Weights and Measures

At a recent employee meeting at the brewery, there was a mention that we may start packaging some of our products in 19.2 ounce cans.  This is an odd size that I’ve seen a handful of breweries releasing.  One day in the car my wife and I were doing what we do best, which is bounce ideas off each other.  A couple of sizes I knew off the top of my head was that 500ml is 16.9oz, so it’s bigger than a half liter, but it’s smaller than a 22oz bomber.  The size doesn’t come out to anything even in ounces or milliliters (568mL).  So what’s the deal?  My wife tossed out “Is is an Imperial Pint?” and I said that it was close, but an Imperial pint is 20 ounces.

Turns out, she was right, and I was… half right? So I did some research and this is what I discovered.  Unbeknownst to me, even with my food science background, the US and the UK measure things slightly differently when it comes to liquid ounces.  There’s several things that play in to it, but the gist of it is a gallon in the UK is the volume of 10 pounds of water (160 ounces) while a gallon in the US is the volume of 8 pounds of water (128 ounces).  But to get quarts and pints, you still divide by 4 and 8 respectively, so a pint in the US is 16 ounces and a pint in the UK is 20 ounces.  But, based on a minor difference in the ounces themselves; apparently one was measured with water, one with wine, so minor density differences, a UK ounce is roughly 0.96 (or 96%) of a US ounce.  So 20 ounces in the UK is only 19.2 ounces US.  What complicates things even further (and brings this full circle) is that several bars now in the US will offer an “Imperial pint” or “true pint” that is 20 ounces US… so actually slightly larger than the “true pint” you would get in an English pub.  So yes.. an Imperial pint is 19.2 ounces.. and 20 ounces… depending on which side of the pond you’re on… or both?

Oskar Blues appears to be the first US brewery to use such a size, debuting Dales Pale Ale in that format in 2012.  A nice light beer.  Founders Brewing also came out with their All Day IPA in that 19.2 size, a 4.5% session beer, meant to be drunk “All Day”.  At some point Oskar Blues jumped the shark and came out with their Barrel Aged Ten Fidy, which clocks in at a whopping 12.9%ABV, in the 19.2 format.  I hope you’re sharing that, or at least not driving anywhere.  My “19.2 oz can” Google search also brings up the Wolf Mother Triple IPA from Golden Road, clocking in at 11.2%, so breweries aren’t afraid to go big in this format.

So that begs the question, why are American breweries packaging beers in UK pints? The answer would seem to me to be, “Because it’s there”.  Ball Corporation makes the cans, which are the same diameter as standard 12 and 16 ounce cans, just taller. (24 ounce cans and 32 ounce cans; often referred to as crowler, a portmanteau of can and growler, are wider). This means you can offer a larger size with only minimal adjustments to your can filler.  Raise the height, set the flow controls to a larger volume and boom, you’re done!  I’ve read in a couple places that breweries like them since it’s only slightly smaller than a 22 ounce bomber, but has the advantages of a can, such as being infinitely recyclable, lighter weight for shipping (full or empty), and no breaking.  The last one is a big deal in the hiking/camping/fishing group and the pack in/pack out mentality.  Easier to carry, easier to store, quicker to cool, great for outdoor activities.

I don’t know what products (if any) we’ll end up releasing in this format, but it sent me down an interesting rabbit hole of science and history that I wanted to share.  I’m a huge geek for numbers and trivia, so this is right up my alley!