytrain Station, while effectively work WITH the City on the cosmetic pesticide and anti-idling bylaws. It has helped spawn a Community Gardens initiative that will see New Westminster’s first Community Garden installed this spring. It has lobbied successfully to make the City’s shift to automated trash collection more reflective of sustainability goals. We organized and sponsored (along with partners) the only all candidate’s meeting in New Westminster at a recent Provincial Election. We are currently helping with New Westminster’s first Neighbourhood Zero Waste Challenge initiative, and have taken active part in several other community events.

The NWEP have been around for a few years, but the NWEP Society has been an official “Society” under the Society Act of BC for about a year now. We took this step in order to increase our ability to apply for grants and improve our legitimacy while interacting with several levels of government. The down side of the societies Act is that we MUST charge for membership. Our membership fee is $5/year.

However, you do not have to be a member to come to one of our regular meetings and see what’s happening. Maybe you will find a group there who shares your interests (Worm Composting? Climate Change? Invasive plants? Recycling in an apartment building? Teaching Kids about the Environment?) Maybe you even have an idea for an initiative, but aren’t sure how to get started? Bring your ideas, bring your ears, and bring an open mind. And while you are at it, bring the rest of you as well.

Kudos to council on garbage decision from NWEP

I promised an update on automated waste collection, and it is (almost) all good news!

Council passed a motion on Monday that represents an improvement (from an environmental sustainability and solid-waste-diversion perspective) over the recommendation from staff presented to the Environmental Advisory Committee last week.

I paraphrase slightly, but Council requested that the 120L bin be the default size for mixed waste and that 240L be the default size for Clean Green waste (this is the staff recommendation), but then they put a cherry on top by suggesting that the administrative fee for size switches be waived if one is switching to a smaller bin, and that the annual charge for choosing the larger bin be indexed to tippage fees: the more the City pays to dump your trash, the more you pay for having a large bin.

Kudos to Council for taking these progressive measures. Extra Kudos to Councillor McIntosh for proposing (and Councillors McEvoy and Cote for supporting) a 120L option for Clean Green Bins. Hopefully, staff will find a way before the roll-out of the Clean Green bins to come back with a proposal to offer this 120L option, as it seems appropriate for us backyard composters and those with smaller lots.

The New Westminster Environmental Partners will stay involved in this process. Hopefully, Council and Staff will take the NWEP up on our offer to help with the education part of the Clean Green bin roll-out. We also have some great ideas on how to work on waste reduction at New Westminster’s numerous multi-family dwellings. More exciting news surrounds New Westminster’s first Neighbourhood Zero Waste Challenge, taking place on a block of Colborne Street.

For info on all or any of these, or if you have ideas or opinions about garbage, or any other aspect of New Westminster’s environment, check out the NWEP website.

Now I have to finish tearing up my front yard and get some carrots in the ground…

Small question of trash bin size has a big impact

There is a lot happening on the trash front right now.

The New Westminster Environmental Partners have been talking a lot of trash this year, as solid waste and it’s reduction, is one of our key initiatives for 2010. Trash is timely right now, with all the recent talk of Cache Creek Landfill limits, waste-to-energy plants, and Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge.

Right here in New Westminster, the City is preparing to roll out its automated trash collection system. With the trucks on order, and the crews ready, the City is now about to make the one decision that will likely have the biggest impact on waste reduction goals in the City over the next 15-20 years: what size of bins to buy?

There is lots of info over at the NWEP website about what the City does now, what some other Cities have done, and where the New West is going. However, that hastily gathered info is already out of date. At Wednesday’s Environmental Advisory Committee meeting, City staff introduced the report that will be going to council on Monday, and it shows that Staff recognize that we don’t need bigger bins than we have now, and that moving to larger bins does not reflect our commitments to waste reduction. This is a good sign; and let’s hope Council is on the same page as Staff about this.

The NWEP still have some concerns about the plan. For example, the 240L Green Waste bins seem ridiculously large for anyone who composts in their back yard. Apparently, this report is going to council on Monday, and some NWEP members will be going as well to speak to several waste reduction issues. Stay tuned!