From 1 October, beers over 7.5% ABV have to pay High Strength Beer Duty (HSBD) on top of the general beer duty. This goes for beers made in the UK and also those imported into the UK. It’ll be an additional 25% onto what the brewery already pays in duty.
Aimed to attack super-strength lagers and quell binging on park benches, the reality is that HSBD won’t affect its audience, but instead will hit the experimental brewers, the imported bottles we see in beer shops and more importantly, those of us who like to drink them.
Is Fuller’s Golden Pride the same as Tennants Super? Is BrewDog Paradox like Special Brew? What about Thornbridge Bracia or Robinson’s Old Tom? The elephant in the room is that these quality strong beers are lumped with the super-strength beers. Why can’t someone just be ballsy enough to say ‘these are the beers which are a problem and those ones are different’?
Anyone who relied on Special Brew to get bang for their buck will just step over to cheap cider or wine, whereas brewers who want to be innovative or experimental, or who already have stronger beers in their core range, now have a bigger price to pay just to be able to do so. And that price will have to hit us drinkers in the pocket. Who knows what’ll happen to the import duty paid on these bottles but I hope it doesn’t mean that some beers will no longer be available here.
The reality for the consumer is that the prices of these beers will rise around 25p for each bottle, can or pint.
At the same time as HSDB comes in, beers between 1.2% ABV and 2.8% ABV will have a 50% reduction in the duty rate, again this is for those made in the UK and imported.
As for this lower duty rate... If a brewery can make a great tasting 2.8% beer that’s got lots of body and flavour then I’m sure I’ll drink a pint or two, but not much more than that. I love the idea of low-ABV beers but in reality I wouldn’t drink them often. But at least this is a step in the right direction. If it’s supported by breweries then perhaps soon it could be raised to a more appealing 3.4%, but if no breweries make these low ABV beers then it won’t happen.
Also coming in on 1 October is the two-third glass, which will then be a legal measure. I like this introduction a lot and I hope pubs get on board with it. The two-third glass will be perfect for drinking beers over 7.5%, if you are wealthy enough to be able to afford to buy one...
Does anyone know any breweries making low ABV beers to get the low duty rate? Any pubs bringing in two-third glasses?
And what will be the consequences of HSBD on some of the stronger beers we see in the UK?