Lights, Heavies, Mids and Schooners Explained

Australian Beers and Beer Measures

In my earlier post about drinking and driving in Australia, I mentioned I’d had two Cascade Lights and they were only schooners. I promised I would clear all that up and so I will.

Mids, Lights and Heavies.


Inside a Bottle-o

Inside a Bottle-o

We never much had this sort of thing in England, but I think it would be a good idea if we did. Mids, lights and heavies are well established terms that refer to the strenghts of beers.

A light beer will typically have an alcohol by volume of around 2.6% so it is closer to a lemonade them a real beer. But, in fairness to lights, they do taste a bit like beer whereas the “low alcohol” beers I remember in England simply tasted like, well I’m reminded of gnats again. Not nice!

Mids are usually around 3.3% to 3.5% alcohol by volume and here in Queensland XXXX Gold is hugely popular. It even acts as a currency; want to give a tradie a tip? Bung him a carton of Gold.

Apparently, back in the 1970s and early 80s, drink driving was more or less an Australian sport. When the government realised that this sport was killing people, they clamped down on it. The 0.5 alcohol limit was introduced and to the astonishment of the average Australian bloke, drivers were getting arrested! The breweries, concerned when sales started to fall, came out with mids.

So, mids were originally brought to market for drivers, but these days they have become very popular for all drinkers, but in particular those who do not want to wake up in the morning feeling like they slept all night in a tumble drier. The success of mids lead to the creation of lights.

Then there are heavies. Heavies have an alcohol by volume content of about 4.5% or more. My preference is for what is called XXXX Bitter, (red box, 4.6%) but I have no idea why they call it bitter. Its lager!

So, if you recall my incident when I was breathalysed at an RBT over at Bateman’s Bay I had had two Cascade lights just before I was breathalysed. I’ve got to tell you, this system works. If I had had two heavies I am sure I would have failed. As I am a guzzler, having just one drink probably wouldn’t have worked for me. So I love the system.

What’s a Schooner Then?

This is going to get a little bit confusing. Remember we have eight different territories/states and each has its own rules. Let’s start where I am in Queensland. A Schooner is 425 mL so it’s about three quarters of a pint and is probably the most common measurement that a typical Aussie man would ask for in a bar. Alternative measures are a pot, which sounds bigger but isn’t, it’s 285 mL. Or you could ask for a glass which would be 200 mL.

Over in New South Wales, schooners and glasses are the same but a pot is called a middie. In Victoria it is all the same as Queensland but in South Australia a glass becomes a butcher, a pot turns into the schooner and a pint is only 425 mL, which is a schooner in everybody else’s language.

In Western Australia a glass is a bobby, a pot is a glass and a schooner is a pot, according to some sources. But others say it works out the same as it is in Queensland except a pot is a middie as it is in New South Wales. That’s because in Western Australia a pot is 575 mL which is slightly more than a pint but close enough to be called a pint by all the English people who live there.

I am not making this up, it’s for real.

In Northern Territory a schooner is a schooner but a pot is a handle and a glass is a seven. Although another source tells me that a glass is a six not seven, because the seven is actually a pot and the handle is 425 mL which of course, in most other places is a schooner.

Stick with me on this, we only have Tasmania left to go.

In Tassie, just as in N.T. (probably) a glass is a seven. But a pot is a ten and a pint only 425 mL.

If it all appears confusing, throw this into the mix. No Aussie bloke worth his salt will go into a bottle-o and buy a four pack can of beer that is held together with some plastic loops around the top of the cans. He would buy a carton of beer. This is a box of 24 bottles or, sometimes, 30 cans of beer. And the size of those bottles or cans? 375 mL.

And that’s a measure that is not available in any of the pubs in any of the seven states/territories. But it’s what we drink around the home and at barbecues all the time and they are called stubbies (for bottles) and tinnies (for cans).

There. Told you I’d clear it all up. Now I need a pint!

