UPDATE: Parliament passed the law today with 284 to 269 votes! The manager of pubs owned by corporations that control more than 500 pubs will now be able to buy beer freely on the open market. PubCos were charging their franchisees up to 79% more than wholesale prices, a gross abuse of power.
With this news, plan to find more lovely craft brews in your pubs - a great reason to get back in the habit of frequenting your favourite local.
The pain of pubs across the UK is well documented. With 31 establishments currently closing per week, up from 28 not even a year ago and 18 only two years ago, the quintessential British institution is under considerable strain. A perfect storm of high duties on beer and spirits combined with large corporations influencing regulations and imposing high rents on pubs has led to the closure of more than 10,000 pubs in the past ten years.
But, with today’s vote in Parliament, all this may be about to change, along with the beers on offer.
The beer tax escalator, passed by Parliament in 2008, has been automatically increasing duties on ales by 2% above inflation every year. But this year witnessed the end of the controversial law.
Now, Parliament is negotiating the end of a punitive law that restricts publicans to purchasing their beer from the company that owns them. The law has limited choice for pub owners when refilling their stock and has created closed markets that have pushed prices up: the law allows PubCos to more or less dictate prices as their publican franchisees are obliged to buy from them.
If all this ends as planned, not only will pub patrons potentially be presented with less dear beer prices, but also, craft brewers may find their already rising share of the British beer market increasing even faster. With publicans free to choose which products they can serve, many could opt for the lagers, ales, pilsners and porters of small, independent brewers - beers made with more flavour and traditional brewing processes.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), petitioning for “real ale” and pub culture since the 1970s, is an association that supports the legislation and would like to see the bland, industrially produced beers that took over the market beginning in the 1960s fall by the wayside. CAMRA cites over 5,500 different styles of real ale made in the UK, styles that today find it difficult to reach the mouths of pub patrons. Today there are over 800 brewers in the UK and sales of craft beers grew by 8% last year.
With the US beer market expected to be 15% craft by 2020 driven to a large extent by local brew pubs, this legislation will open the flood gates for UK craft brewers and give drinkers what they want: a wide array of ales and spirits made with love.