Tag Archives: Real ale

The Government’s decision to implement a breathtaking 7.2% increase in beer duty is outrageous

Community pubs like the royal oak in bath may be a thing of the past if the beer tax continues to rise

The Government’s decision to implement a breathtaking 7.2% increase in beer duty is outrageous. This takes the average duty and VAT on a pint in a local pub to over £1. We now have the second highest rate of beer tax in Europe! It is simply not acceptable. The “beer escalator” commits the Government to increasing beer tax above inflation and to the wrong policy path.

Take Bath as a case in point, nearly 2,000 people depend on Beer and pubs for work and the industry contributes over £22.7 million to the local economy every year. If it continues to shrink in the manner it currently is, local economies such as Bath’s will be severely hit. At a time of recession, this tax seems to be the opposite of what the struggling industry needs.

Equally, this extra tax will do nothing to stop the irresponsible drinker but do everything to hit the responsible pub goer. It will add on 10p to every pint in the pub, while the Government’s much talked about minimum pricing of alcohol will cap supermarket booze at a price that wouldn’t deter the stingiest of consumers. It is ludicrous to allow cheap supermarket booze, whilst taxing pub goers “for health reasons” at the same time. These measures penalise the majority of responsible pub goers whilst failing to tackle the heart of the problem which remains the question of why people consume such vast amounts of alcohol (often at home not in pubs).

At a time when 37 pubs are closing down every week in the UK, we need to be supporting these centres of our community, not putting them out of business. Where do Cameron and Osborne expect the big society to meet…the local Scout hut?

SIBA chairman Keith Bott said, “This is a real kick in the teeth to the local brewing sector, one of the few British success stories of recent years. Local brewers are just the kind of business this government says it wants to see prosper: they create jobs for local people and contribute to the local and wider British economy by using home-grown ingredients. Yet the current beer taxation regime is killing off our main route to market – the British pub.”

He continued, “The Treasury claimed before the Budget that their beer duty escalator is ‘baked in’. We say it is half baked! Continuing to increase taxes on draught beer, drunk in the socially responsible environment of the pub, will serve only to increase purchases of cheap vodka for unsupervised home consumption. We fail to see how this policy can help tackle binge drinking.”

The Government’s claim to being a “pub friendly government” seems to be slipping further and further out of sight.

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Good Beer, we have to declare our love

Do you know what Green King IPA tastes like? How about Abbot Ale? 6x? If you have ever drunk an ale before, the chance are you are familiar with these house hold names.  How about Stroud Brewery’s Woolpack, or Uley’s Pig Ear, or the Old Rock from Nailsworth brewery? Probably not all three if any of them.  Therefore, this blog entry is to encourage the residents of these valleys that I so love (Gloucestershire) to get out there and drink some of the fine nectar that is produced here.  If you are a lager drinker skip to the last sentence.

It is easy to take for granted the great pubs and breweries we have in Gloucestershire, but it must be noted that not too long ago this wide choice did not exist.  Gloucestershire experienced a “collapse” in its brewing heritage.  Thirty years ago you would of had a choice of Whitbread or Whitbread as they dominated the beer industry here in our fair valleys.  Although we have a long history of brewing in Gloucestershire, until fairly recently, this had all but disappeared.  It wasn’t until the collapse of Whitbread and the birth of Uley brewery in the mid-1980’s that brewing started to have fresh life blown into it’s sales. Today we have a choice of a wide-range of breweries offering a good selection of fine local ales.

Today, this is still celebrated through the collection of “Gloucestershire’s Craft Brewers“.  It has to be noted however; a minority of the public appreciates this.  Most people, even you beer lovers out there, do not know about the microbreweries on your own doorstep, let alone appreciate the process in which beer is made. It is my belief that if people saw with there own eyes the process being undertaken in their local town and villages they would be much more likely to consume these beers in the future (thus strengthening local economies).  Personally, I am extremely proud to have good quality local brews that represent local culture and history.  This will only last however, if there is demanded for it over the taps…this bits up top you – the drinker.

My suggestion to you therefore, would be to start frequenting pubs that offer you an interesting selection of beer (so yes, I am afraid that means avoiding the Green King tied houses), and start sampling what they have to offer.  If the free house (or tied house with guest beers) does not have anything you like, tell them about a beer you have had recently and ask if they can get it in.

Equally, local ale does not have to be kept to the pubs.  Most breweries’ sell directly to the public.  Stroud Brewery for example, will sell you bottled conditioned ale all the time, and you can put in orders the week before (to pick up on a Friday) for anything from 2.5 litters right up to a firkin (72 pints).  If you are going to a party, why buy a 12 pack (9 pints ish) from Tesco’s for 14.99 when you can get 5 litres (9 pints ish) of local organic ale for £15?

Lastly, I strongly recommend you go and have a look round a microbrewery.  Most of the people you find working in places like this are people who are in there for the love (believe me you do not make your millions by brewing, nor do you get critical acclaim).  If you asked them, I am sure they would be more than happy to talk you through how it all works.  By the time you get your head round the whole process you might think that £3 a pint actually represents a bargain.

If you want to know where to drink in Gloucestshire have a look at here for a list of pubs who have committed to stocking at least one local beer (in Gloucestershire) or pick up the latest copy of the Good beer guide.  If you trust me, leave your postcode in the comments box and I’ll try and respond with some pubs that I think are ace with say 10 miles of where your based (as long as your from Gloucestershire).

