Saturday 17 October 2009

Cats' protection

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.


  1. You're right. The track record of governments of any colour in drawing up regulatory legislation is poor. For example, the licensing regime that makes it illegal for me to play acoustic guitar unamplified in a pub that doesn't have the right licence, but puts no restrictions whatsoever on any pub blasting out the neighbourhood with Sky sports.

    Also, no mention of own-brand spirits. They cost £6.97 for a full-size 37.5% bottle here in Southport.

  2. RedNev, great example with the music thing - they got that one completely wrong, why should we think they would get it right with alcohol?

  3. "specifically exclude exemptions"

    He didn't really say that, did he?

    "so small producers should not have to worry that we will inadvertently make their lives more difficult in future"

    He can promise that because he specifically intends to make their lives more difficult now.

    Brian, follower of Deornoth

  4. As Red Nev says, he says that now but this is the thin end of the wedge. In fact, we're already getting towards the thicker end of the wedge.

    Maybe there will be get-outs for 'small brewers', in which case there will be a scramble to get the shiny certificate saying "Small Brewery" to save a bit of tax/red tape, and brown paper envelopes will be changing hands most merrily.

    Either tax stuff (for example alcohol) at a flat rate and be honest about it (i.e. 37.5% proof spirits pays three times as much as 12.5% wine etc) or not at all.

  5. If you exempt small companies, can you stop a bigger brewer hiving off a brand into a subsiduary that manages the brand and contract brews it at it's parent company? If you go by age of the brand, isn't Carlsberg Spesh just as old a product as any? If you exempt british brewers, won't european law be broken? The rules have to apply to all european brewers.

    It's not been thought through, that's a given.


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