Beer duty – time to drop it, Darling?

August 9, 2009 at 20:38 (News commentary, Pub industry) (, , , , , , , )

The British Broadcasting Corporation – what a fuck off piece of British engineering.

Just look at the damn thing, fantastic website, unparalleled news channel, cracking radio array, wonderful thought provoking BBC2/4 dramas that regularly gives a quick peek of nipple, but in an artistic manner that allows us to counter the old “you’re a dirty perv” charge. Honestly, Id marry the Beeb if I wasn’t already set on wedding Jennifer Ellison, once the court order has been lifted.

This week the BBC Online’s magazine  section turfed up an excellent piece, no doubt sponsored by CAMRA‘s press office, looking at the latter’s call for cuts in the UK’s extortionate beer duties on low alcohol brews. The argument is blissfully simple. New competition laws from the EU allow member states to fiddle about more with their duties, the upshot being that our Thunderbird Chancellor, Alistair Darling, could scrap them altogether on beers that come in below 2.8%. This according to CAMRA would knock 60p off the average pint.

The cut could potentially give a swift kick in the balls to a host of problems – it’ll make guzzling less expensive for the consumer, draw a new group of people to ales, support the UK’s struggling pint industry and, Christ on a bike, even satisfy the health lobby, as this quote from Alcohol Concern demonstrates:

“Having more lower strength drinks on the market allows people to enjoy a night out while making it easier to stay within safe drinking guidelines,” says the charity’s chief executive, Don Shenke

But then just before I reach a lathering climax in pops a couple of ugly munters to reduce me back to flaccid – or apparently so anyway.

The article goes on at great length to pour water on the potential for low alcohols to take off with Joe Public. Partly this is because the lager efforts mostly taste shite, and I’m afraid I agree with that. Have you tried C2 from Carling for example? No? Well fucking don’t, its watered down water that has been sieved through some more water. None of the other low lagers are much better and they’ve been this way since they were dreamed up in the 80s. This has left the whole enterprise with a significant image problem even though we are all supposed to be cutting out fags, kebabs, condensed crack and glue sniffing in these health fascist times.

However, this is surely only part of the picture. For a start while Id rather drink my grandmothers colostomy bag than have a Stella light or whatever its called – ales and bitters are a different matter. As CAMRA’s own findings show people are much more up for these kind of tipples (55% apparently) and therefore it is very simplistic to say there is not a market for low alcohol stuff. Besides, despite the hindrance of the lagers being a load of donkey testicles, there is evidence that this small market is growing, if at a slugs pace.

Of course, I’m not saying everyone will take to low alcohol brews and while the lager market remains dominated by crap tasting lagers, millions will be switched off. But the more fruity and fuller ale market has some real potential that could be unleashed by Darling being a gent, taking the EU up and cutting its beer duties. Doing so would tick all the boxes – health, industry, job and good old fairness.

So come on Virgil, do us and small brewers a favour – cut the bloody tax.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The end of the British pub industry – pubs to blame?

July 30, 2009 at 21:43 (News commentary, Pub industry) (, , )

I was in my silk dressing gown this morning, enjoying a dawn pick me up of yager bomber and last night’s reheated smack*, when I surfed across the latest depressing figures from the BBPA about the state of the British pub industry.

 The facts are as hideous as a Bulgarian pin up. 52 pubs going under each week. 24,000 buxom barmaids and buck teethed bar men on the dole. A total of £1.53 million added to the tax bill from the accompanying fall out.

Awful stuff on face value, so upsetting I almost dropped my crack pipe. Rising above it all is the horrible spectre articulated by the news hub Ananova – which I initially thought was a pornstar’s website – in short, are we seeing the end of the great British pub? And if so what is the cause? The dirty smoking ban that got so many people in a lather on the Times typically hysterical comment thread?

I do despise that whining idiot Michael Winner – a man who looks like he’s been fashioned out of play doh by a blind child – but to borrow a line from his suicide inducing commercials, calm down dear.

The figures are not good and clearly there are problems. Liberal Conspiracy put together an interesting article on the monopoly system in the pub industry – damning stuff, though Ill be honest I don’t understand half of it. Must have been off school the day they did advanced marco-pub finance across sectoral market divides.  We are also in a recession and hence it was inevitable that there would be some blood on the brewery floor – the economic downturn is a dirty bitch that affects us all.

Ultimately, though, while all this is woe – including the government’s daft beer duties which require you to remortgage your house to buy a G&T – the fact is there are clear cultural changes at play which I’m afraid a lot of pubs only have themselves to blame for not following.

Im a man who likes the traditional pub – roaring fires, beardy ales, brass ornaments, wood panelling, barmaids with jugs you could park a bike in – that sort of thing. And I fervently despise the chain wank that infests our green and pleasant land, just have a gander at my recent review of the sloppy turd that is All Bar One near Tower Bridge.

But the fact is the chain’s are doing well because theyre catering for where the market is in the drinking world we now live in. They produce reasonable food in a family environment with lots of deals and an assortment of targeted tipples served by well trained staff.

Now I can sense that youve got an urge to cover your monitor in vomit after reading that last para. Truth be told I myself have just chucked a bit of sick over my crotch.

But, however unpleasant it is, the truth is that there are not enough people wanting to go to sawdust and spit pubs anymore. The Korean war has finished, we have colour TVs and we don’t live in 1954. People don’t on the whole do 18 hour shifts in steel factories and then want to go to a smoke filled cubby hole every night rather than face the sour faced trout in their one bedroom house who they’ve been spunking kids out of since they were 17. Britain has changed and to be honest Ive been in plenty of run down, poorly managed shit holes with no fucking invention or creativity that are stuck in a crap lined time warp.

When I look at the 52 pubs figure I see maybe three decent pubs going down the pan out of that number – the rest are probably boozers I wouldn’t leave my dog or my mother in law in.

That isn’t to say we all need to strip naked, paint our arseholes blue and run round the totem pole of Weatherspoons. There is a market for this shit and fair enough, but there is also clearly a market for pubs with character. Whether it’s the Ribs of Beef in Norwich or the Windsor Castle in Marble Arch – do it right and they will turn up, hand over coins and keep you going.

Im sure there are plenty of people who’ll disagree with this. Fair enough, but what’s your answer? Bring in restrictive tenancy laws against chain pubs that will be shot to pieces – quite rightly – by European competition laws? Subsidise the pub industry? And where is that money going to come from, the Pound fairy?

* This is a flippant comment and I am not in anyway endorsing the use of illegal drugs. I myself have only been spaced out once and that was down to misjudging a dose of cough medicine.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment