Macquarie Dictionary


A deep dive into Aussie beer sizes

The question of whether you skol or scull a beer is one we have covered more than once. But how about getting the beer in the first place.

Visitors to Australian shores are often flummoxed by the range of names we give our beer receptacles. And even more confusingly, these words refer to different sizes depending on whereabouts in Australia you end up.

Let’s take schooner as our base for now. In NSW, ACT, NT and Qld and parts of WA and Tasmania, this equates to a glass of beer of approximately 425mL. But if you end up in SA, a schooner is in fact a glass of beer of approximately 285mL.

Confused yet? We’re only just getting started. Asking for a schooner (at 285mL) in South Australia is equivalent to simply asking for a beer in Tasmania and the Northern Territory. While you’re in the NT, you can also ask for a handle and receive the same thing. Still in the NT, you can also ask for a middy and still be understood to want the same thing. The great thing about the word middy is that it travels. You can take it to NSW, ACT, WA and some of Qld with no worries at all.

In Victoria and parts of Queensland and Tasmania (two more multilingual beer states, like the NT), you will need to ask for a pot. And, again in Tasmania and Queensland, you can use the word ten to mean a glass of beer of approximately 285mL (or ten fluid ounces – more on this soon).

But we’re far from done. In beer terms, there is a slightly smaller version that is a glass of approximately 200ml. And if you’re in Victoria, WA or Qld, asking for a beer will get you one of these. In SA, this size is known as a butcher. In WA, Victoria, Tasmania and Qld, a simple glass. And in NSW, ACT, Tasmania and Qld, the strangely named seven. It was called a seven as 200mL is also 7 fluid ounces, or a seven-ounce.

But wait, we’ve gone from a ten or ten ounces to a seven. What about the numbers in between? Well, there is no nine, but a niner is a small keg of about 40.5 litres. And also no eight, but there is the phrase over the eight, which means ‘intoxicated’, and comes from an old-fashioned, customary worker’s ration of ale for a day which was 8 pints (see below for what a pint means in beer speak!).

In Tasmania, there was previously another measure of beer known as a six, which equated to, you guessed it, six fluid ounces or 170mL.

And in Qld and some other places, there is the five, the meaning of which should be clear by now, also known as a pony. And that’s where the numbered beers stop.

So, it’s much simpler to ask for a schooner, as it’s almost universally understood. However, remember that in SA, if you want a schooner, or a 450mL glass of beer, you will need to ask for a pint.

In NSW and the ACT, a pint is equivalent to one eighth of a gallon of beer, or around 568ml. This is the British measurement. But, in WA, Tasmania and SA, a pint is equivalent to around 473mL, which is the American measurement and is close enough to the schooner size of 425mL for it to have been conflated.

After all that, we all need a beer! Good luck and bottoms up!

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