Will a Massive Beer Tax Crush British Pub Culture?
"Later today, the Chancellor George Osborne, is set to announce the new Budget and along with that will be an increase in beer tax of around 7%. The beer duty escalator, set in place by the previous government, is set to lead to an increase of the Retail Price Index (RPI) percentage plus two per cent."This is just the most recent in what is a shockingly precipitous rise in beer taxes:
"The recent VAT increase, 6p per pint, has followed a 26% increase in beer duty since 2008. With the current high rate of inflation the sector is facing a further 7.1% beer tax increase this month. This would result in beer duty having increased by 35% in three years."
And: "The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) attacked the Chancellor's decision to impose a "damaging" 7.2% increase in beer duty, saying that the average duty and VAT on a pub pint will now exceed £1."
The effects, of course, are catastrophic. In an effort to save money, people are staying home and drinking packaged beer, leading to a failure rate of British pubs in the thousands (currently, 25 close every week). Failing pubs means job losses--ten thousand alone are the predicted result of this latest tax hike.
Bizarrely, it will almost certainly result in lower tax revenues as well, as drinkers consume less. And herein lies the effect of law on beer. For centuries, pubs have played a major role in the life of British communities. Britons have exchanged their passions over the course of time--porter to Burton ale to mild, bitter, and finally lager--but they've never abandoned the way they drink beer. It's not an exaggeration to say that the vibrancy of British beer depends on the primacy of the local pub. Remove it and beware the effect on beer and brewing.
If you look carefully at the dense batting of clouds mounding in the skies, however, you will see one tiny shimmer of silver:
"However the Government does deserve credit for the 50% reduced rate for beers below 2.8% abv. It will act as a spur to innovation in what is a vital UK industry, and over time, should help nudge consumers towards lower-strength drinks.
This is useful because the only breweries producing beer that weak will be local. It further demonstrates the power of law to shape styles. Will we henceforth have a beer called a mild mild? (By offering a boon only to beer barely stronger than Fanta, it also reveals the anti-alcohol agenda embroidered into this whole debate.)
We do not have a surfeit of locations with rich beer culture on the planet. It pains me to see one of the best deliberately trying to abandon a proud national heritage.