The budget has come and gone and, as expected, it's left the brewing industry counting the cost of further punitive rises in the price of making and buying a pint. No change from the Chancellor on the previous Labour policy but it does leave an increase of 7.2% more in beer duty following Osborne's budget which retained the beer tax escalator.
You would expect condemnation from all sections of the brewing industry. And there has been. The Society of Independent Brewers, SIBA has called it "a real kick in the teeth to the local brewing sector". The British Beer and Pub Association called it a "hammer blow to pubs and clubs" which "hampers growth". CAMRA called it "incredible" that British Beer drinkers have to "endure the second highest rate of beer tax in Europe".
However, some people in the brewing industry came out in support of the retention of the tax escalator. Brewdog's James Watt said, "At BrewDog we wholeheartedly back the rise in the duty on beer," Watt went on "The faceless, monolithic corporations who cowardly discount their supposedly ‘premium’ industrially brewed lagers are slowly suffocating the UK beer industry. The increase in duty can only make it less profitable for them to sell their beers at completely irresponsible prices and decrease the huge impact this has on society as a whole. As part of a society and a community they have a responsibility to people, which they have been ignoring for far too long in the name of profits and corporate greed."
"Yes, the increase in duty will make beer, including BrewDog products, more expensive, but we feel this will help craft beer continue to carve a more significant position in the industry. If someone has to pay slightly more for their beer, they expect more from it – any industrial, chemical ridden, insipid mass-market lager will only leave them disappointed." Watt said.
BrewDog also feel that the increase in duty will help "catalyse" the "UK craft beer revolution".
Eh? Run that by me again. By making beer more expensive, it will encourage more people to put their hands in their pocket and buy more beer?
Does Watt really think that beer is a product with price elasticity similar to a Giffen Good - a good which people consume more of as the price rises?
What planet is he on?
Since 2008 the price of beer has increased by more than 30%. The price of a pint has never been higher and people's incomes in these tight fiscal times have never been more stretched. Increasing the price further will surely lead to more people cutting back on their trips to the pub. This has the consequence of more breweries and pubs going to the wall and jobs being lost.
But, hey, as long as it helps the "UK craft beer revolution' and gets BrewDog some newspaper column inches along the way, that's ok then?