From Firkins to Ponies: the many ways to measure the volume of beer
There is a surprisingly vast array of ways to measure how much beer you got. Vast! And each of these measurements can get a bit confusing. For example the US and the UK use pints, but while they have the same name they're not the same thing. Why? Because it's more exciting that way. Here's my attempt to sort some of these measurements out.
Let's start with things that fit in your hand, and given the name of this blog I have to start with the pint! There are two pints out there: the U.S. Pint and the Imperial Pint. What's the difference? The Imperial one is bigger, of course.
1 Imperial Pint ≈ 568mL (19.2 US fl. oz.)
1 US Pint ≈ 473mL (16 US fl. oz.)
That's a pretty big difference. All the sudden I feel like I've been ripped off all these years! Why can't our pints have 568mL? Oh well. There's so many more sizes to look at. The Germans have the biersteins or beerstone in English. Beerstone! What a cool name. The name comes from calcium oxalate which is a crystal compound that can form on beer containers. Steins can be found in many sizes and are measured in nice and neat metric system. The most common sizes for steins are 1/2 liter and 1 liter.
Okay, the Germans keep it nice and easy. What about the Austrailians? Oh, god. This system is nuts. Beer can come in a multitude of sizes and names that can vary from state to state. Check this out this key to all the different ways to order your beer in Austrailia:
|5 fl oz||pony||pony||pony||horse/pony|
|6 fl oz||small glass|
|7 fl oz||seven||seven||seven||butcher||glass|
|10 fl oz||middy / half pint||handle||pot||schooner||pot|
|15 fl oz||schooner||schooner||schooner||pint||schooner|
|20 fl oz||pint||pint||pint||pint||pint|
Yeah, they believe in options. And it appears they also like to give things odd names. Pony, schooner, pot, middy, these names are rather adorable. At least a pint is a pint is a pint.
Alright, let's get out of the small stuff and take a look at this big stuff. Barrels and kegs come in all kind of sizes as well. The U.K. brings us a bunch of interesting sizes from the firkin to the hogshead. The following is a chart of how all the UK barrel size relate to each other. Interestingly, you'll note that each of these sizes have change over the years:
|15th–17th centuries, ale gallons||8||16||32||48|
|15th–17th centuries, beer gallons||9||18||36||54|
|1688–1803, beer & ale gallons||8.5||17||34||51|
|1803–1824, beer & ale gallons||9||18||36||54|
|1824–2000, imperial gallons||9||18||36||54|
Nice. That's a lot of barrels. But do you need more room? Check out these fun barrel sizes:
|Puncheon 84 US gallons|
|Butt 126 US gallons|
|Tun 252 US gallons|
That's a lot of beer. And while firkins can still be found some of those bigger barrels are fairly rare today. Can you imagine how much a brewery would need to spend to by a Butt barrel instead of stainless tank? I have no idea, but I am sure it's a very big number. Here in the good old US of A a beer barrel is 31 US gallons (basically half a hogshead).
Let's finish up with kegs. U.S. Kegs are 15.5 gallons or half a U.S. barrel. This is what you can squeeze out of U.S. Keg:
But, of course, there's more than one kind of keg size out there. Here's some of the more common sizes you might find:
|US Gallon||Type of keg|
|5||Corny Keg/Soda Keg|
Got all of that? I don't. Seriously, why is this so complicated? Just in case you wanted one more way to measure the volume of beer here's one you won't see to often unless your looking at old Austrian brewing records, the Eimer! The eimer varies from country to country, but here are some broad ideas on how much beer you might find in an eimer:
Okay, I think that's enough because my head might just explode. I've learned one thing here: if I think I know how much beer is in that barrel, I am probably wrong.
Want to read more? Of course you do! Here's some resources I used:
Austrailan Beer Sizes from the Aussie Baron
All the barrel size info you would ever wans at Sizes.com
Image of Kegs from WikiCommons