When an Englishman orders a pint of beer, he's serious about wanting a full 20-ounce pint and may well demand that the glass be topped off if there's too much foam.
But under pressure from the beer industry, the government is quietly wavering on a pre-election promise to make every pint a full one, effective next year.
Brewers estimate that filling each glass full would cost about $628 million a year--a burden to thousands of pub owners who would get fewer servings per barrel.
So the government says it will reconsider things as it throws out cumbersome and unnecessary regulations on business.
This does not sit well with British beer drinkers, who down 28 million pints a day. Many pubs' glasses hold exactly one pint. If there is a head on the brew, there is less than a pint.
Granted, the government has not yet abandoned the full-pint rule. But officials have backed off of their rhetoric from March, 1992, a month before a hotly contested national election.
Edward Leigh, then the consumer affairs minister, publicized his full-pint campaign with a news release titled "Leigh Raises a Full Liquid Pint to Consumers."
He said investigators had found that on average drinkers were getting 5% less than a full pint--and as much as 17.5% less in some pubs.
The government decreed that by April, 1994, a pint would be a pint.
But in February, regulators quietly included the full-pint rule in a wide-ranging review to abolish unnecessary red tape.
The debate will go on. But Paul Bright, who was sipping bitter at the Sir Christopher Hatton pub near London's diamond district, said a little less beer in the glass makes no real difference.
"By the end of the night, you're spilling it anyway," Bright said.