“Madam Deputy Speaker, British ale may be warm, but the duty on a pint is frozen.”
I get the Chancellor’s pun, but British cask ale is served between 11 and 13 degrees celsius – and if you think that’s warm, try turning your heating off at home and see how that works out, Jeremy.
Inaccurate stereotypes aside, Mr Hunt’s announcement on Wednesday that duty on draught beer in pubs will not go up in line with other alcohol is welcome news for a sector of the economy that needs all the help it can get.
There has been a steady trend towards drinking at home over the past few decades, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. Around 70 per cent of the beer we drink is now consumed at home, in fact. As a nation we’re losing the habit of going to the pub – 20 per cent of UK adults now say they don’t visit them at all, according to new research published today by the Society of Independent Brewers.
One reason for this is that home drinking is cheaper.
Supermarkets use beer as a loss leader and tend to absorb price increases, while pubs can’t afford to. So Mr Hunt’s announcement is a small step in redressing the balance. This is also helpful to small British brewers, who tend to sell a greater proportion of their beer to pubs on draught than the global lager giants.
Last but not least, it’s good news for drinkers.
While you may not need an excuse to go for a pint, it’s still nice to have one. This would be a good day to go for the taps on the bar, whether that’s traditional hand-pulled cask ale, or the more modern keg beers that are now so much better than they used to be. Here are a few of my favourites to look out for.
A quiet, understated classic, Harvey’s Best is the beer that is making fans of trendy American pale ales re-assess traditional British bitter and realise there’s more to beer than cans with cartoon aliens on them. You see it behind the bar nationally, but try it in its East Sussex heartland.
Dark mild is having a moment – a seemingly terminally unfashionable beer style that discerning drinkers suddenly can’t get enough of. While not as dark as some, this York-based multiple award-winner is nutty, rich and complex.
This quintessential British cask ale has won more awards than any other beer. It’s the perfect example of the role a good publican can play in keeping what is a live, fresh product: OK in inexperienced hands, it becomes sublime in a pub run by people who really understand it. Available nationwide.
The biggest misconception about good beer is that all lager is rubbish. If you’ve only tasted the big brands, this will be a revelation: a British brewery mastering a continental style. It delivers the crisp refreshment lager drinkers want, but in a beer that actually tastes good. Based in Devon.
From the godfather of UK craft brewing, a British take on US-style IPA that unites new and old in perfection. Mellow and rounded on cask, clean and juicy on keg, there’s nothing this beer can’t do. Available nationwide.
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