Today, dear reader, I would like to talk about beer. Quelle surprise you may say, especially if you happen to be French, but there is much to speak of on the subject at the moment.
To start with, roll out the bunting because next week (29 March to 5 April) is National Cask Ale Week. What a great thing to celebrate and the perfect excuse, should one be needed, to go out for a few beers over the Easter period to wash down all of those chocolate eggs.
Another, less cheery, excuse to speak of beer is of course the budget: once again with the ‘quelle surprise’ when it was announced that duty on beer was to rise by 5%. I’m not going to dwell on this too much, as there is really nothing more to add since last year’s blog on the subject.
With the state of the country’s finances as they are, perhaps there is little wonder that they continue to hit on beer as an easy target, especially as there has been an increase in the demonization of alcohol lately, but this means that duty has increased by 25% over the past two years, which is shocking. Cider drinkers have even more to moan about this year with the massive 10% above inflation increase in duty – not good for our local West-Country craft industry.
The continued beer bashing seems especially schizophrenic as we come onto my third beer related topic. Apparently, last week the Pubs Minister, John Healey, announced a package of reforms to support the pub.
Now wait a minute; back up the bus: the pubs minister? Who even knew there was such a thing? Given the terrible state of the country’s pubs at the moment, this is one civil servant who surely shouldn’t be getting any performance related bonuses this year!
But anyway, to continue, Mr Healey has put forward a 12-point action plan of reforms to support the pubs, including increased support to community pubs and a reform in the operation of the beer tie. Reducing beer tax was presumably not considered as an option. The persistent campaigning by CAMRA is almost certainly why the Government gives the issue any thought at all, and more info can be found on their pages.
And so to my fourth and final beer-soaked point: CAMRA. Okay, you can take the mickey out of CAMRA and their stereotypical beards, beer bellies and dodgy knitwear, but it is these real ale stalwarts that have created the most successful consumer group in Europe and single-handedly saved our real beer and pub heritage, so don’t be shy – join up.
CAMRA are keeping up with the times: after years of using Facebook and even more years as a CAMRA member, it was only this week that I discovered they have a Facebook page (thanks Russ!). Not only that, but they have embraced Twitter and tomorrow (29 March), as part of National ask Ale Week (see how I cleverly brought that full circle), they are using it to do an on-line beer tasting – how good is that! For more details see their web page <link> and follow them at www.twitter.com/realalelive.