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October 13, 2016 6:29 PM   Subscribe

What's a good way to politely handle a short pour?

Over the past couple of months, I've been at 3 different establishments where I or Mrs. Plinth was served a short pour of beer. To give you a sense, a traditional pint glass is 16 ounces to just within the top of the rim. About 5/8" down is where the 12 ounce point is. We've been served that or less. What's a good way to ask for this to be corrected without sounding like a douchebag?
posted by plinth to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What about, "That looks like a short pour to me. Could you top it off?"
posted by beagle at 6:33 PM on October 13, 2016

"Hi, I think you forgot to finish the pour..."
posted by Jubey at 6:47 PM on October 13, 2016

That's an awfully precise limit. If it looks close I'd give them the benefit of a doubt and let it go over a very small amount of liquid.
posted by cakebatter at 6:51 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

If 25% down is 5/8", does that make the glass 2.5" tall?
posted by Ian Scuffling at 6:54 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's not a trivial amount - they're getting only 75% of the beer they paid for. In this scenario are you sitting at the bar or being served at a table?
posted by Daily Alice at 6:55 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not return to the bar.
posted by amaire at 6:56 PM on October 13, 2016 [25 favorites]

Some beers are intentionally not poured as 16oz, depending on alcohol content and style...
posted by advil at 6:57 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pint glasses are narrow at the bottom and wide at the top. Failing to fill the glass all the way to the top is more stingy than it appears to be.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:58 PM on October 13, 2016 [11 favorites]

If 25% down is 5/8", does that make the glass 2.5" tall?

This image should help conceptualize it. A short pour can be 25% light without being really obviously 25% empty because of what Daily Alice said.

I'd usually order at the bar and say "Thanks... would you mind topping this off?" and tip decently.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

My local has various issues which mean that there's an unusually high level of bartender error. I know that none of it is being done maliciously, so depending on what the issue is I either let it ride or politely correct them but definitely tip well regardless. It's not being done maliciously, and I'm unlikely to change bars anytime soon, so I try not to be a jerk about it.

YMMV as to whether you're within your rights to be a jerk about it.
posted by Sara C. at 7:16 PM on October 13, 2016

Where abouts in the world are you?

Some places have really strict, well enforced regulations about beer portion sizes and/or acceptable glassware. E.g., in the UK, a pint of beer has to be a real full Imperial pint of beer (568ml), and has to be measured in an approved way (usually, by the bar using certified pint glasses).

In the U.S., not so much. Here, barring local or state laws about it (which, I don't know of any) or some really specific advertisements about the volume of beer, you can't really make the case that 12oz of beer in a pint glass is actually "wrong"... the bar is free to serve whatever portions/volumes in whatever glassware they like, and you're free to take it or leave it. Even if it's advertised as a "pint of beer", it's easy for the bar to make the case that a proper glass of beer has some reasonable amount of head on it.

So yeah, in all seriousness, what country/jurisdiction are you in? That info impacts just how forceful your request can reasonably be, and what you can feel justified in expecting as a response.
posted by teatime at 7:23 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Pretend it didn't happen, smile, tip better than usual. Maybe the bartender has a horrid manager who insists on short pours and it cuts into the bartender's ability to get good tips and build a clientele. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe they're having a bad night. Maybe you remind them of their gross ex or their high school bully.

Win them over. At best, you'll get a full pint. At worst, you'll make someone with a shitty job have a better day.
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 7:52 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Wow! This foam is insane, right? Would you mind topping it off? Thank you so much."
posted by 8603 at 7:53 PM on October 13, 2016

I'm in the US. I've had it happen at table service and at the bar. And yes, I'm sure what 12oz of beer looks like in a 16 oz glass. Try it some time! Pour a 12oz bottle into a pint glass. The taper is a feature of many beer glasses: a wide aperture up top gives more aroma as you drink and tapered glasses make it easier to hide a slight short pour (pilsner glass, pint glass). It's when it gets egregious that I get irritated.
posted by plinth at 8:05 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Even more galling, this is something that many places do intentionally — one of the regular tactics on that Bar Rescue TV show is to swap the glassware to deceptively narrow the glass, so that what looks like 16 is 14 or 12oz.

There are a couple of strategies that I use — first, if you know the bartender, you can call that out. Like, "Hey, seems a little short. Spill some or what?" If you're a regular, they're usually unintentional and will make it up. If you're not as regular, when you're being served, you can ask 'em to top it off. This is more likely on beers that have a bigger head, or there's air in the line. Most places as long as it's obvious and you're genial will top it off. Make sure to tip. If it happens consistently, well, yeah, I'd probably call it out, but it might be better to note it on Yelp and drink someplace else if they don't get after you to fix it. There are some places around here that consistently short pour, and people figure it out and just avoid them, and they usually close or cycle through owners and it's usually symptomatic of a larger problem.

I tend to find the places that know more about beer — so have better beers in general — are better about this, and I assume that you're not griping about some beers starting with a bigger head on them and losing it on the way to your table. A wit should have a pretty big head, overall.
posted by klangklangston at 8:30 PM on October 13, 2016

This happens at coffee shops as well, under the guise of "room for cream?" When the coffee cup is filled to 75% or so, I simply ask "may I have a little more?" and that gets the point across.

This works for beer as well.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:30 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

OK. I didn't think of this earlier, but I can give you my insights on this as a former American bar-tender :)

I do not know for sure that our glasses were exactly 16 fl. oz., but they were around that, if not. I would usually leave about 1/2" or slightly less of head on a light beer. Not to try to cheat anybody, wasn't even thinking about that; just because it looks nicer and seemed to me to be a little classier than running the swill up to the rim and over. We sold a lot more pitchers and bottled beer than single drafts, so I would often be pouring a group's first round for them out of their pitcher, which means there's no cheating doing that anyway.

