Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, at one of the SIBA gatherings that we should totally go to more but can't as we have to work to survive; a Managing Director of a (fairly) local brewery stood up to talk to the assembled brewers. This brewery had recently passed the benchmark where they no longer qualified for Small Brewers Relief. He told the audience that Small Brewers Relief was inherently unfair and that it should be scrapped so that every brewery would be on an equal footing.
I did note that he'd passed the threshold so they weren't entitled to it anymore, right? Funny how he wasn't calling for it to be scrapped a year before when he was entitled.
Now for those of you who don't know, Small Brewers Relief aka SBR, allows breweries that produce less than 5,000 hectolitres (879877 pints, 109984.6 gallons or 12,220 9-gallon casks of beer) to pay half the amount of beer duty that larger breweries have to pay. The likes of Heineken, Carlsberg, etc etc. Medium-size breweries end up on a bit of a sliding scale where the relief they receive gradually becomes less as they sell more beer.
The theory behind this being that larger breweries control the dispense of beer and therefore make their money on quantity of beer sold. You only need to look at what beers are widely available and how many pubs are tied to one supplier who can then force the tenant to pay far more than if the tenant were able to shop around for a better price. Smaller breweries on the other hand, are limited to a set number of outlets that are often run by independents. The relief that would otherwise be giving to the government is then used to reinvest in the business and to keep it afloat and trading.
Fast-forward a year or two. Again, at the SIBA conference, some bloody noddy stood up in front of his peers and asked for an investigation into SBR, arguing that maybe it was time for a change and to make sure that it was treating everyone fairly. When the vote came, he slunk back to his seat as he was overwhelmingly defeated. That was the end of that.
Except it wasn't.
Unbeknown to us who have to work for a living, the Small Brewers Relief Reform Coalition began. Their argument being extremely, if not identically, similar to the one given at the SIBA conference. They suggested that the SBR should be more evened out at the cost of the smaller brewers, meaning that the 50% threshold should be dropped from 5,000 hectolitres to 2,100 hectolitres.
You can read up about these absolute wastes of oxygen here: https://www.beerguild.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/SBR-coalition_02may17.pdf
SIBA, in response to this, chose to challenge them by arguing that the relief for 50% should stay at 5,000 and that the curve up to 60,000 hectolitres should be a bit more forgiving in order to avoid the "cliff-edge" of suddenly having to pay more tax to the government.
More information about both of these issues can be found in the Beer Nouveau blog. It's a really interesting read and goes into far more detail than I can be bothered with: https://beernouveau.co.uk/sbdrc-update/
Long story short: the SBRRC put their proposal forward as "cost-neutral" to the Government. SIBA admitted that theirs would "only" cost the Government £9m annually.
Take a guess which they chose.
Personally, I'm a tad disappointed with SIBA. It was initially supposed to represent the Small Brewers (originally called the Small Independent Brewers Association as opposed to the new Society of Independent Brewers with a silent 'A' at the end). They're not a bad organisation and they do try but it does seem that they're a little more biased towards the bigger ones in our group. But that's probably because those breweries can spare the staff and resources to attend the meetings and lobby their regional chairs for attention and the rest of us are too busy worrying how the hell we're going to pay our bills and survive for the next month.
Not that it makes the slightest bit of difference to us. We'll be lucky to reach 1,000 hectolitres a year. Especially as we're still pretty certain that half of Southport aren't even aware we exist despite trading here for the last 16 years.
In any case, if you want more info about Beer Duty, you can go here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/beer-duty
If you want to help SIBA then go here: https://www.siba.co.uk/sbr/
Or here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/334066
And if you want to help us, then hugs will always be welcome (make sure you choose your favourite Paul to receive the hug). Alternatively, boycott those absolute munters in the SBRRC, then head to the shop and buy our beer!