It may be dependent upon local custom, but what scales are used to measure beer? Is there one in particular that is used globally, or could be said to be specific to beer or alcoholic drinks?

Typically, I see either pints or whatever the local standard of measurement for liquid is (say, fluid ounces or milliliters) so this isn't really a global standard.

Serving sizes also aren't standard; in my country alone, if you go to a pub and ask for a pint or a schooner, the size will depend on what state you're in.

However, I have seen the measurement l (lower-case L) used. Is this litres, or something else?

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    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 2:11

3 Answers 3


Beer is measured by volume, but which measure depends both on country and on the context in which the measure is being used.

For instance, in the US, you will almost always find servings of beer measured in fluid ounces.

However, in production, you will regularly find the measure being listed in barrels (31 imperial gallons).

You'll regularly find beer sold in pints (16oz), though that could also mean a 20oz glass as you only get 16oz of beer with a proper head.

My limited experience with bits of Europe indicates beer there is sold by the mL. Also worth noting is that Liter can be represented as either L or l so when you see "l" you're seeing Liters.

So, no. There isn't a global unit of volume for beer. But it is almost always sold by volume.

Also, with the rising popularity of high gravity beers, standard beer servings vary in part because to serve similar amounts of alcohol across standard servings you've got to serve differing quantities.

  • It's probably worth noting that the US measurements are "fluid ounces" rather than a measure of mass. Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 1:23
  • @JamesHenstridge noted.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 1:46
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    technically, liter should always be lowercase - i.e. ml, cl, dl - a capital L is incorrect, since it's not named after someone.
    – mdma
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 3:51
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    @mdma SI accepts both L and l to avoid confusion: physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/outside.html. They prefer L so as to avoid confusion with the number 1.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 12:37
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    In addition to honest pints sold as 16oz in a 20oz glass, you'll frequently find beer sold as a "pint" that's actually more like 12oz served in a 14 or 16oz glass, often known as a "cheater pint". See honestpintproject.info
    – couchand
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 23:24

In the UK, beer in Bars and Pubs is still sold in Pints, even though EU regulations require the actual quantity to be described in metric units.

But asking for a "pint" is a lot easier than asking for "586ml of beer please barman". (Note that they use imperial units in the UK, and UK pint is bigger than it's US counterpart.)

Bottled beer is invariably sold in 500ml bottles or 330ml bottles.

In Scandinavia, and I believe most of Europe, beer is sold in half liters (500ml) in bars, while bottles are typically 500ml or 330ml.

  • In Switzerland the normal size of a regular draft beer is not half a liter but 0.2 or 0.3 liter (Stange).
    – markus
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 21:53
  • Do you have a source for the EU regulations requiring pubs to describe the quantity in metric units? It almost never happens in London.
    – fqq
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 9:16
  • 440ml is a popular can size in the UK
    – fqq
    Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 9:16

In Germany, beer in bars and pubs is sold in jars of varying size. Different ingredients, different yeasts (top fermented or bottom fermented), different jars, different traditions.

In the Cologne area, the traditional beer Kölsch is sold in traditional jars of 0.2 l (200 ml). It should be drunken quickly and therefore smaller glasses are appropriate. Some pubs use 250 ml as their standard size however. Usually larger glasses are also available (300, 400, or 500 ml).

In Bavaria, standard sizes are rather 500 or 1000 ml.

Standard bottle is 500 ml, but many brands also offer 330 ml bottles.

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