A Cornish brewer has been hit with a £9,000 backdated duty bill after HMRC ruled that its nettle beer was not a beer.
Mike Lavers, who runs Foodswild with partner Alice Rollinson, launched Cornish Stingers nettle beer two years ago and sold around 40,000 bottles in the last year.
However, he has not been allowed to brew the beer since before Christmas when HMRC representatives noticed that it was not marketed as a beer and investigated.
As the brew does not contain malt it cannot be classed as a beer, but must be charged duty at the rate of a made wine, such as RTDs.
The extra charge means Lavers will be forced to add 10p onto every £2.50 bottle of nettle beer.
Brewing will begin again at the end of February when Lavers' new licence comes through.
"It is completely bonkers — it is a beer," said Lavers, who says he has lost around £5,000 since brewing stopped.
"Just adding malt to the beer would be easier, but we don't want to do that because then it wouldn't be suitable for coeliacs.
"We don't market it as a beer because we want it to appeal to women too."
HMRC is chasing him for £9,230 — a bill that he cannot afford to pay in one lump sum.
The case is currently being reviewed by an independent HMRC officer, who should reach a verdict within 20 days. If it is not in Lavers' favour, he will take it to tribunal.
Lavers has local MPs George Eustice and Andrew George working on the case who will raise the issue during questions in Parliament.