Sunday, 13 March 2011

And so it begins

A couple of years ago, I wrote “Might a future government seek to “persuade” brewers to reduce the strength of widely-available beers in the interest of public health?” And now it seems I’m being proven right. This week, Heineken are to announce that, as part of a “pact” with the government, they are “reducing the strength of “a leading brand” – thought to be the cider Strongbow – by 1pc alcohol by volume, from 5.3pc to 4.3pc as “just the start” of attempts to lower the alcoholic content of its drinks.”

Now, I can’t imagine the typical consumer of a 2 litre PET bottle of Strongbow being very happy with it being watered down to 4.3%, so there’s a market opportunity there for independent cidermakers, but would any of them have the guts to defy the anti-drink tide? It’s not hard to see the anti-drink lobby having a go at craft brewers and cidermakers for refusing to cut the strength of their products in line with the big boys.

And I will forecast now that, once the government see that introducing a higher level of beer duty at 7.5% ABV makes little difference to anything, they will steadily bring the threshold down so eventually it will be impossible to buy beer above 4.5% without paying punitive taxation on it, which will effectively lead to the disappearance of such beers from bars and off-licence shelves.


  1. Read this:-

    And this:-

  2. From Dave Atherton

    The history of American Prohibition is ringing all around. While Prohibition lasted from 1919 to 1933 you could still buy beer etc if it was 0.5%. Prohibition by the back door.

    "President Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act known as the Cullen-Harrison Act, allowing the manufacture and sale of "3.2 beer" (3.2% alcohol by weight, approximately 4% alcohol by volume) and light wines. The original Volstead Act had defined "intoxicating beverage" as one with greater than 0.5% alcohol."

  3. And this week has already shown what the puritans will do once companies start backsliding like this. Nutt has mooted the 'no safe level' line, and that's the future. Just as with tobacco companies being forced to reduce tar and nicotine, eventually they come after the lower tar ones too and accused the tobacco industry of trying to con the public into believing they are safer (even though the EU pumped the safety line when bringing in directives about it).

    Lower alcohol will be targeted once the levels are reduced, and alcohol companies will be accused of pretending that lower alcohol is safer (because by then the studies will have been fabricated to say that all alcohol, however small the dose, is potentially lethal).

    Heineken really shouldn't be giving an inch, because miles will be taken.

  4. What self respecting wino would drink "Strongbow" anyway when you can but 95% meths @£8 a gallon?

  5. More home brewing, less pubs.

  6. In addition to what DP has said will we start to get...

    Drinkers are smelly alcoholics.
    Drinkers will die horribly from cancers and liver damage.
    Drinkers cost the NHS and society billions
    Alcohol is addictive - any attempt to object to 'reforms' will be labeled as denial or the rantings of the addicted.

    and more...the examples given being mild compared to the insults thrown at those who smoke.

    The days of the Winter Ale are numbered.

    What happens with wines, spirits etc. is anyone's guess. Attacking the plebs Beer and Lager will be first though.

    Many will shout, as perhaps CAMRA might, that Beer is different. Too late, the precedents have been set. Indeed many beer drinkers and organisations helped set them.

  7. It's already been done to a limited extent with Stella. True, it was only from 5.2% to 5.0%, but when it was 5.2% that gave it a point of differentiation over other "premium" lagers, which it has now lost.

  8. So beer is the cause of all alcoholic woes? Or are all wines and spirits to be reduced ot 4.5% too? An alcoholic will simply change tipple if he doesn't get the buzz he wants any more from his usual drink. At less than £8 a bottle, cheap spirits are affordable, and cause a heck of a lot more physical damage because of the alcohol is many times more concentrated.

  9. Although pessimism is your bag Mudgie, I have to agree with you on this and giving a nod like Heineken has is the wrong message.

    Pointless too other than as a foot in the door, as RedNev says. The genuine alcoholic will just get his bang elsewhere unless it is all reduced in strength.

    I agree this is a worrying development.

  10. Somebody has to act as Cassandra, Tandy, and regrettably this is one prediction that has turned out to be bang-on. I sometimes think CAMRA and the craft brewing/cidermaking sector escape lightly from the strictures of the anti-drink lobby. After all, the average beer festival, given its per capita alcohol consumption and the widespread availablity on draught of brews of a strength you scarcely ever see in pubs, would be guaranteed to make them choke on their sarsaparilla.

    This letter from John Eoin Douglas is a spoof, but you could easily imagine similar sentiments being expressed in earnest.

  11. Foster's lager has the units on both pint pot & can and is the most responsible beer on the market. The problem is all these real ales. No standard ABV, no unit information. Lout is either 4 or 5% so it's easy to know the units even if it's not detailed. Irresponsible real ale is a big problem that can only be solved by abv standardisation and branded unit information glassware.


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