Wednesday, 1 December 2010

beer duty and binge drinking - it's all our fault


The Government's latest attempt to tackle the twin evils of binge drinking and anti-social behaviour has just been announced and on first inspection it appears to be a misguided and ill judged piece of legislation that will not solve these problems but instead could potentially seriously hinder the growing niche market of innovative craft beers and brewers making quality high abv beer.

The Con-Dem's plans include the raising of duty on beers stronger than 7.5% and a lowering of duty on beers below 2.8%. The actual level of duty for both categories will not be announced until the Spring but a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that it will be set at a level which will influence drinkers behaviour. This can be taken to read that the level will be high and punitive.

This policy is misguided because it fails to tackle the alcoholic cause of binge drinking and anti social behaviour which is not gangs of young people hanging around swing parks drinking Brewdog's 9.2% Hardcore IPA or Kernel's 7.7%  S.C.A.NS IPA. What they are drinking is the usual mass market multinational beer stacked high and sold cheap in supermarkets and bargain booze shops. We all know the ones I mean and this legislation allows these manufacturers and retailers to skip their social responsibility.

 It would be interesting to find out how much money has been given by these vested interests in political donations and sponsorships to the coalition partners in the last few years. It is also interesting that the Conservative's election pledge of banning the sale by supermarkets of beer below cost price as a loss leader has been kicked into the long grass for the next few years. It seems the intense lobbying by these vested interests has worked pretty much in their favour.

So, while socially responsible craft beer drinkers and brewers pay the price in the name of public health and peaceful behaviour, hordes of  party animals and park dwellers will still be able to overload their trolleys with slabs of horrendously cheap cooking lager and chemical cider and get ridiculously drunk.

It now seems that society's problems are all the fault of some beer geeks that enjoy a quality, well made beverage every now and again.


  1. horrendously cheap cooking lager, there is no finer beverage.

  2. I wonder how many brewers will start making 7.4% abv beers packed with flavour and complexity?

    On the wider issue though, you are entirely right - binge drinking has never been a beer problem. When I worked in a wee Mace shop in Fortrose, Friday nights always followed the same routine. All the under age kids come in, buy a cup drink and a 2 litre bottle of Cola/Sprite/Mixer of choice, and a few sweeties. A bit later the older kids come in an buy 2 litre bottles of vodka, always vodka. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what was going on. Buckfast was also quite popular, as was White Lightning and Diamond White.

    Never once did I sell cans of Tennent's Super to any of these kids - though a fair few of the older alcies would come in, get a 6 pack of Super, a bottle of gut rot whisky and a packet of Alka Seltzer.

  3. @ Velky Al
    The increase in the duty on tennent's super wont put the Alkies off either. They will either stump up the extra cash or move on to summat else cheaper. It's a law of unintended consequences that punishes the drinker that likes a nice bottle of well made and tasty high abv beer every once in a while whilst allowing those who cause the problems to continue as they previously have done.

  4. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Tennent's Super and Special Brew got reformulated to 7.5% in response. So really only quality beers would be punished.

  5. As usual, when it comes to regulating the drinks market the government is way off the mark. They need to look deeper at the causes of alcohol abuse rather than taking the easy option of piling on tax - which doesn't work. The report says that alcohol consumption has fallen since 2004 but alcohol related hospital admissions have risen ie. the responsible are drinking less (and they were never a problem) but the "hazardous" drinkers are drinking more!! Surely the opposite of what was intended and a sure sign their strategy of price increases isn't working