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I talked recently to Jonathon a Torquay guy now living in Sheffield who told me that pint to line glasses and pints with a head are pretty much standard in his local.


So, by and large, a pint in the North with a head is a pint and a little extra where it’s served in a pint to line glass. This is a bit of a legal grey area but I understand that brewers don’t generally approve of the pint to line glasses.

I live in the South where pint to line glasses are rare. I sometimes ask for a head, and one landlord recently said, “Thanks for my percentage!”

In the South, beer is generally served without a head. Where there is a head a pint will not be a full pint because, by default, all glasses are pint to brim.


Recently, we went to the Gleneagles hotel in Torquay for lunch. Yes, that is the place where Mr. Sinclair gave the Pythons such a hard time when they were filming on location that John Cleese used the experience to create Basil Fawlty.  To accompany an excellent lunch on the stylish terrace with a glorious view of Lyme Bay we had half pints of Kronenburg served in half pint to line glasses with a good head! I’m a Northerner and for me this how beer should be served. Lager can look flat and unappetising without a head.

Weights and Measures has been a battlefield for centuries for the British people. Adulteration and short measures have always been a concern and thus the need for a strong and effective Weights and Measures Inspectorate.

Millers had possibly the worst name for cheating. Some of the tactics used included adding ground limestone to add weight and powdered alum to make flour whiter when white flour was expensive because it was both difficult to make and was the province of the rich. There were cases of tea merchants adding desiccated autumn leaves to bulk out consignments of tea and publicans who watered down the beer to make it go further:

I’m the man, the very fat man

That waters the workers’ beer

Yes, I’m the man, the very fat man

That waters the workers’ beer

What do I care if it makes them ill?

Or it makes them terribly queer?

I’ve a car, a yacht

And an aeroplane

And I waters the workers’ beer


A drop of good beer is good for a man

Who’s thirsty, tired, and hot

And sometimes I has a drop for myself

From a very special lot

But a fat and healthy working class

Is the the thing that I most fear

So I reaches my hand for the water tap

And I waters the workers’ beer.


Words by Paddy Ryan to “Son of a Gambolier”, better known as the “Ramblin’ Wreck”

The Man That Waters the Workers’ Beer

The battle for a fair pint has been a long one.  It was possible before 1879 for publicans to use non-imperial tankards and thus serve less than a pint. For an excellent history of measures for beer I thoroughly recommend Pub Beer Mugs and Glasses by Hugh Rock www.shirebooks.co.uk. It also has some superb photos of pewter, pottery and glass drinking vessels. I confess to wishing I had a Victorian glass. I never found one!

The main bone of contention in the quest for the fair pint is what constitutes a full pint. Beer, unlike wine, spirits and cider has a head so the problem has always been is the head part of the pint?  There are, of course, personal preferences in the matter as well as regional differences. In the North there is a preference for pints with a head and so glasses with a pint to line are very common.

Inspector’s #478 St. Helens Borough

Inspector’s #497  Denbigh County