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21st March 2012

Budget reaction from Bath Ales

So the price of a pint in your local goes up again … oh well, as inevitable as night follows day.

The Beer Duty rise announced in the Budget Statement, although widely predicted is unfair to brewers, to pubs, to pub customers, beer drinkers and to all of us that live relatively modestly and enjoy simple pleasures.

Brewers and beer lovers help bailout the banks, chip in to fund Quantative Easing and generally do our bit to help re-jig the British and World economy – and Beer Duty continues to increase no matter what.

I cannot remember when Beer Duty was left alone – or god forbid – was reduced and we have been brewing for 27 years.

We now have the dubious honour to be top of the European League with the most expensive Beer Duty in Europe (except for the brewing minnows of Finland).  Germany produces twice as much beer as the UK and yet our Government takes eight times as much in duty – other countries support their brewing industries.*

In my view the hike in Beer Duty is simply unjust in the context of how brewers and pub operators have been hit year after year.

The dreaded ‘Duty Escalator’ has much to answer for. Affecting all alcohol it is an automatic, built-in increase above inflation – every year, no questions asked. How can that be?

Duty on a pint has increased over 40% over the last 6 -7 years and beer volumes have fallen as the prices have increased.

It was tough enough for brewers with changing drinking and social trends and with different duty regimes for other drinks that are less punitive.

Hitting people who want to enjoy a drink in a pub, over and over again is dull and eventually dull economics.

Higher prices mean lower sales and less money into Treasury coffers – a triple-whammy where everyone loses – sensible drinkers, responsible producers and the Government.

The present duty regime is, to me, especially unfair on beer and the advantages for other drinks is switching consumption – for our business and a proud brewing heritage that is real concern.

It is also driving drinkers out of pubs, yet pubs remain the only place where alcohol consumption is supervised by trained staff.

Hence Government policy on duty is contributing to ‘pre-loading’ and a binge culture of drinking to excess.

So if the Chancellor wants to support this successful small(ish) business and many more besides and do himself a favour – scrap the Duty Escalator, give beer a break and we will gladly pay our way.