Let’s say Cheers and back Waverley’s breweries?

The boys on our team are partial now and then to a decent pint of beer, and what better than a drop of the amber nectar brewed locally

Richard and Bill of the Firebird Brewery based in Rudgwick are currently on a mission and they need all the help they can get.


Here’s what they told us:
We’re not normally too serious, but just for now we’d like you to help us persuade the Government to change its mind about the tax on beer:
Local and small brewers are under threat as the Government looks set to increase the tax paid by some small independent breweries, including us. At the moment small brewers like us benefit from Small Brewers Relief, designed to allow us to compete with larger brewers by paying less tax than the big guys. Currently, the level at which this relief reduces (and we pay more tax) doesn’t come in until we sell at least 50% more beer than we do at the moment. However, the Government plans to change all this, meaning we would be paying more tax as soon as next year. At the same time, larger breweries (some of whom started as small as us not so long ago) will pay LESS tax.
This doesn’t feel like fair play to us!
Everyone has struggled with COVID, but you might be interested to know the support brewers have received has been limited pretty much to the furlough scheme. Other sectors have been given cash grants and other forms of support. We, along with other small brewers, have worked hard to stay alive, and we succeeded through hard work, ingenuity, and the support of our brilliant customers.
We really need your help again now!
Help us to protect local breweries, the beers they make and your choice at the bar by signing the petition urging the UK Government not to remove tax relief from the smallest brewers to allow larger brewers to pay less. If you can share this post widely we’d also be very grateful!
You can add your name to the petition on the UK Parliament website https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/334066
Thanks, Richard and Bill
Let’s raise a glass to Richard and Bill and all the other local small breweries in Waverley and elsewhere that may soon be under threat.

6 thoughts on “Let’s say Cheers and back Waverley’s breweries?”

  1. It is interesting that your piece includes photos of some of our local breweries but while the Firebird, Surrey Hills and Crafty breweries may be supportive of the thrust of the article to fend off the threat of the reform to SBR you are in error in including the Hogs Back Brewery as its chairman Rupert Thompson is co chair of the Coalition seeking to introduce this reform.

    The SBR Coalition made up of ‘small brewers’ like Hogs back, St Austell, Adnams etc are clearly a grouping of breweries who have either benefited from the relief fuelling their growth or who are feeling the heat of competition from even smaller breweries.

    This is a complex issue and there is more than an element of bigger boys bullying smaller ones as they seek to find a way for the even bigger bullies bullying them.

    The sad fact is that when the anti monopoly reforms of the beer orders came in 95% of the market was dominated by ‘big beer’ after all these reforms and the creation of more than a thousand small brewers and the government incentives etc it is still the case that 95% of the market for beer is dominated by ‘Big Beer’.

    What is really needed is another full Competition enquiry into the complex monopolies that exist in the brewing industry but the last time that happened the government solution promoted by Margaret Thatcher and Lord Young and watered down by the subsequent Labour Government created the mess we now have and nobody in government wants to go there again.

    Clearly whatever happens here will depend on the relative volume of the lobbying that these minor players in the ‘beerage’ are able to muster – it is not a very noble cause wherever you are in the current scramble for the crumbs falling from the big boys table.

    Small Breweries’ Relief

    Small Breweries’ Relief was introduced in 2002 to help breweries producing less than 60,000hl (around 10m pints) per year establish themselves and compete with larger producers.

    The current system allows breweries to pay reduced duty rates on a sliding scale, with those producing under 5,000hl (880,000 pints) annually receiving a 50% discount.

    Critics of the scheme argue that while it has been instrumental in helping smaller breweries establish themselves, it has created market distortion and discouraged brewers from growing past the 5,000hl mark.

    The Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition is a group of around 60 brewers arguing for a reform of the current SBR system. The group is seeking to restrict the full 50% duty discount to breweries producing less than 1,000hl a year, and increase the upper limit at which brewers receive relief to 200,000hl annually.

    1. Very many thanks for your very informative comment. We learn a little every day. We have updated the post and have removed the Hogs Back Brewery. WW cannot help wondering Why the chairman of the Hogs Back Brewery is pushing for this reform. Are we being naive? Surely the big boys should be encouraging the small boys – not be trying to kick them into touch?

      Please tell us more – when you can?

      1. I suspect the real reason is ‘self interest’ if you are a big fish in a crowded pond with the even bigger fish making sure there is no possibility of the pond getting any bigger by surrendering any of their 95% market share then the only real alternative is to reduce the number of fish in the 5% pond.

        The real need is a competition and markets investigation into the complex monopoly that has replaced the big six monopoly which the Beer Orders were aimed at.

        But the ‘Beerage’ is very influential – note the bars in the house of parliament are designated works canteens so do not have the covid rules applied –

        There is an all too cosy relationship between regional brewers and MPs all of whom are happy to be photographed pulling pints and waving them around.

        If you are a minister you get to wear a hard hat and high vis jacket and are photographed with the ceo of a brewery company standing next to a big shiny thing.

        It does wonders for your standout statesmanlike image.

  2. Given that the Hogsback Brewery are one of the main supporters of amending the small brewers relief can I suggest you take their products off the article.

    The Hogsback has been particularly vocal in crushing the dreams of up and coming breweries through dishonest aims.

    If you compare the amount of tax levied on small breweries compared to other countries with strong brewing history such as the USA its astronomical. To change the SBR at a time when the government wants you to go to the pub to get the economy back on track is a a huge kick in the teeth.

    Perhaps if Boris and his cronies actually drank local instead of getting a photo opportunity they’d understand what a rich and diverse sector brewing is. Support the little guys not the big ones that will wipe out the competition by campaigning for amending the relief in their favour.

  3. Thank you Matt – and as we have said in the previous comment we have removed the reference to the Hogs Back Brewery. Our boys here just drink the specialist beers, and made some erroneous assumptions. Still cannot understand why the HBB would want to crush the small guys by removing the relief they get. Surely they were once small brewers too?

    Keep in touch and tell us more. We will spread the word and will give you whatever help we can in publicising your fight to get fair play.

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