A tragic failure to measure up


The riddle as to why South Australians don’t measure up in so many ways has finally been solved.

And like many conundrums, the answer turns out to be blindingly simple. All beer and no skittles in fact.

Here’s why the question was posed in the first place. Buy a schooner of beer in the Festering State and you don’t get 15oz of foaming suds like you’d get in any civilised state. You get a 10oz pot (Queensland) or a midi (NSW).

Probably at about the price of a real schooner anywhere else but that’s a story for another day.

It gets worse. Dying for a long pull on a lager after a 42degC day with unbearably hot winds (quite common, apparently) and order a pint and you get a 15oz glass. You call that a glass?

How would you like it if, after a hard week’s work, your boss gave you only three-quarters of your weekly wage? You’d be pissed off.

I didn’t dare ask for a pony. Down here, it’s probably called a chihuahua.

Surely all this must be contrary to, if not the Trade Practices Act and marketing regulations, then common decency? Apparently not.

My research has shown these misleading beer content descriptions are legal under long-standing SA law and go back to the state’s colonial days and when West End beer was first brewed in the South Australian capital.

Back then, beer glasses were in the imperial measurements more or less standard around the world. A pint was a pint was a pint. Twenty ounces. A pot was half that. All very logical and sensible.

But the government of the time noticed that very few citizens were able to finish a glass of West End beer. Given the colony’s then small grain-growing sector, the wastage alarmed authorities.

To solve the problem, they introduced the “schooner” and “pint” measurements we know of and laugh at today.

Most drinkers still can’t finish their glass of West End draught beer but the wastage is now nowhere near as bad.

Don Gordon-Brown

Footnote: The white can above is quite rare. The brewery is trialling the colour to see if it might help drinkers not be so aware they are drinking West End draught beer.