And Now: The Weather.

If ever there was a day that could be regarded as the middle of winter here in Queensland, today is it. If ever there was a day that could be regarded as the height of summer in England, then today would fit too.

Summer vs Winter

Summer vs Winter

My thanks to Google for the info.  This is a feature I will be bringing to you each year, you lucky people. This is how it turned out last year. Although my blog hasn’t been going for that long, I did mention it halfway down a post I made about Surfers Paradise. Check it out, it’s no fluke.

Visa Assessment Service
{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Roger March 13, 2018, 6:56 pm |


    XXXX heavy is called Bitter because it started out in the 19th C. as as an English style bitter ale but somewhere along the way the brewers switched to lager yeast and brewing and changed the recipe, probably because the lager brewing process could be better controlled in the Brisbane heat. In fact, I think when my dad used to send me to the bottle-o in the early ’80s to buy a carton it was still called XXXX Bitter Ale even though it was a lager.

    Congrats to you and yours on becoming a citizen and on your blog.

    • BobinOz March 14, 2018, 5:24 pm |

      Is that right? I never knew. I’ve often wondered why they call it ‘Bitter’ when it really is a lager, now I know.

      Now the craft beers and microbreweries are doing so well with ales and IPAs, maybe they should consider bringing back their XXXX Bitter Ale and join the party.

      Thanks for the info Roger and for the kind words.

  • Matt July 6, 2014, 10:31 pm |

    Hi Bob,

    A good read but I don’t know who’s been feeding you that drivel about Tassie’s sizing.
    If you ask for a beer, you’ll get a pot (285ml), in some pubs it’s a half pint but I find it can be a risky measure to ask for as, if the barman is new and doesn’t hear you right, you might be served a full pint (which is no smaller than any mainland or English pint). Steins (1L) are starting to show up more regularly around the traps and 12oz are common at the fancy pubs too.

    • BobinOz July 13, 2014, 7:57 pm |

      I can’t remember where I got the info from now, it was a long time ago, but I know the problem from the other direction. When I first arrived in Queensland, by habit I would still ask for a pint and I would often be presented with a pot, one of the smallest glasses of beer I’ve ever seen.

      I soon got out of that habit 🙂 and learned to ask for a schooner in pubs that I knew did not sell pints. Even then I formed the habit of saying “pint” whilst making visual references with my hands to a very large glass indeed.

      No more mistakes.

  • Natasha November 1, 2013, 9:49 am |

    Hey – just stumbled across your post while looking for mls in beer sizes.

    Just to give you a little bit of info, Victoria, while having pots like QLD, tend not to serve schooners (you only come across them very rarely). We have pints which are the same size as a UK pint.

    I just moved to Canberra, so the amount of times I’ve asked for a pint and have been given a blank look – “do you want a schooner?”

    • BobinOz November 1, 2013, 2:28 pm |

      Hi Natasha

      Interesting, I wasn’t aware Victoria served pints, good to know. When I first arrived here I used to ask for a pint, but instead of getting a blank look which I would have probably preferred, I would get served a “pot”.

      I’d be looking at this miniscule measure of beer in a tiny glass and thinking “What’s that??”

      I soon got out the habit of asking for pints 🙂

      Cheers, Bob

      • Scott January 26, 2016, 12:07 am |

        QLD: pony – 5 oz, beer – 7 oz, pot – 10 oz, schooner – 15 oz. I helped run a pub in Qld in 1988 to 1992 and, let me tell you, MOST people drank 7s. I kid you not! A ten was for those who thought they were ‘big time’. Schooners were unheard of. No pints either and the bloke I was assisting was an ex-Pom! He was my dad.

        • BobinOz January 26, 2016, 12:13 am |

          Well 10 ounces is about half a pint, so 7 oz is closer to a third of a pint. That’s ridiculous! No chance of that beer getting warm is there?

