Plans for a law forcing licensees to serve a 100 per cent liquid pint could be scrapped following objections by a government watchdog.
Insiders have revealed that members of The Better Regulation Task Force expressed concern over the new regulations at a meeting held in Westminster last week.
The panel was due to rubber stamp the proposals, which would require licensees to serve full pints, and could force many to introduce oversized glasses.
Instead the issue has been referred for further discussion with the Department of Trade and Industry and the pub trade.
The proposals, due to come into force in April, met with widespread opposition from the trade when they were unveiled before Christmas.
Last week's meeting follows public criticism of the plans by task force leader Lord Haskins who told the House of Lords in December that the idea was "patently absurd".
Haskins described the proposals as "disproportionate" to the number of complaints from consumers.
Although task force recommendations are not legally binding, insiders say his comments and doubts over enforcement could lead ministers to scrap the idea.
The estimated cost to the industry would be £500million, including the new glassware and beer lost through overfilling.
Customers in many parts of the country like their beer served with a head and pubs will have to introduce oversized lined glasses to accommodate them.
A spokesman for Lord Haskins' office said he had spoken about his personal views but the task force would be reserving judgement until it had considered both sides.
Pub operator JD Wetherspoon made an unsuccessful attempt to introduce oversized glasses in 1998. Many customers complained they were being short-measured because the beer did not reach the top of the glass - whereas they were actually receiving the full measure in a larger glass.
Wetherspoon's managing director John Hutson said: "I think over time the cost to the industry would be passed on to the consumer in the price of the pint. It cost us about £1million in terms of additional stock and I think that is disproportionate to the benefit to the customer."
In 1991 the government received only 23 complaints related to short measures out of 256million pints drunk.
Mark Hastings, spokesman for the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association, said: "We believe this is a classic case of unnecessary regulation."
Most pubs already operate within the best practice recommendation of a minimum 98 per cent liquid.
The new regulations mean trading standards officers could prosecute licensees who did not serve an average of 100 per cent liquid following tests on 20 pints.