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.

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