The future of the currently thriving independent British brewing sector is under threat because the Government's punitive levels of beer taxation are threatening their route to market - the British pub.
That's the warning from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) in its Local Beer Report 2012.
Small Breweries' Relief (SBR), introduced in 2002, has helped independent breweries to spring up quickly, with SIBA's membership growing from 235 to 550 brewers.
Meanwhile, volume sales by SIBA members grew by 9.7% last year - compared to a 3.5% decline in the UK beer market overall - while the number of employees in member breweries increased by 25% and two-thirds of brewers invested in new premises and/or equipment to meet growing demand.
But SIBA warned that the Government's taxation policy on beer was pushing consumers from draught beer, with a relatively low alcohol content, to stronger alcoholic drinks purchased from the supermarkets.
Julian Grocock, SIBA's chief executive, said: "The Government's policies on beer duty are quite clearly failing to produce the desired result - of encouraging more consumers to drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation. The type of drinking, in fact, that is evident in thousands of pubs where consumers enjoy a couple of pints of draught beer as part of a social interaction rather than an end in itself.
"What frustrates us, in our pre-Budget campaigning this year, as in previous years, is the Government's inconsistent approach to local brewing. They can see the positive results of their investment, in the form of SBR, and yet they seem unable to apply the same logic to pubs, which are, like small brewers, capable of making a valuable contribution to their local economy. The current beer taxation regime amounts to disinvestment in the local brewing industry."
The Local Beer Report 2012 is based on a survey of 264 SIBA members - just over half of the 520 total members at the time of survey.
Draught beer makes up 82% of SIBA brewers' output and 97% of this is cask beer. The number of real ales brewed by SIBA members is now estimated at about 3,000 permanent brands plus a further 4,000 seasonal ales and specials.
By Neil Gerrard
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