Some—OK, myself included—have claimed that we live in a golden age for beer drinkers everywhere. You want a glass of beautiful, crisp Pilsner? You got it! How about some cellar-cool, perfectly conditioned, Best Bitter on cask? Absolutely. What about some haze-for-days tallboys of the latest hop juice? We can make this happen. OK, this is all great. While we're at it, I’d like a couple fingers' worth of foam on my beer, please.
The City of London—or the Square Mile, as it's colloquially known—is one of London’s 33 areas with local authority responsibilities. It’s also the city’s primary central business district with as many as 400,000 commuters heading to work within the area each day. It’s safe to assume that many of the UK’s top earners rank amongst that number. The Square Mile is also home to some of the world’s top businesses, insurance companies, law firms, and even the Bank of England itself. The City is the United Kingdom’s beating financial heart—money is its lifeblood. This is Britain’s financial face for the whole world to see.
But there’s something that The City cannot abide. Foam. More pertinently, the foam that forms the glorious head on your beer. That life affirming, aesthetically pleasing, aroma effusing, olfactory stimulating, gloriously convex meniscus of foam. The release of a new beer mat by The City of London aims to take this simple pleasure away from beer drinkers. The City of London respectfully requests that you enjoy your goddamn iceman pour.
The weights and measures act of 1897 is arguably one of the most significant pieces of legislation introduced in Britain’s history. It deemed that metric units could be used in addition to traditional imperial measures for the purposes of trade. And perhaps its most significant update was in 1985, which saw that it would encompass all of the aspects covered by the European Economic Community (which means you can say goodbye to that soon, fellow Brits). Its most recent update came into law in April 2012, and this one was significant for beer as it allowed licensed premises to serve beer in two thirds of a pint measures, along with one third, one half, and full pint measures.
Essentially, though, for those that spend their money on alcohol, the legislation exists to prevent you from being served a short measure. In the case of a Traditional Great British Pint™, this means that your glass should always be filled to the brim. Not a drop less. To the brim. At least according to those in The Square Mile, anyway.
January must have been a slow month for the busybodies at The City of London authority, as they’ve decided to enforce this legislation quite literally, by printing lines on the side of a beer mat so you can check to see if you’ve supposedly been short changed. That’s right, the authority behind London’s oldest and most important financial district has spent plenty of time—not to mention plenty of tax payers' money—designing beer mats that you're meant to physically hold up to the side of your pint glass so you can prove to a bartender that they’re fleecing you.
According to the British Beer and Pub Association, a glass of beer should contain a minimum of 95% liquid and 5% head. The City of London cites a pint costing £5 as an example, and argues that another 5% loss would be an equivalent to 25 pence of the beer drinker's hard-earned money. However, based on the size of a pint compared to the size of a standard beer mat (and I assume the City of London hasn't invested in giant beer mats, though, frankly, I’d believe anything at this stage), the lines make utterly no sense. The 5% line looks like it's about a thimble's worth of beer. The 15% line looks perfect, ideal for a delightful head on my beer. Sadly, I’d apparently be out of pocket by a whopping 75 pence if I happened to be foolish enough to request decent head on it.
This scheme would be all well and good if it didn’t fail to take into account that, surprise, the foam on the top of your beer is also beer! It would make sense if they hadn’t printed a fantastic-looking pint of beer with a giant, aesthetically pleasing pint ON THE BEER MAT ITSELF.
It turns out, having a decent head on my beer is quite literally the smallest hill I will die on.
Why not just save yourself the bother of complaining and wait for your head to dissipate, transforming your pint into this flat, lifeless beer you so desire, if that’s what you want? Make sure you measure with your beer mat and get them to top it up, too. Then raise your glass high above your head so that your brimming pint is visible for the whole City of London to see. You’ve just saved yourself twenty five pence, my friend. TWENTY FIVE PENCE. You should climb onto the bar top and valiantly thrust your pint on high so that the Queen of England herself can see the glorious sheen of your glassy, amber meniscus.
Or, you could show your beer the respect that the hardworking brewers of this great nation deserve and pour it with some foam. Stop fucking about with your beer mat and give me a decent head on my beer. I promise it's worth the few extra pence, every time. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go have a rest.