The Math of Beer
by Tom Schmidt
Bramen was extremely excited about his upcoming
assignment to teach abroad in Oxford, England, an
assignment where he would be a visiting professor
in Mathematics at the prestigious British
university. The MIT associate professor from
Boston, Massachusetts had always wanted to have
an extended visit to the U.K. and this foreign
teaching assignment was a dream position for him.
So it was not surprising that Jonathan quickly
accepted an offer to visit a local public house
with his host Geoffrey Kensworth shortly after
starting his year abroad.
On the way to
the pub, Bramen regaled his host with his
extensive knowledge of British drinking, in
particular his awareness than any good publican
would never dare to pull a short pint
when serving the local citizens. Kensworth
nodded as Bramen talked extensively about the
British pub experience, wondering all
along what might take place when they visited
The Load of Hay just down the road
from the university.
will it be mate? The gruff bartender
at The Load of Hay looked at both men
who had bellied up to the bar.
pondered the question while first inquiring
how big the pubs mugs are.
hold a pint, by law. Each mug has a pint
fill line on it, set by the government. The
bartender seemed perplexed by the question but he
shrugged it off as the man was obviously from
replied Bramen. 473 milliliters of honey
shrugged and replied whatever in an
attempt to make the Boston mathematician feel at
home. Was his patron just being a jackass or
was he a bit of a dweeb?
at the glasses behind the bar and then asked if
he could look at one of the mugs. The bartender
thought it odd but he passed one over to Jonathan
immediately pulled out a ruler and his hand
calculator as he went to work. He measured
the diameter and height of the mug and then
started to do some calculations. Pi R-Square
times height gives 39 cubic inches. 2.54 cm per
inch gives us 640 cubic centimeters. Assuming a
specific gravity of 1.00 gives us a final volume
of 640 ml. Right?
looked shocked. What the hell was this
see the confusion in the bartenders eyes so
he decided to explain himself. Your mugs
hold up to 640 ml. But a pint is only 473 ml.
You fill each mug to the brim and that means you
are actually providing 1 and a third pints for
each drink. Are you aware of this?
seriously considered sucker punching the snarky
Yank but he somehow held that urge in check. Instead,
Geoffrey Kensworth piped in to break the
Jonathan. We use the Imperial pint here in
Britain. Its larger than the U.S. pint. Its
568 ml, not 473.
embarrassment was obvious on Bramens face
as he realized his faux pas. But you are
still over filling each drink.
smirked slightly as he replied. You
explained that earlier mate. No good
publican will pull a short pint when he serves.
as he considered the bartenders reply.
will it be mate?
without any thought yes, Ill have a
rolled his eyes as he replied. A pint of
Budweiser? The reply came without any
thought and Bramen regretted it as soon as he
spoke his reply. Geoffrey Kensworth cringed
with embarrassment as the bartender went into the
back of the bar to retrieve a 16 oz bottle of
that fine American import.
bottle, the bartender smiled as he poured the
beer into a mug. Looks like youre
getting an American pint mate. It wont
reach the fill line on the mug.
embarrassed to admit his ordering mistake, the
Yank simply nodded in reply