Duty can “Do One!”

To your every day regular beer drinker tomorrow, Saturday 1st October 2011, will be no doubt as any other, it will come and go and Saturday night drinking will be no doubt unremarkable. You will buy your regular pint, grab your normal change and carry on regardless.

But to anyone who likes something a little different, something special, like a Belgian Trappist, an Imperial IPA or Stout, or basically anything “speciality” of higher strength though it’s going to be a bad day at black rock… ūüė¶

All because of government legislation passed late last year, weakly excused as a way to cut down on binge drinking and the Tennants Super or Special Brew street drinking brigade:

Changes to the beer duty regime ‚Äď The review of alcohol taxation in November 2010¬†announced measures to encourage the consumption of lower strength beers. The Government¬†will introduce a new additional duty on beers over 7.5 per cent alcohol by volume (abv) in¬†strength at a rate of 25 per cent of general beer duty. This will add 25 pence to the price of¬†a can of ‚Äúsuper strength‚ÄĚ lager.

A reduced rate of 50 per cent of general beer duty will be introduced for beers of 2.8 per cent abv or below and above 1.2 per cent abv in strength. This will reduce the price of a pint of beer at 2.8 per cent abv by 18 pence. These changes will come into effect from 1 October 2011. (Finance Bill 2011)

There have been a few debates flying around as the day of reckoning approaches, some supporting the change, some dead against as put so very well on Ghost Drinkers blog (to whom I owe homage as to the main influence to put finger to keyboard here) and finally some with complete indifference.

The thing is though regardless of which side of the camp you are on, should we just accept it, let it pass unremarked? After all it’s high strength now, but what’s next???

OK, I concede that generally most folk don’t drink beer of 7.5% regularly or should I say all the time.

When I go to the pub I’ll drink a 3.5% session bitter, mild or pale ale without issue as long as it’s tasty and refreshing. But sometimes at last orders or maybe midweek sitting at home or even when I just fancy something special, it’s usually the opposite. At these moments I want a beer to knock my socks off, not just in terms of alcoholic strength, I want depth and complexity of flavour too, something to savour..

There is an argument that if you are affluent enough to afford such luxuries, then you shouldn’t mind paying an extra 50p here and there for the privilege.

I say “I pay quite enough thank you” and in doing so help the British brewing and beer industries. Even if it’s a foreign import I still do my bit for the economy in terms of trade and duties too.

On the flip side though there is another side to that argument, what if you are not in a position to afford them, or can afford them rarely. Surely this will drive more people away and make them difficult for our beer establishments to stock, just when good beer is suddenly an exciting industry again with brewers trying more and more to tempt our palates with exotic tasty brews.

Tsar pic courtesy of Neil at Eating Isn’t Cheating

So to make my own personal stand I’ve written to my MP to express my discontent and ask a few questions.

I understand that in the grand scheme of things it may be a feeble, pointless exersize. I’m sure too that many of you could have put it a lot more eloquently than I, plus no doubt have included some inside industry insight, but it’s my point and at least it’s said..

I’ve copied a link to it below, it may draw scorn from some quarters (although I hope not), I really hope it drives debate and discussion. But most of all I hope it drives you to do likewise and let the powers that be know you are not happy.

It’s easy to do and can be as short and direct or long winded and detailed as you like, just click HERE, type your postcode and your MP’s contact details will appear with a link allowing you to say your piece..

Whatever you do, find out when your local retailer be it pub, supermarket or specialist beer store is putting up the prices and fill your boots. Lets make this not just a party as Ghost Drinker suggests, make it a full week of indulgence..


You can read my letter by following this link!

Naked Beer anyone?

I was given the opportunity on Friday to join the judging panel for the Nantwich CAMRA Beer Festival Champion Beer of Cheshire.

Approaching the day I was really excited about the prospect, as it was something I’ve wanted to do for a good while.¬†I also was I have to admit, a little scared about what was to come (#judgedredd¬†as¬†Broadford¬†Brewer¬†quite rightly put it), as selfishly it’s a test surely of¬†one’s ability to¬†seek out¬†flavours and aromas in public arena, or at least I thought it would be.

It’s more than that though, it has a deeper importance, you are forming part of what will beer the final decision that could be a real boost to a brewery, casting a vote on their pride and joy and ultimately their livelihood. After all, what if one of these anonymous beers went onto be¬†voted as Champion Beer of Britain?

For anyone who has not seen or been involved in this type of thing, to set the scene youare sat¬†around a table with a sort of mini Chairman who leads you. It’s¬†that persons job¬†to prepare you¬†as to¬†what’s to come, beer styles, the criteria you¬†are expected¬†to pass judgement on and the rationale behind the marking system.

When the beer finally arrives you¬†are told¬†only what style it is, Best Bitter for example and what the¬†ABV¬†should fall between. From there on in it’s your job to mark the beer out of ten for¬†each of¬†the four categories:


What is really strange about tasting beer in this way is how different it becomes when the beer is stripped bare, naked as the day it was first given life by the master brewer.

You have no flashy branding, quirky pump clips or labels.

You cannot refer to any previous experiences you may have had with either that particular beer or the brewery it came from and therefore no preconceptions on which to base your decision.

It’s just beer, in a plain glass and you‚Ķ.