Manchester Beer Week to hold debate on future of Small Breweries’ Relief

By James Beeson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Up for discussion: the debate will bring together industry figures to address SBR concerns
Up for discussion: the debate will bring together industry figures to address SBR concerns
Manchester Beer Week will hold an open debate on the future of the Small Breweries’ Relief (SBR) scheme during this year’s festival, its organisers have confirmed.

The move comes after proposals to reform the current tax system were put forward by the Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition (SBDRC), sparking widespread discussion​ throughout the industry.

The debate, held as part of Manchester Beer Week (29 June-8 July), will aim to bring together figures from across the industry to address concerns and attempt to find solutions to protect the future of British independent brewing.

“As a festival working with many of the smaller breweries across Greater Manchester, we stand against any proposals that would threaten their livelihoods or result in a reduction of choice for drinkers,” said Manchester Beer Week organiser Connor Murphy.

“Brewing has boomed over recent years, both across Manchester and the UK, and SBR has played a significant role in revitalising the industry. Britain’s independent brewers should be working together, not against one another, to ensure a healthy future for a product that deserves to be treated as a great source of pride for this country.”

Manchester divided

Members of the SBDRC include Greater Manchester breweries such as JW Lees, Joseph Holt and Robinsons.

JW Lees believes SBR was a catalyst to spark the creation of new breweries, but supports a review of the current situation. However, it has not yet backed any specific proposals.

Managing director William Lees-Jones said: “JW Lees believes that SBR is currently unfair and that the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) cannot come to an agreed position shows how there is no black and white solution. We would like to see debate so that brewing sector can come to a united consensus.”

In order to further the conversation around SBR, JW Lees has agreed to participate in a collaboration brew with Marble and Beer Nouveau, two Manchester breweries who have both spoken against any changes that might affect the 5,000hl threshold.

The three will work together to create a beer for entry into the Manchester Beer Week City Clash, and will use the opportunity to learn more about each other’s challenges and discuss solutions that might help small and medium-sized breweries to join forces for the benefit of British independent brewing.

SIBA reaffirms position

SIBA welcomed the decision to debate SBR during Manchester Beer Week, and reiterated its commitment to maintaining 50% duty relief for brewers producing less than 5,000hl annually. 

"We look forward to taking part in the debate during Manchester Beer Week," chief executive Mike Benner said. "SIBA's Board has agreed a clear policy for the positive reform of SBR. This includes the retention of 50% relief up to 5,000hl, together with improvements to the shape of the curve above this level to promote growth and investment by making the rate of tax increase far less punitive and the tapered extension of relief to brewers up to 200,000hl. 

We believe our policy represents a pragmatic, politically acceptable and fair basis for reform based on a small additional Government investment in the success of Britain's independent brewers. We do not support proposals for reform which would redistribute relief from brewers below 5000hl to their larger brethren as this would threaten the future of many small brewers."

Last week a group of five leading craft brewers including Beavertown, Magic Rock and Siren Craft Brew asked​ to be removed from the SBDRC, but reiterated their commitment to reform of SBR.

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