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Alcohol

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Under the trade measurement laws the retail sale of beer, stout, ale, brandy, gin, rum, vodka, and whisky (including whiskey) must be sold by a volume measure.

Alcohol sold in bottles, cans or casks comes under the regulations for prepackaged goods. For more information see guide to the sale of prepackaged goods.

In recent years there has been an increasing trend for some beers, particularly ‘boutique’ or ‘craft’ beers, to be sold on tap in non-standard vessels, such as ‘mason jars’, and takeaway containers, such as ‘growlers’ and ‘squealers’, that are not approved as a measuring instrument. For more information see our fact sheet on sale of beer in non-approved vessels and takeaway containers.

Beer, Stout and Ale

Under trade measurement law, beer, stout and ale must be sold at a price determined by reference to volume and the measurement of that volume must be in millilitres (mL) or litres (L) and accurate (ie within the permitted tolerances).

When beer is sold on tap at a licensed premise, this usually involves serving the beer in an approved batch-tested glass or jug with the volume marked in millilitres (mL) or litres (L). A batch-tested glass or jug can be manufactured from glass, acrylic or other approved materials.

All batch-tested products have been checked by a servicing licensee, verified using NMI national test procedures and permanently marked or moulded with the manufacturer’s identification, the capacity, and the batch testing mark.

Other requirements include:

  • the glass or jug must be of a design or ‘pattern’ approved by NMI under approval category 4/1/0D
  • the capacity of a beer glass can be defined by either the brim or a capacity (Plimsoll) line
  • the capacity of a beer jug must be defined by a capacity (Plimsoll) line
  • beverage measures must be marked with the capacity in millilitres (mL)
  • beverage measures must be made of a rigid or semi-rigid material

There are no prescribed sizes for beverage measures for the sale of beer, ale and stout. Terms such as seven, middy, pot or schooner do not legally specify a particular size. Traders should ensure that any advertising using such terms should also include the actual size of the glass (e.g. middy – 280 mL, schooner – 400 mL).

Spirits

The sale of brandy (including cognac and armagnac), gin, rum, vodka or whisky (whiskey) must be made using an NMI-approved spirit measure. Approved spirit measures include simple measures commonly referred to as thimble measures, egg cups, jiggers, or more complex dispensers that require verification by servicing licensees.

Simple measures can either be purchased as a batch-tested item, or may be individually verified for accuracy by a servicing licensee. Requirements for simple spirit measures include that they must be:

  • in capacities of 15 mL, 30 mL or 60 mL
  • in the prescribed units of millilitres (mL)
  • marked with either batch-testing markings or a verification mark
  • made of a rigid or semi-rigid material

Spirit dispensers must:

  • be of a pattern approved by NMI under approval categories 4/5/ or 5/6S/ and bear a verification mark applied by a servicing licensee
  • deliver fixed quantities of 15 mL, 30 mL  or 60 mL

All new spirit dispensers must conform with a current certificate of approval. Dispensers currently in use must bear a verification mark.

Measurement requirements continue to apply when brandy (including cognac and armagnac), gin, rum, vodka, whisky (or whiskey) are served with or without a mixer such as soft drink (e.g. vodka and orange, rum and cola), milk or water.

Non-approved bottle-top or wall-mounted pourers may be used to dispense products other than the specified spirits, providing a measurement statement is not made or implied. However, it is an offence to keep or use non-approved bottle-top or wall-mounted pourers marked with a quantity statement on premises where alcohol is sold.

The measurement requirements for the specified spirits do not apply:
  • when they are mixed with other spirits or with other alcoholic liquors to produce cocktails
  • to any liqueurs
  • to any brandy not made from grapes such as cherry brandy or plum brandy which are liqueurs
Spirits that are not specified in the regulations do not have to be sold by measure.

Wine

Wine (unless it is prepackaged) does not have to be sold by a volume measure. Therefore, wine may be sold in an unmarked glass or carafe.

However, if a person chooses to sell wine by measurement, the measures or instruments must be approved by the NMI and verified by a servicing licensee or inspector.

Prepackaged wine, whether in a bottle or cask, must adhere to all standard packaging requirements. However, the trade measurement regulations do not apply to the position of a measurement marking for standard-sized wine containers.

When selling by measurement, sellers are responsible for the accuracy of their measuring instruments. The instruments must:

  • be approved by NMI and legal for trade use
  • be properly installed and appropriate for the intended use
  • be verified by a servicing licensee or inspector
  • be used correctly by staff who have had adequate training in their correct use

There are no verification periods for alcohol dispensers. It is the responsibility of a person who sells alcohol to determine how regularly their beverage dispensers should be verified.

The national trade measurement laws outline a number of offences relating to the sale of alcohol, including:

  • using a non-approved measuring instrument
  • using a measuring instrument that is not correctly verified
  • using an incorrect measuring instrument to dispense beer or spirits
  • using a measuring instrument in an unjust manner
  • selling leasing, hiring or lending a measuring instrument that does not give accurate measure or is not of an approved pattern to be used in selling prescribed alcohols
  • advertising, offering or exposing beverages for sale at a price determined by a measurement that is not in prescribed units

Breaches of the trade measurement laws could lead to an infringement notice or prosecution.

For more Information

The main laws covering trade measurement are the National Measurement Act and the National Trade Measurement Regulations. See regulation 5.1 for references to the sale of beer and spirits. For offences and penalties regarding the use of measuring instruments for trade and shortfall provisions see the following sections of the Act:

  • section 18HC – certain articles must be sold by measurement
  • section 18GA – measuring instruments used for trade to be verified
  • section 18GD – inaccurate use of measuring instruments
  • section 18KD – shortfall offence

For more information contact 1300 686 664, infotm@measurement.gov.au or use our on-line form.