I hate getting angry and negative – I really do. And I don’t want to bring anyone down but there is no silver lining in this news.
The government has introduced High Strength Beer Duty (HSBD) for beer at 7.5% and above. It is not a small tax, and is designed to combat binge drinking. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never seen anyone sat on a park bench necking bottles of Duvel, Lost Abbey, or JJJ and getting into trouble. The culprits are the usual suspects – alcopop, cider and vodka. Where was CAMRA when the tax was going through government? How is it that a proposed cider tax not long ago was abandoned due to public pressure, but beer is hammered yet again? I could go on about the anger that is reverberating around the industry but I am afraid it will do little good.
How does it impact us? Old Freddy Walker had a bottle strength of 7.5%. It will have a bottle strength of 7.4% going forward. That scraped by – just. Fusion – there are no barrels available this year anyway to produce a 2011 Vintage (hugely disappointing!), but in the future the price will go up – considerably. I expect a bottle will retail between £15 – £20 when the next vintage is released. Sloe Walker – the sloes are picked, and you’d better drink it slowly when it’s released as a pint will put you back enough to leave you needing a drink. Grockle Grog – it was nice knowing you. JJJ IPA – many peoples’ favourite beer. We will suspend production of it for the UK market. We just released the last bottling run in September – most of which we sent for export where beer duty is not paid. Future beers -nothing above 7.4%, I’m afraid – at least not that you’ll get in the UK. So much for that wonderful Imperial Stout we had lined up.
We will certainly not be the only brewery responding in this way. I’ve already heard the same from others. You can fully expect the fantastic momentum built up in the past few years with British craft brewing to come to a grinding halt. And those simple luxury imports from Belgium, America, Denmark, Italy, etc. will need to be fit for a king because only royalty will be able to afford them. How will this impact the binge drinking morons? They will be unaffected, as they wouldn’t know what a quality beer was if it got given to them on a benefit-plated platter and will continue to remain ignorant trouble makers fueled with cheap cider, alcopops, wine and spirits.
Some may point to the 2.8% beer as the silver lining – most likely the same people that honestly believe a mild is the best Britain has to offer. And before you go on the attack I love mild. I just wouldn’t hold it up to the rest of the world as the best we can produce and consequently can’t fathom (apart from political posturing) how a mild can justifiably win Champion Beer of Britain – but that is another topic.
There are a multitude of reasons why 2.8%- beers won’t compensate for the loss of 7.5%+ beers. I am not surprised that a super-regional brewer who tries to pass off a 3.6% beer as “IPA” jumped at another misled marketing opportunity. I am very disappointed that CAMRA rolled over and took it, asking for more, rather than vigorously defending high strength beers.
If this makes you angry as well than do something about it. Lobby your MP. Protest. Drag CAMRA out of the 19th century and into the 21st or it will go the way of Society for Preservation of Beer From the Wood – out dated and irrelevant. There are splinter organisations being founded because many people feel that CAMRA has already hit the ropes. I would prefer a unified organisation CAMPAIGNING for quality BEER – not navel gazing about dispense method, cider, real fires, or some other antiquated fringe topic. These are of course my personal frustrations, but I am making them known as there are a number of drinkers, retailers, and brewers saying exactly the same thing. HSBD was the first real threat to beer drinking in the UK for decades, and frankly CAMRA watched it go past without a care in the world. SIBA did little better and needs an equally large kick up the backside.
Britain started the 21st century with phenomenal success in breweries, beer styles, events, etc. There is a real danger that it will fall as fast as it rose if we all don’t band together and tackle the real issues. You can either sit back in 10 years’ time enjoying a great beer and saying you helped make it happen, or you can reminisce about the good old days. The choice is yours.
As the song says, “If I offended you then maybe you needed to be offended.” If not, this is your call to action. Let’s unite and stop this!
You can read a bit more here.