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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