Sunday 25 March 2012

Why is a Home Brewer Blogging About the Beer Duty Escalator.

It's been a while since I last blogged; it doesn't mean I've been quiet on the homebrew front, rather I've been really busy with the day job. 

Since the last post I've brewed another Red Rye ale and a pale ale with Citra and Amarillo (using up the last of the hops I bought last year). I'm brewing my first attempt at a Black IPA, or Indian Black, Cascadian Dark or whatever the hell you want to call it; I'm really not concerned about getting into beer style semantics, it's a waste of oxygen for me. 

What's concerned me of late is the impact of the Beer Duty Escalator in the budget on pubs and beer drinkers. I'm not really concerned about whether or not the chancellor of the exchequer has obfuscated the truth over whether or not there has been a beer duty increase but implore you to read this article by Pete Brown, a much better informed commentator than I. But be very clear, the BDE is bad for the brewer, the publican and the punter. 

I'll be honest, until recently I didn't give a toss about beer duty. All that concerned me was that I was able to afford a pint. I stopped being able to afford pub beer many years ago ergo I bought my beer from supermarkets. Then, when affording that became difficult, I switched to home brewing. 

I'm not anti pub, far from it. I worked in one for six years while the kids were growing up (my wife worked full time and we needed the extra money four shifts a week behind the jump offered) and before that, as a journalist, the pub was the main source of potential stories. Pubs and local newspapers have a lot in common, not least that both are at the heart of the community and both are in a terminal decline. What happens to the community if both cease to exist? Can we afford to let it happen?

Largely thanks to Progressive Beer Duty, there's been an explosion in micros in the last 10 years. Yet, as far as I can see, the number of pubs closing has never been higher. So, unless the pubs that are closing are, for the most part,  tied houses, the market for these micros is shrinking. If I were a microbrewer in 2012, unless I had a unique selling proposition, I'd be bricking it.

I'm not massively interested in the world of the macro brewer, pubco or tied house but the mid sized and  small folk who make artisanal product is what Britain has been about since before the industrial revolution and they need every break they can get. What they do not need is inaction from a government who is supposed to champion the entrepreneur. 

Which is why I ask you to sign this. Even if you don't like beer (in which case why are you even reading my blog?) or don't like pubs, you surely recognise the need that the community has need to the pub and the pub has need of the brewer. If this petition reaches 100,000 it has to be discussed in parliament. There's a long way to go.