Visit The Pub Curmudgeon site

The latest example of apparently heavy-handed bureaucratic regulation to hit the beer world is the ruling by Trading Standards that it is misleading for Marble Brewery to sell their “Pint” beer in a 500 ml can with the word “Pint” prominently displayed on the side. At first sight, this has much in common with the case last year against Tiny Rebel’s “childish” can designs –a single, arguably vexatious complaint over something that, while perhaps technically in breach of standards, is not in real life going to be misinterpreted by any reasonable person. Indeed Beers Manchester worked himself up into quite a froth about it.
However, I think there’s a significant difference. I criticised the Tiny Rebel decision, but it was on the basis that it’s essential for the defender of liberty to stand up for things that he personally doesn’t particularly care for. There’s no point in only supporting the freedoms you happen to approve of. I don’t much like these garish cartoon can designs, but I don’t for a minute think Tiny Rebel were deliberately targeting children, and feel it sets a potentially worrying precedent for the further control of packaging design. If there is only one complaint on something that is a matter of subjective judgment, it suggests that the amount of genuine concern amongst the public is negligible. Plus we don’t know whether the complainant was someone with any involvement in public health lobbying.
On the other hand, when it comes to the Marble cans, a pint is an actual measure, not just a colloquial term for a beer. To put “Pint” in big letters on a can strongly implies that the contents actually are a pint. Some other beer brands are sold in pint cans, and often do prominently say “Pint Can” to make it clear to buyers that they are getting something different from a 440 or 500ml size. Yes, in practice very few people are going to be misled as to the actual size of the can, but that’s not the point. If it says “pint”, it implies that’s what’s inside. It wouldn’t be acceptable to call a beer “Shandy” (which is also a common colloquial term for beer) if it was actually of full strength, even if everybody who bought it was well aware of that.
So, in this case, the authorities, while they may come across as a touch joyless, are right. It’s a straightforward case of misrepresentation. I suggested on Twitter that maybe a design to give the actual measure equal prominence might be an option, but it remains to be seen what action Marble end up taking.
Couldn't they have "PINT" in much smaller type enclosed by inverted commas, with "500ml CAN" given equal prominence?
— Pub Curmudgeon 🍻 (@oldmudgie) January 3, 2018
Incidentally, the same issue doesn’t apply in the pub, as measures of draught beer, unlike the sizes of bottles and cans, are specified by law, so whatever something’s called you know that it will be available in pints or fractions thereof.
And anyone designing alcohol packaging needs to be aware that their intentions are irrelevant – what counts is the prima facie impression given to members of the public who have no prior knowledge.