Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Beer trivia of the day

Imagine my chagrin when I realized that the six-pack of Heineken beer that I picked up for a dinner party the other night was composed of petite 7 ounce, rather than the usual 12 ounce, bottles. Needless to say, we went through them pretty quickly.

The miniaturized beers completely baffled me. Was it some kind of promotion? Downsizing? The airplane version?

In answering this question, I gathered a great deal of useless knowledge. It seems, first of all, that beers come in lots of different sizes. Who knew? The 7 ounce bottles (which actually range from 6 to 10 ounces) are called “ponies,” “pony bottles,” “a little nip,” “pork chops” in Pennsylvania, and a quarter bottles (because they are a quarter of a fifth, or 7 oz). A 12-ounce, by the way, is a “long-neck” or a “horse.” Don’t confuse these with pony kegs, which are 7.75 gallons (or ¼ barrel). There is also a beer bottle shape that is known as a pony (or a squat blob).

But if you go to Australia and ask for a pony, you’d get a 5 ounce glass of beer; ask for a beer and you’d get a 7 ounce glass of beer (at least in Queensland or Victoria).

A pony is also a 1 ounce liqueur glass, so old mixed drink recipes sometimes call for ponies instead of jiggers or shots. When used in completely different context, pony bottles also refer to a type of redundant air supply tank used by deep sea divers.

I like the little bottles. They’re cute. They’re cheaper. They’re the right size when you think beer isn’t so yummy and just drink it out of politeness. Alas, pony bottles, which were used for Coke as well as beer, seem to have fallen by the wayside, at least in the U.S. and Canada. I think they’re still commonly used in other places, though, which is why there are Rolling Rock Ponies (on which, it seems, the company was built) and Corona Coronitas, as well as Budweiser, Miller and Coors pony bottle versions.

But as to the real purpose of the tiny size, I failed to find a firm answer. Some breweries always put their stronger beers in smaller bottles. Some say the smaller bottles cool faster and allow you to avoid that not-so-fresh feeling you get at the bottom of bigger bottle. Maybe it only looks tiny because American serving sizes are all screwed up since the introduction of the 44-ounce Big Gulp. In any case, serious beer drinkers think they’re goofy.

Lest you completely dismiss them, I must point out that pony bottles were recently embroiled in Florida politics and brewery wars.

All this pony business is clearly a sign I should see new Seabiscuit movie on Friday.


  1. Anonymous11:18 AM

    I think you have been a victim of content spammers. My brother had added some code to my blog to block those jerks.

    Regarding pony bottles: I wish more beers were available in small bottles. I have recently been buying Rolling Rock and Budweiser and Heineken in 7 ounce bottles, and that is a great size. You can store a greater variety of beer in a small space. If you are really thirsty, you can drink three or four. you can enjoy beer more frequently, since you don't have to commit yourself to all 12 ounces. And the beer doesn't get warm before you finish it.

  2. Anonymous11:30 PM

    1. Re paragraph one: how could you mistake a seven-ounce bottle for a 12-ounce bottle?

    2. Re your question in paragraph one: I knew.

    3. Re your comment in the third from last paragraph: I'm a serious beer drinker and I don't think they're goofy.