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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Don’t be fooled

I’m writing this just after hearing the budget and talk of alcohol duty.

It’s being widely reported that there is no change to alcohol duty.

What they actually mean is there is no change to duty policies in place. The beer duty escalator (BDE) in means that until 2015, beer duty will rise at 2% above inflation every year.

So, to all those reading that there are ‘no changes’ who aren’t aware of the beer duty escalator, you’re likely to be handed a 5.4% rise in the price of a pint from tomorrow, not exactly great reporting. Imagine having to explain to your customers that yes, there was ‘no change’, but actually that’s just ‘no change in policy’ so now there is a 5.4% rise, and no, you’re not making more money from them.

Once again, putting the squeeze on the public, publicans and brewers.

I wrote to my own MP about the BDE, and she basically told me that the revenue made from excise duty is needed, but the government make it easier to let bands play in a pub or communities can step in and take over struggling pubs. Missing the point as ever there Chloe.

What she’s failing to realise is why these pubs are failing in the first place. I’m sure we all have our own opinions on why this is, and I wont bore you with my views.

As I’ve said many a time, we’re not going to be the last brewery to stop production this year, and this latest duty hike might just make a few more decide to close the doors.

There is something you can do about it though…. sign the E-petition. It doesn’t guarantee change, but just sitting there complaining wont change anything either.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29664

Summer is Coming

Well not quite, but it’s the one of the first really sunny days and it’s warm and just perfect for lazing about in a pub beer garden all afternoon. I got to thinking as to which are my favourite summer beers.

I want something light, at least in taste, crisp and refreshing, and preferably something that I can have a couple of pints of. Nothing too strong then, there’s something about drinking in the sun that seems to make you merry at a much more alarming rate than in the evening. Not sure why, or if it’s just my perception, but it seems that way.

Anyway to the beers:

Green Jack Summer Dream 4%  From their website: ‘The Summer Dream is a pale summer ale, floral, dry and hoppy brewed with hand picked elderflowers from the hedgerows of Norfolk and Suffolk. Our most popular seasonal brew can be ready in May if we have a warm spring or June if its cold and is available till the end of September. Huge aroma of Summertime!’

It’s a lovely brew, nicely aromatic and delicate taste. The only thing is that obviously, it’s not available all year round, sadly, so I wont be enjoying a pint this afternoon.

 

Oakham Ales JHB 3.8% From their website ‘A golden beer whose aroma is dominated by hops that give characteristic citrus notes. Hops and fruit on the palate are balanced by malt and a bitter base. Dry, hoppy finish with soft fruit flavours.’

Nice and crisp, refreshing too. It’s a permanent line, so no waiting until June to get my sticky mitts on this one.

 

Fyne Ales Jarl 3.8% ‘A full-on citrus experience. Light and golden, a perfect ale for whiling away the hours at any time.’

Lovely aroma, well balanced, refreshing grapefruit tang.

 

Hop Back Summer Lightning 5.0% ‘A trendsetter in the brewing industry; the original Summer ale brewed all year round. An extremely pleasant bitter, straw coloured beer with a terrific fresh, hoppy aroma. This, coupled with an intense bitterness, leads to an excellent long, dry finish. Probably the beer to receive the most awards in Britain!’

Probably on the strong side for a few in the sun, but one of the beers I enjoy at any time really. Taiphoon is also a great beer, and with the lemongrass and coriander hints, perfect for beer garden weather.

 

I’m still searching for the perfect wheat beer to enjoy in the sun, we made a one-off raspberry wheat beer that was dry and delicious, I find some too sweet if they have fruit, or a bit too similar to Hoegaarden to be very original. I like wheat beer to be cloudy, I don’t know why, I find the clear ones to be a bit of a cop out really. What’s the point in calling your beer a wheat one if it’s not the main grain (or at least a good % in it)?

I’d like to know what your favourite summer beers are, whether they’re ones your brew yourself, from a tiny micro near you, or something so mainstream that you can pick it up in any supermarket.