Occasionally, someone would ask me to top it up instead. And I would, no problems. It never offended or annoyed me, not even a little. It was just another individual preference thing for that customer. I would try hard to remember that they liked it topped up, too, and do it for all their subsequent drinks, the same way I try to remember everyone's preferences and little quirks. I thought of that as just giving great customer service, which I tried to do both as a point of professional pride and, of course, to maximize my tip revenue.

And I never even considered the additional cost involved in that. Draft beer is just really fucking cheap. The owner was even cool w/ me giving away domestic drafts to my friends (kindof in exchange for being honest and not secretly slipping them liqour, like most people would).

I really don't think too many bar managers are going to go to the effort to train their tenders to systematically short pints and refuse top-ups, even for import drafts. Like, maybe if the place specializes in 100 draft beers... but if they're selling drafts, bottles, mixed drinks, they probably just don't give much of a fuck about draft beer. At a lot of bars, I watch the tenders waste way, way more than makes sense to, just out of utter laziness (or maybe because it looks cool to run glasses over, fiik)

So, yeah. Just ask politely for a top-up. I don't think you'll get any push-back at all. And as the night wears on, if the bartender forgets, feel free to remind them. I don't think it'll annoy them. I'd much rather you do that, than sit in silence and be annoyed with me and not enjoy the service.

And, when you are given good service with no attitude, tip. No need to go overboard, just the usual $1 a round for a group, or 15% on the check, or $5 after an hour or four of beers at the bar; it's always noticed and appreciated very much. (And if that's not good enough for some bartender, fuck them.)

wow, that ended up being a long comment... hope you enjoy reading it! ;)
posted by teatime at 8:36 PM on October 13, 2016 [20 favorites]

"Oh, do you think I could have a little more?"
posted by John Cohen at 9:48 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

In some European countries, this is illegal.

In the US, bars are allowed to serve less than a pint. Some bars actually have 'pint' glasses that are 14 oz.

If this is a persistent problem, my suggestion (which runs counter to what most people here have advised you) is to go to a different bar. Arguing with bartenders about pour size is never a conversation where the customer ends up looking good.
posted by splitpeasoup at 10:25 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think as long as you don't whip out one of these and just casually asked for a top up you'd be fine.
posted by koolkat at 1:43 AM on October 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Bizarre; I have never been served a beer with beer missing, and I have ordered a lot of beer. This is in Canada where a pint is a pint and ordering a pint means getting a full glass. I don't know how much it helps in the US, but in a number of pubs here ordering a half pint means getting the sort of 'short pour' you are describing (not all pubs, & often a cost-effective way to order in ones that do do that for lack of half-pint glasses, especially if you are a regular), and the solution would be to say 'Oh, I'm sorry -- I ordered a pint, not a half. I'm not sure if that got through to the bartender?' What is the US lingo for pint vs half pint? I'd lean on that.

In re. "Pretend it didn't happen, smile, tip better than usual" -- heh. Here, if you could not get it swiftly and politely sorted, this is the sort of thing you would photograph for Yelp, and reduce your tip amount in line with the % of missing beer.
posted by kmennie at 2:04 AM on October 14, 2016

If at the bar:
"Would you mind topping this off?"
"May I have a little more?"
If at the table:
"This looks less than 16 oz, would you mind topping it off? Thank you so much."
I've been on the receiving end of both, as a waitress and bartender. It's not anymore annoying than someone wanting more salad dressing.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:06 AM on October 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to start jovially telling the bartender "no room for cream" from now on.
posted by mzurer at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

Shaker pints suck. This is just one reason why you should try not to drink out of a mixing glass. I've never heard of a bar serving a 12 oz pour in an alleged 16 oz glass - that sounds like a recipe for a fight every time. Order a 12 oz bottle or drink in better bars.
posted by fixedgear at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2016

As others have mentioned, in the UK this type of request is so common and acceptable as to never be an issue, I would probably hear a request for a "top up" every other time I went to a pub and was never shy about requesting it myself when warranted. I immediately noticed a different vibe in the US, and the few times I requested it the bartender seemed touchy about it. I personally see a bad or incomplete pour as really unprofessional and agree with others simply not to patronize a place with bartenders who haven't been trained properly, or worse , have been trained to cheat the customer.
posted by the foreground at 7:59 PM on October 14, 2016

This annoys me too. My take is coloured by being in the UK, plus having only yesterday had a pint spontaneously topped up without request by a bar staff member who eyeballed it after transacting and found it wanting. A lot of the suggestions sound a touch antagonistic or accusatory to my (again UK) ears. I'd aim for a straightforward "Oh, excuse me, this is a little short" or "I think this is just shy", leaving the request implicit.
posted by comealongpole at 3:56 PM on October 15, 2016

Come to think of it, "Can you fill this up please?" should work too (where "work" includes the possibility of receiving a canned explanation why the establishment serves near-halves in pint glasses).
posted by comealongpole at 4:09 PM on October 15, 2016

Here's another thing to consider: One place where I drink serves its drafts in glasses that are larger than a pint, and have a full-pint mark on them. So when the draft arrives it looks light, but it really isn't.
posted by booth at 7:15 AM on October 17, 2016

"Do you think you could fit a whisky in there?"
"Well do you mind topping it off with beer?"

Honestly, this happened to me, I was on the sloppy barstaff side of the conversation.
posted by biffa at 9:46 AM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

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