Spilling your drink

Good reasons why wine is served in the half glass 24 August 2006


There’s a light story in The West Australian this morning about ‘The Perfect Beer’.

It tells readers the way to serve a beer with the right amount of head, using a clean glass and skimming the froth off the top with a knife.

Filling beer to the top of the glass is an Australian tradition. I am sure you have fathers or grandfathers who complained vigorously when their local barmaid – a wonderful old phrase that insults a whole generation these days – didn’t fill their glass to the top.

These men grew up in tougher times when Federal and State budgets were announced in newspapers by showing how much the price of beer, cigarettes and milk had gone up. Every drop of beer they missed was calculable to the penny by the post-Depression drinker.

‘Tide’s out Maude’ or ‘Put a head on it will you love?’ would have emanated from their lips or they would have remained silent and then bagged the server after she had left to serve another client.

In those days people drank beer. Wine never got a look in but there was a reason for that.

It’s nothing to do with cultural opportunities and availability. It’s about wobbly tables.

Tables used to be balanced but then something happened; bar tops were smooth and didn’t have a plethora of advertising pamphlets, coasters and mats that could topple the precious contents of a pony or a middy if the glass was put down indiscriminately.

People drank beer because it was cheaper and they couldn’t spill it unless they were Mozart.

You thought hotels and bars were mean when you ordered a fine wine by the glass and they only filled it halfway or to the little line that denotes full in their lexicon?

Untrue. It’s because of the tables.

There isn’t a level-legged table in any bar or restaurant in Australia. The ones that feel steady are only so because some previously unhappy customer wedged a couple of folded beer coasters under the errant leg.

It all gets back to manufacturing. No one has any skill or pride in their work any longer. Even those metal tables with the screw down feet don’t usually work after a dozen different diners have had a crack at balancing the table so their wine doesn’t spill.

So bar owners have come up with a new caper – selling wine by the glass and pouring a thimble full because they don’t want you to spill any, especially seeing you’re paying upwards of $7 a glass.

Try taking a full glass of expensive white back to a table in an Australian cafe (in civilized states) or bar and see how long it takes for the table to get sticky.


It’s become so bad that I reckon restaurant reviewers should include it in their reports. We have graphics showing the number of chef hats for food quality, wine bottles for the strengths of the beverage list etc. Why not throw in a three-legged table if the going is wobbly?

I have rules with restaurants.

Any place that can’t spell Caesar in advertising their Caesar Salad is immediately abandoned.

Add wobbly tables with no hope of redemption to this list.

Pretty soon, I’ll be down to eating at Jap joints with the low tables and Indian restaurants where I may bend the table rule because I can’t resist the cuisine.

Trouble with that is, beer is more compatible with Indian. So the filling of the glass vs the stability of the table will have to be weighed up.

Put a nice head on that will you Dipak?

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