Happy sunshine drinking!

Don’t snuff out the green shoots

As you probably realise, brewing is pretty close to my heart. I love the beers that this country produces. What I don’t love, is the way that this vibrant and growing industry (yes one of the few we have left) is being taxed out of existence by this and previous governments. Contrary to popular belief, brewers do not make a lot of money. Even those who produce high ABV beers that are more expensive aren’t making much, such is the duty and taxation system in place.

There are many e-petitions around at the moment, this one urging you to sign up to stop the Beer Duty Escalator, and here another one urging the government to drop the higher rate of tax on beers brewed at 7.5% ABV or higher. Why so many? Well, simply put, the government needs money. We all know that. Brewing is seen to be doing well. Even though pubs are still struggling, more and more breweries are opening around the UK, over 840 exist already. (according to Quaffale there are 30 or so opening soon), anecdotally I have heard of 6 in Norfolk alone planned for this year. So, easy target? Maybe.

Northcote isn’t the only brewery to have closed this year. I am damn sure we wont be the last. The existing breweries and the pubs they serve will end up being squeezed out of existence with all these hikes in duty and taxation, the duty escalator will not stop. And let’s not forget, duty isn’t the only extra cost faced. The raw ingredient costs are rising, not to mention energy and transport. These can’t be that easily absorbed in an already stretched brewery, small or otherwise. Pubs are having a hard time, they don’t want to pay more for beer, and have to put that costs onto their customers. The consumer doesn’t want to pay more for their pint  – many are pushing £3 as it is for a ~3.8%. And let’s be honest, there are only so many free houses and beer bars that can support local breweries or those that produce stronger or different from the norm beers. The larger and regional breweries are struggling, having to discount so heavily as to make their beer virtually profitless. This simply can not carry on.

I know this is all painting a very grim picture of the future. I’m trying not to come across as a panic merchant. Perhaps being an armchair warrior isn’t going to make a jot of difference. But signing these petitions is a start. Nothing will change either if we scoff at them, and least you will have given the matter more than a few seconds thought. By signing them you’re showing your support for the vibrant and diverse brewing industry that exists in this country. Don’t let it be taxed out of existence. Let these new and existing breweries have a chance, let’s have an industry to be proud of and that is truly supported by those in power. Let those tiny green shoot grow. Please.

Stop the Beer Duty Escalator.

Drop the 7.5% Duty Rate (although this one was designed to prevent the duty hike coming in, if there’s enough support it could help revert it).

The untrendy pint

Last night, I went to one of my local pubs, they do a great tapas night on the first Thursday of the month. The food was great, as it always is, Sally has lived in Spain, and creates some lovely authentic dishes at very reasonably. But that’s not really the point of this post. I was struck by a couple of beers that were available. First was Adnams Oyster Stout, it was in great condition, and was tasting fantastic. It has everything I enjoy in a stout, the rich coffee flavours, the creamy thick mouthfeel, just a superb pint. The second was Crouch Vale Brewers Gold which again was perfect, crystal clear and with a fabulous aroma. I tweeted that it had a lovely ‘nose’ and then that it made me sound such a beer snob using that kind of phrase.

It sparked an interesting conversation that Crouch Vale weren’t really trendy enough to make me sound like a beer snob. We don’t really get that many ‘trendy’ breweries beers available in Norfolk, it’s quite a conservative brewing county. That’s not to say the beers aren’t good, they can be great, but they’re just not setting the beer geek world alight. We get a few offerings from Thornbridge and Dark Star, but nothing from the likes of Hardknott, Magic Rock or Kernel at any rate. I do love trying new beers, and the ones I’ve tried elsewhere from these  breweries have been fantastic. However, when at home if I want a consistently great pint, then I know I’ll get that from breweries such as Crouch Vale, certainly in the pubs I drink in.

When it comes to a thirst quenching pint of something golden in the beer garden, a dark and rich beer next to the open fire, or something bitter to go with a pack of pork scratchings, quite often the untrendy pint suits me just fine.