Following his speech at the Tory Conference, I wrote to Chris Grayling to express my concern that his plans were likely to adversely affect independent craft producers of beer and cider. I specifically mentioned Robinson’s Old Tom in my letter.
To his credit, he replied very promptly. He said:
Can I reassure you of one thing, though – our plans for a tighter regime for “super-strength” beers and ciders specifically exclude exemptions for traditional craft products – so small producers should not have to worry that we will inadvertently make their lives more difficult in future.Fair enough, but no promise to protect Old Tom there. I still think this whole plan will run into the sands over the obvious difficulty of making qualitative distinctions between alcoholic drinks of similar strength. I know Tennent’s Super is crap and Duvel is a quality craft product, but how can you enshrine that in a tax system? And, let us be honest, there are parts of the West Country where farmhouse scrumpy plays the same role in society as Tennent’s Super does in central Scotland.