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Small and medium brewers unite to call for a review of Small Brewers Relief scheme

SA Brain and Co is one of more than 40 small and medium-sized breweries who have today launched a coalition with the aim of persuading Government to review and improve Small Brewers Relief (SBR), the system that provides a discount on beer duty to small brewers.

The scheme was introduced back in 2002 and then extended in 2004 but has not been reviewed since, despite the considerable changes that have taken place in the beer and pub industry, including the impact of the hated beer duty escalator.

The Small Brewer Duty Reform Coalition (SBDRC) is supportive of the SBR scheme, which has stimulated new entrants to the brewing industry and promoted even greater consumer choice, and firmly believes that it is essential to the future of the sector. However, it has had a number of unintended consequences and the current structure is a significant barrier to growth.

As an immediate step, the coalition is proposing a review by independent consultants which engages all key stakeholders, with the conclusions presented to the Treasury for their consideration. This review should have the following objectives:

  • Ensure the sector is economically sustainable for the long term
  • Unlock future growth potential of emerging brewers
  • Deliver fairer competition for all brewers
  • Stimulate exports of British beer
  • Continue to promote diversity and recognise diseconomies of scale for small brewers.

The coalition strongly believes that a review can deliver these objectives and an enhanced SBR system that ensures a vibrant and sustainable brewing industry. This will produce a boost to British beer exports and deliver further growth by removing existing barriers.

Members of the coalition employ around 2,500 staff between them in breweries across the country, and annually produce over 700 million pints. The coalition is aware of many other brewers in the industry that are also concerned about the current structure of SBR. It is inviting any other brewer that wants to see the system improved to join the coalition and to make submissions when the review begins.

A number of bodies in the industry have previously proposed reform of the system, including the BBPA, CAMRA and SIBA. The coalition is keen to engage with all stakeholders in the industry and will be proposing meetings in the coming weeks.

Coalition co-chair Rupert Thompson of Hogs Back Brewery, said:

“The introduction of Small Brewers Relief in 2002, combined with a revival of consumer interest in craft brewed beers, has given the sector a huge boost. However, in recent years we have been seeing on average three to four new breweries opening every week whilst over 20 pubs close. Now there is an issue of economic sustainability.”

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