The news that consumption of real ale is rising and the number of small breweries increasing can only be good but, to make sure these trends continue, now is surely the right time to reduce the tax on real ale.
I am, I confess, a big fan of traditionally produced beer but this is a business blog so I would never use these pages to advocate reducing the tax on something just so that I could pay less for it and drink more of it. No, there are definitely some positive social and economic effects that would come from reducing or even abolishing the tax on real ale:
- It would promote British companies. Cask-conditioned and bottle-conditioned beer is overwhelmingly made in Britain. Preferential taxation rates would not fall foul of trade regulations as we do import some real ale from Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and the USA. However, most of the money spent on real ale would stay in the UK.
- It would help small companies. Most of the brewers that produce the really good ale are SMEs. A tax break would help them create more jobs and wealth.
- It would keep pubs open and thereby help the Big Society develop. Pubs are at the heart of communities. Many of the ideas and innovations that will make the Big Society work will have their origins in pub discussions, fuelled by the inspiration-giving properties of good-quality ale. Reducing the tax on real ale might just help counteract the government’s axing of the community pub scheme. If local pubs close, communities will lose their focus and you can kiss the Big Society goodbye.
- It would encourage more responsible drinking among younger people. Real ale is usually sold in the sort of pubs that have a mixed clientele. These more controlled environments are less conducive to binge drinking. Of course, young people could still go to upright-drinking venues for chemically produced rubbish but it would cost them a hell of a lot more.
- There would be health benefits – I’m not sure exactly what these would be but if you’ve ever tasted crappy lagers and nitrokeg beers you’d be certain that drinking anything in preference to rubbish like that must surely be better for you.
There you have it. Sound political and economic reasons to give this industry a boost. So go on, George, slash the tax on real ale now!