Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The lite touch

The Morning Advertiser reports that, in response to the duty cut on beers of 2.8% and below from 1 October, local brewer J. W. Lees are launching two new 2.8% keg beers, a lager called Golden Lite and a smooth beer called Greengate Lite. This reflects what I have said before, that insofar as this measure has any effect, it will be in the keg and canned beer sectors. The weaker a cask beer is, the shorter its shelf life once the cask is broached, and I simply can’t see 2.8% real ales having sufficient turnover. So much for the “People’s Pint”.

And I expect the big boys are waiting in the wings with the likes of Carling Lite and John Smith’s Extra Lite which, if the category takes off at all, will come to dominate it.

10 comments:

  1. I actually kind of agree with this move on duty, but the threshold is too low, the weakest beer that I've tried is black sheep, which iirc is about 3.8%.. they should charge duty by the unit content.

    on the other hand I also enjoy chimay, so they can f**k off!

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  2. Hobson's Mild at 3.2% is a great pint. 3.5% would have been a much better threshold.

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  3. At a risk of banging on about price, is this grog cheaper than the regular stuff?

    Considering 3% Mild or a Pint of Coke is rarely that different from a 4% bitter, despite the differing tax, it would be interesting if it were retailing at 50p less or 5 or 10p.

    It it were drinkable and significantly cheaper I'd expect it to find a market. Otherwise, what's the point?

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  4. I thought the point was to gradually decrease the strength of beer until it eventually became alcohol free.

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  5. Eventually anything above 2.8% will be classed as a "strong beer" and you will be denounced as a drunk for consuming them.

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  6. It seems to me that TPTB are missing the whole point. Most people drink beer not just because they like the taste, but also because they like the effect of the alcohol contained therein. Otherwise, what's the point?

    The original ethos of the pub was that it was somewhere for people to get together and relax with a cigarette (if they smoked) and a drink. The alcohol provides the lubricant that breaks down ones natural barriers and facilitates those spontaneous conversations with complete strangers. The sharing of cigarettes was a further extension of friendship with someone recently met. Without the alcohol, it might as well be a tea room.

    They've taken away the shared enjoyment of smoking, and now they will take away the shared enjoyment of alcohol. Thus is control cemented. Divide and conquer. Alienate people from each other, and they are much more malleable.

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  7. @Cooking lager The duty paid will be about 15p a pint rather than 30p. It will all depend on if the brewer and pubs pass on the saving. If they don't whats the point, no one will drink it.

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  8. Compared with a pint at 4.0% ABV, under the new system a pint at 2.8% ABV will save 33p in duty and VAT. If translated to a difference at the bar of 50p, that will provide a significant saving.

    Personally I'd prefer a schooner of 4%, but some drinkers like the volume.

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  9. I don’t want to subvert the thread solely about price, because the taste of the grog will determine whether repeat purchases are made, rather than just being tried as a one off. I’m surprised a lager is picked to be one of the weaker beers as lagers tend to be nicer at higher abv’s. Ales arguably work better at lower abv’s. A maltier brew with a fragrance or pong would work better. Moorhouses have a quite respectable mild at 3% which doesn’t taste of watery piss and I once saw someone without a beard ask for one.

    But as a midweek pint on a school night, I tend to prefer the 4% beers. The stronger stuff is okay if you don’t have to get up at the crack and turn up at the office in a fit state. Even weaker beer might be popular, but Carling C2 at 2% died a death, Skol at 3% is in its death throes and most pubs have given up attempting to hawk mild.

    My thoughts on price are that a decade or so ago punter may have been happy to go down the pub 3 times a week, but these days it’s relatively more expensive so punters steer clear and pop in on Friday night. Why go to the pub on a rainy Wednesday night? 3 pints set you back a tenner. A couple of cans are only a few quid and the champions’ league is on the telly, the squeeze won’t even moan because actually she doesn’t mind the footie occasionally. A weaker cheaper pint makes it more affordable and suits midweek drinking. However if the difference is as stated about 30p, that’s not enough. As for schooners, anywhere do these? And drinking halves is for girls.

    Further, a wide range of differing abv’s for beer confuses the market. A more standard product set at 4% & 5% offers the customer an absolute. The customer can know how many they can have and wake up fine tomorrow. They know if they can have one and drive. Beer at 2.8%, another at 3.5%, then at 4% then at 4.5% then at 5% then at 5%+ and the customer will likely think “beer? Sod it; I’m in the car, a J20”. It may be great for beer enthusiasts, but most people aren’t. Beer is a social drink enjoyed because it’s wet and slightly alcoholic and the social norm with the UK. Most people are no more interested in it than “I like that one, not overly keen on that one”

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  10. "Beer is a social drink enjoyed because it’s wet and slightly alcoholic and the social norm with the UK."

    This underestimates the degree to which the "normal" pub punter is switching to beers that are perceived as a bit better and more suited to the discerning palate.

    Carling, Carlsberg, Fosters are in long-term decline, as are the likes of Tetleys, Boddingtons and John Smith's. Even the lager drinker are going for Becks Vier, and the ale drinkers increasingly want guest beers and premium ales.

    This doesn't mean to say they want stronger beers - the widespread strength reductions show they don't. But, in a climate where people increasingly want their choice of beer to make a bit of a statement, something that sells primarily on the fact that it's weak and cheap is on a hiding to nothing.

    And I would say it will make more of an impact in the lager sector because most lager isn't very strongly flavoured to begin with, so there is less to lose.

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