Drinkers in the British Isles and Ireland breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday when the European
Parliament voted, after years-long debate, to allow pubs to continue pouring beer in pints -- and not to have to conform to the Continental metrics of half liters. Ever since Britain joined what was then called the Common Market, its citizens have faced the nightmare of having to convert miles, pints and ounces from Imperial measurements to their metric equivalents. No more.
The dilemma was foreseen by George Orwell in a scene in his dystopian novel, 1984, in which an old geezer whom Winston Smith meets in a prole pub laments having to drink his Victory Beer from a half-liter glass:
"I likes a pint," persisted the old man. "You could 'a drawed me off a pint easy enough. We didn't 'ave these bleeding liters when I was a young man."
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Besides the Great Pint Controversy, Brits over the years have had some of their cherished beverage and culinary trademarks threatened because of the European Union's literal
labeling laws -- no more Harvey's Bristol Cream (because there's no
dairy cream in sherry), no more mincemeat pies (no meat). In time, though, these challenges were dropped.
So all is right in the isles, where punters can continue to drink pints of lager -- or, maybe, Scotch? -- until 11 p.m. and still weigh no more than 12 stone. Then again, just to annoy everyone, an Imperial pint, like an Imperial gallon, measures slightly more than its American cousin. And what the hell is a gill of gin anyway?