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.