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Along with darts, pickled eggs and bar stool hurling, the Yard of Ale is an English pub tradition going back hundreds of years. It is an unusually shaped beer glass whose main purpose was to be used as part of a drinking game in pubs. They're not commonly seen in action, nowadays, but some pubs still have them displayed, either in a stand or slung from the ceiling behind the bar.

The glass owes its name to its shape; A Yard of Ale glass is long, (roughly a yard in length), and narrow. It has a bulbous bottom, a top shaped like a funnel or a vase and the two ends are connected by a long, thin stem. A Yard of Ale will typically hold two or three pints of ale, (never lager!)

To consume beer from a Yard of Ale is a real feat. When first raised to your lips, the problem is controlling the weight of the beer-filled bulb at the end of the glass. The beer comes easily until enough has been consumed to allow air to flow up the stem and into the bulb. At this point, the air entering the glass forces the remaining beer quickly down the stem and, normally, down the front of your shirt.

Cheers!

Originally the yard of ale was 36 inches inches long, but it's now possible to get many different sizes of 'yard' including 1/2 yards, and 1/3 yards for the faint of heart, and double yards for those with no common sense. The largest 'yard' ever made was 55 feet long, made by Blowzone Hot Glass Studios, and the glass blower had to stand on a gantry to get the height.

Completing the yard of ale, without being violently ill and/or spilling half of the contents down your shirt is not the easiest thing in the world to do. The main obstacles to a successful Yard are two-fold

Quantity
A Yard of Ale glass contains just under 3 pints of whatever you're drinking. Experienced punters make sure they chose a 'flat' beer that isn't too strong, or too sweet to down, primarily as a fizzy beer will bloat you, and a sweet beer will get really sickly halfway through the exercise.Three pints in a yard long glass, with the majority of the weight distributed towards the far end isn't the most easy to manage object either

The 'Tidal Wave' Effect
Due to the shape of the glass, when you near the end of the yard the bubbles of air collect in the bulb, and when the level of liquid in the glass reaches a critical point, dependant upon the angle you're holding the glass, air can freely flow into the bulb, causing the the contents of the bulb to come shooting down the glass at the unsuspecting drinker, generally causing a mess and being a shocking waste of beer. The way to combat this is to drink at a constant speed, preferably by opening your throat and pouring it down (not many people can do this), and by spinning the glass along its long axis, as the contents get lower.

Addendum
Other points to note (for the more hardened drinker/ rugby player)

  • Take your shirt off to avoid soaking it
  • Try standing on a bar stool whilst downing your yard
  • If that's too easy, stand on a bar stool with your trousers round your ankles, whilst downing your yard, this was the preferred stance at the Rugby Club I used to play for.
If at any point you feel like this task is getting too easy, try switching your beer for a yard of Green Death

For an example of what the glass looks like, check out www.moonshiners.org.uk/butchale1.htm

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