Darkness Visible – Big Beer Pulls Up The Ladder

Sometimes, that light at the end of a tunnel is an oncoming train.

Over the last two years, I’ve written a number of posts regarding the machinations and dissembling of an organisation named the Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition (SBDRC for short) – in order – Read here, here, here, here, here & (gasp) here. Yes, I became a tax nerd. But – at base – I detest underhandedness. Sneakyness. Envy.

All of which are hallmarks of the SBDRC.

To be honest, although silence worries me, I’d forgotten about the sneaky bastards. The pandemic can have that effect on you. You reach for positives. And after over 4 months of struggle for breweries (even more, when you consider how bad business in January and February can be for independent breweries and pubs), Green shoots were starting to peep through the concrete.

And just when you could begin imagine breweries – and pubs – coming out of enforced hibernation, this.

I’ve published the membership list of the BBPA elsewhere. It closely matches that of the SBDRC – with the additional “heft” of Heineken and the big Pubcos – to the extent that they are almost one and the same. But let’s nail one lie dead.

They – the BBPA – are decidedly NOT “the leading trade association representing Brewers….” that’s SIBA. An organisation that – speaking as an outsider – has started to talk the talk better, since the appointment of James Calder as CEO.

To make this change at ANY time will hurt breweries. To do it during a pandemic, when breweries have struggled for 4 months to find a way to keep their heads above water, when they’ve been tested – both creatively and mentally – like never before. It’s simply heedless. And destructive. The straw that breaks the proverbial back of the camel.

The SBDRC presented themselves – and their proposals – as reasonable…..

“Our proposals seek to restore progressive beer duty and promote growth in a sustainable way……………Yet the relief a brewer receives at 500hL is the exact same as the one ten times its size. This is not progressive and needs to be addressed. The current 50% threshold at 5,000hL also prohibits normal merger and acquisition activity…… “

And there we hit – to my eyes – the nub. That members (or at least some) of the SBDRC viewed the Relief as inhibiting them in buying competitors. For that is how they see successful Micros. Competition. To be absorbed into The Borg of Big Beer. Because – chip by chip – they eat away at the volumes of the Big guys.

I’ve covered – in more detail – the mendacity and the usage of the darker arts of PR of both the BBPA & SBDRC in those other posts. What – other than my opinion – is contained within those posts is public record material. Data supplied by members of the SBDRC themselves. So I’m not doing that here, I’m not calm enough.

I’m just hoping that the Crafterati love affair with the likes of Fullers, Lees & Timothy Taylor stops. Now. They are regiments of the enemy, be in no doubt. I haven’t touched a drop of their beers from first reading about the SBDRC. And recognising the threat.

Look at the lists of their members (SBDRC & BBPA).

Boycott their premises and products. And those of the companies that they own.

If you care enough, write to your MP. It isn’t difficult.

And, if you are a brewery – despite any reservations you may have – join SIBA. On your own, you have the voice of a mouse. Collectively however…..