SIBA praises 20-year-old policy that led to brewing boom

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Boon for beer: SIBA says the SBR policy has helped grow the number of UK breweries
Boon for beer: SIBA says the SBR policy has helped grow the number of UK breweries

Related tags Beer Cask ale Craft beer Lager

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has launched a report to mark the 20-year anniversary of the Small Breweries’ Relief policy that has had a huge impact on UK brewing, including a boom in small breweries and increase in different beer styles being produced now.

According to the SBR @ 20​ report, there are now 1,895 independent breweries in the UK, creating an estimated 10,988 direct jobs.

“The sector has come a long way over the past few decades,” said Roy Allkin, SIBA chairman in the report’s foreword. “Within only a few years of its introduction, Small Breweries’ Relief (SBR) had created more than 100 new businesses and at least several hundred jobs that would not have existed.”

“Some 20 years later and that has translated into almost 1,900 brewing businesses, with a small independent brewery in nearly every constituency, supporting thousands of jobs at the heart of our community.”

Rise of craft lager

Analysing which beer styles are being brewed by small independent breweries, the report also shows the surprising rise of craft lager, with it seeing a meteoric rise over the last 20 years. On the flipside, mild and brown bitters have fallen out of favour with brewers, charting a steep decline in production in recent years as more breweries begin producing keg beer as opposed to traditional cask.

SIBA Craft Beer Report 2022​ editor and contributor to the SBR @ 20​ Caroline Nodder said: “The growth in the number of breweries in the UK market has led to more experimentation and a quest to create new and more interesting beers.

“For the first time, in this year’s SIBA members’ survey, the most produced style of beer was not that old favourite golden bitter but rather stout/porter. While, in the past, 90% of brewers have produced a bitter, our latest survey shows a much more even spread over a whole range of different styles, including some new ones such as no and low-alcohol and gluten-free styles.”

Sliding-scale policy

Small Breweries’ Relief was introduced by then chancellor Gordon Brown with the aim of allowing small breweries to pay a lower rate of duty on the beer they brewed in order to be able to compete with national and global beer producers. The sliding-scale policy meant the smallest brewers received a 50% rate relief, with the relief gradually reducing depending on the size of the brewery.

Under changes announced last year, Small Breweries’ Relief will be replaced by a new ‘Small Producer Relief’ that will, alongside beer, include other drinks from small producers such as cider. The changes are due to come in from August 2023, but SIBA has raised concerns over various elements of the new system, including the unfair advantage given to cider.

“Massive amounts of thinking has gone into restructuring the whole alcohol duty regime, simplifying it and ‘making the basis of alcohol taxation more economically rational, with fewer distortions and arbitrary distinctions’, yet the massive cider producers will continue to pay half the alcohol duty that brewers do, and now the distortion is in plain sight, glaringly obvious,” said Eddie Gadd, managing director of Ramsgate Brewery and long-time campaigner for small brewers.

The report’s launch will take place at Five Points Brewery in Hackney, London, tonight (Tuesday 18 October) where a commemorative SBR IPA will be tapped to mark the occasion.

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