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.
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).