30 Sep 2009 @ 11:49 AM 
 

The peculiar possibility of imperial plastic pints.

 

A buddy of mine pointed me to this interesting article today, regarding the possibility of the British government mandating plastic pint glasses in pubs in order to decrease the possibility that a pint glass might be used as a weapon. According to the statistics that they cite, there were 5500 incidents last year in which somebody was attacked with a pint glass.
Mmmm... foam.
The article that I link to up there humorously points out that there are more accidents in Britain involving assemble-able furniture or even high heels, and wonders what they should do to make even their Cardigan sweaters more safe (1,000 injuries sustained from them), but the topic itself is interesting outside of its implicit humor.

Certainly, plastic or not, if somebody wants to use a pint glass as a weapon, they will. But will they want to drink out of it?

I can only imagine that CAMRA’s gonna have a field day with all of this.

There’s a short writeup over at the BBC asking exactly this question.

Neil Williams from the [British Beer and Pub Association] said he was concerned that drinkers would notice a drop in quality.

“For the drinker, the pint glass feels better, it has a nice weight and the drink coats the glass nicely. That’s why people go out for a drink, to have a nice experience.”

Of course, this quote really mischaracterizes the problem. I’m not convinced that this would mean drinking out of shitty red plastic party cups or anything. I am quite sure that plastic nonic pints can be manufactured that have the same general feel as a glass, that even have good heft to them (especially when they’re full of beer). I doubt that it would do anything to effect the flavor of the beer – after all, judging often happens in plastic just because it’s easier to manage. To be quite honest, I’m not sure that customer experience would be my first concern.

Another quote in the article points out, quite accurately, that we haven’t always drunk our beer out of glass.

“We could do something more radical, by looking at the whole shape and substance of the pint – we could come up with something that is completely different to glass.

“Remember that years ago people used to drink out of pewter tankards. It could be quite a significant paradigm shift.”

Indeed! If you think about it, this would be a great time to be able to change how people interact with their beer altogether. It has the possibility of being a really positive change for beer, in general. Eliminate the shaker pint! Introduce new drinking vessels: unshatterable glass, built to truly expose the wonderful qualities of a good beer. There’s only this one (enormous) catch: cost.

Can you imagine the cost involved for each pub to completely replace its entire stock of glassware? It’s an especially large consideration in England where pubs are generally having a difficult time keeping up with tax increases and a drinking population that appears to be underwhelmed with beer, anyway. It could stand to easily put a struggling pub out of business directly.

One could argue that closing altogether would effect customer experience more than having to drink out of plastic.

We don’t have to really worry about that particular problem in the States, right now, but what do you think?

How would you feel about drinking your Pliny the Elder out of a plastic pint glass? What if it gave us the opportunity to reshape drinking vessels altogether, dispense with the shaker pint and present beer more effectively? Would it make a difference if it were plastic?

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Categories: industry
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 30 Sep 2009 @ 06 39 PM

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Responses to this post » (9 Total)

 
  1. Criminal to make people use plastic. A big part of people perceiving how good their bitter is relies on clarity. It’s hard to imagine myself not being able to see a lovely maple colored bitter before I drink it. I’d refuse. Another point that should be raised is that this might affect people drinking beer at the pubs in an already shifting phenomenon of people drinking at home. I’m not saying this would be the death of the pub, but it certainly doesn’t help.

  2. K says:

    The other thing that horrifies me about this is that plastic would replace a much more fully recyclable material. Even assuming that pubs who could afford it would opt for “permanent,” reusable plastic pints, they’re still going to have a much shorter life cycle overall than glasses do. Personally I’d rather see a few rowdy pubgoers injured by glass than to see more unnecessary plastic brought into circulation.

  3. fullsteam says:

    I’m no libertarian, but hominy jingles…are we REALLY talking about the government mandating prison cups because some idiots behave poorly?

    It’s tempting to get into action hero mode about this, but the article informed me that 18 people received injuries from capes. So I better not.

    • Oscar says:

      I believe the bubelbs attach themselves to the surface of the blueberries, allowing them to rise in the beer. Once the berries reach the top of the liquid the bubelbs pop, leaving the blueberry to fall back down to the bottom to accumulate more bubelbs.

  4. erik says:

    K – I thought about the recyclable aspect on this as well. I didn’t include it because part of me thought – how often do we discard pint glasses? When they break. Presumably, plastic has a lower break-rate, thus less trash.

    On the other hand, they’re not recyclable when they do break. Weird toss-up.

    We really are talking about the government mandating prison cups. My feeling is, if you’re going to get hurt by something in a pub, you should probably feel lucky if it’s on the pint glass and not, say, a chair. Or the knife behind the bar they’re using the cut limes.

  5. ingrate says:

    Interesting Erik, however (regarding the cost or replacing glassware) – in my limited experience bars have so much breakage that they end up replacing all of their glassware over time anyway. I would be interested in hearing any of your followers that manage bars chime in on their breakage numbers.

  6. christopher says:

    If the plastic is made heavy enough to have the feel of glass then it too could be an effective weapon. I was just at JFK thinking about the illusion of security by banning items. They give you a plastic butter knife but metal fork, chopsticks, and bamboo skewers (all of which are better stabbing tools than either a metal or plastic butter knife). I’d be sorry to see glass go unless its replaced with drinking horns.

  7. Russ Carr says:

    Actually, unless the plastic glass is effectively insulated, it will affect the flavor of the beer. Plastic seems to allow cold beverages to warm quicker to room temperature, as well as dispersing carbonation, faster than glass does. A warmer, flatter beer is not going to taste as good as one at the proper temperature, with the right amount of CO2 (even those with scant natural carbonation NEED it; the difference without is distinct).

    Arguably, the best vessel from an insulary standpoint (though lousy when it comes to admiring your beer’s visible qualities) would be ceramic; bring back the stein!

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