  • Don December 28, 2012, 9:33 am |

    There is also the “Schmiddie” at 350ml ( or ~12 oz) which is between a Schooner and a Middie.

    • BobinOz January 2, 2013, 8:44 pm |

      I think that particular measure is a speciality of Canberra and Sydney, is that right? Going for a beer shouldn’t be this hard, should it? It won’t stop me going though 🙂

  • BobinOz October 27, 2010, 9:59 pm |

    Well thank you for clearing that up for us Mike. From now on in I can’t imagine anybody having any problem understanding any of the measures that are sold here in Australia.

    Although, your long neck, isn’t that a tallie? And yer middle/half pint, that’s a pot for sure, isn’t it?

    Look, for anyone who is still unsure, here’s something that always works. Just ask for a large beer. You can’t go wrong.

    Except in Darwin, but you’ll cope.

  • Mike October 26, 2010, 11:15 pm |

    I think you’ve over complicated it a little.
    In WA, which is all I’m familiar with it goes like this
    115ml – shetland
    140ml – pony
    170ml – bobbie/six
    200ml – glass
    285ml – middie/half pint
    425ml – schooner
    570ml – pint
    The reality is pubs will only serve beer as either a middie or a pint. If you were to ask for a schooner they’d give you a pint. If you asked for a half pint they’d tell you to **** Off back over east.
    Ponies are the only other option but only make an appearance in tasting trays when visiting microbreweries and the like.
    You also forgot to mention long necks @ 750ml and of course the classic Darwin Stubby at 2L

    • Scott January 24, 2016, 1:03 am |

      All good points. Very well said.

  • BobinOz December 7, 2009, 9:55 pm |

    Hi Gags

    Thanks for the compliment.

    I think you are probably right about the throwies thing, as far as what they are. They are definitely the kind of size that, on a hot Australian day, you’d easily throw down or “chuck down” your neck, as we English would probably say, in one go. Even I have begun to realise that pints are just too big in this climate, they get warm too fast unless you are racing.

    But I don’t think they disappeared because of the wider range of beers available, I think people simply realised it was more fun throwing down 375 mL than 250 mL.



  • Gags December 6, 2009, 11:48 am |

    Hi Bob,
    interesting site you’ve got here, congratulations!

    As to the “throwies” question, I’m not 100% certain but I believe it’s a shortening of the term ‘Throw Down’. I first saw these in NSW back in the early 80’s (Toohey’s I think), and you could very easily just open the lid and ‘throw ’em down’.
    Back in those days you didn’t have the choice of beers that you have today. Maybe that’s why they lost their popularity; too much inventory for the bottle shops with all the different bottle sizes.



  • Steve Povey August 7, 2009, 11:02 pm |

    Throwies are the 250ml small bottles, think i’ve only ever seen VB ones mind.
    I haven’t got a clue why they’re called ‘throwies’, i remember asking my aussie mate who always bought them but he didnt know either lol.
    My guess is that you take one big swig and its gone, so ya ‘throw’ it down after. Could be wrong though… maybe there’s an aussie here who can solve it for us!

    • BobinOz August 8, 2009, 12:56 am |

      Aah, that’s why I never heard of them, way too small. That’s in “I’ll just have ‘alf” territory. And if it were VB, I’d throw it before opening it. Yuk!

  • Steve Povey August 7, 2009, 8:42 pm |

    Haha, i’m sure they came up with all this lot just to confuse us poms! Easier to just order a large beer i’d say!

    Oh yeah, dont forget the ‘tallies’ and ‘throwies’ from the bottle-o too!

    • BobinOz August 7, 2009, 9:22 pm |

      Steve, I thought I’d nailed it, forgot about tallies. I’ll clear that up now for my other readers. It’s a tall bottle, hence the name. It’s a double stubbie – 750 mL.

      Throwies: I have no idea! I still have much to learn.

Leave a Comment

If your comment doesn’t get answered, find out why…..
FAQs and Comment Policy.