If you are a lager drinker, don’t feel left out…you can try tasty lagers such as Cotswolds larger.

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Real ale and big business

Stroud Brewery's bottled organic selection, it's worth fighting for! Photo thanks to Stroud Brewery

The Campaign for Real Ales (CAMRA) launched back in July 2009 a “super-complaint” to the office of fair trading (OFT), stating that there is a need to “reform beer tie arrangements to prevent large companies exploiting tie arrangements that prevent tied publicans from buying beer on the open market at fair prices”.  They argued that anti-competitive practices are inflating pub beer prices by around 50 pence a pint, restricting consumer choice and leading to chronic underinvestment in the nation’s pubs.  I have blogged before about how 39 pubs a closing every week in the UK.  If what CAMRA alleges is true then we need reform of an entire sector. 

The appeal has been put on ice by the OFT until August 1st.  OFT, stated that they needed more time to hear evidence from large pub owning companies. Mike Benner, CAMRA chief executive welcomes the investigation however considering it an opportunity for all parties to get involved and submit any evidence they have of uncompetitive behaviour. 

Mr. Benner goes on to argue quite effectively why we need such an investigation; he states: “It is enshrined in EU law that consumers must get a fair share of the benefits arising from exclusive purchasing deals such as the ‘beer tie’, but this is often not the case. We hope that the OFT will act to deliver a fair share for Britain’s 14 million regular pub goers. Reform of the ‘beer tie’ along with a framework of support from Government is urgently required to save the pub from extinction.” 

We will now have to wait and see until the summer what comes out of this process.  All we can do is ensure all those involved in the industry (not just the large companies who are set to lose out) are made aware of this review.  The future of one of Britain’s greatest treasures relies on it – the pub!

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Copenhagen and the 2 degree guard-rail, the wrong goal missed

We are constantly told that if we want to avoid “serious” climate change then we have to stick to below two degrees. Have you ever wondered though where this mysterious 2 degree figure came from or who came up with it? In the next couple of weeks at Copenhagen anyone with any grasp on climate change will be trying to beg, borrow and steal their way to an agreement that would result in us (humans) limiting the average global temperatures to below 2 degrees from 1990 levels. Anything above this and we are doomed! It is thus slightly important to explain why even this target is wholly inadequate.

In 2001 the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) came up with the 2 degrees figure using a very sensible method. Simply, they looked at the bad stuff that was likely to happen because of climate change (species extinction through to run-away climate change – this is when tipping points cause further tipping points (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkUaAltxUpg) and worked out how likely at different temperatures it was to happen. At 2 degrees they figured there was very little chance of runaway climate change occurring. There was however still a significant chance of species extinction (there were then events in between that varied in their likelihood of occurring). They considered this to be a “safe” level to aim for.

This all seems very sensible (what’s a few species in the grand scheme of things?). In the run-up to Copenhagen however, the University of Copenhagen produced a report (http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/files/synthesis-report-web.pdf) authored by many of the original IPCC authors highlighting why, in the light of the latest science since 2001, this 2 degree guardrail is wholly insufficient. Essentially they were saying that they had underestimated the temperature at which these reactions to temperature rise would occur. This is hugely problematic.

According to their latest estimates, sticking to 2 degrees would leave us with a moderate chance of experiencing run-away climate change. I cannot emphasize how scary this is. A moderate chance of plunging our entire species into starvation, mass migration, probable war and potential extinction! Why are we not in a state of emergency? Why have I been blogging about the death of the local pub, when soon we will not be able to grow the crops needed for brewing (let alone to feed ourselves)?

This is IF we meet our 2 degree target. What do you think…will our leaders unite together to make the sort of agreement that is needed to make lasting cuts in carbon emissions? I suggest not. Will our leaders buckle to economic and political pressure rather than scientific reality? I suspect so. What does this mean for us as a species…as a civilized society…a community…a family or even as an individuals?

It means that we are facing very very tough times ahead. How tough depends on how we (as a species) act now! How prepared we are for these tough times depends more on how we act as a community, family and individuals. To tackle this issue we need a collective effort like never before (think WW2 and multiply it…the enemy we face now is far scarier than the threat fascism ever posed to humanity…the millions that Hitler wiped out might look like small numbers if we do not act on climate change).

Think of climate change though not as something that is either happening or not happening but as something that is on a scale. I have no doubt that we will witness the extinction of many more species, but how far down this scale towards run-away climate change we slip is really up to us.

British Green MEP Caroline Lucas recently summed the situation up by stating that if we meet the EU’s most ambitious targets then we will leave ourselves a 50:50 chance of experiencing the worst consequences of climate change.  These are odds I am not willing to accept.

We can act now to limit to the consequences of climate change or we can go down in history as the only species that monitored itself into extinction.

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Filed under Climate Change, EU politics

Gloucestershire Ale Trail

For those of you who have expressed an interest. I would like to draw your attention to the Gloucestershire Ale Trail web-site (http://www.glosaletrail.org.uk/). Apart from telling you where your nearest micro-brewery is, it also tells you where you can enjoy their beers!

Or, you can check out CAMRA’s initative of locAle.  This accredits any pub that stocks beer that is brewed within a 25 mile radius. http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=281521

Enjoy!

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