Recently Mike Hampshire of Nomadic Beers went to meet with Tim Dewey of Timothy Taylor’s brewery to discuss all things SBR, including Tim Taylor’s stance. You can read about that here:

Since then, Mike’s been saying we should all be talking to Tim, that we should be working together to fix a broken Duty system. I agree, our Duty system is broken, it does need fixing.

SBR has become a sticking plaster, but you don’t remove the dressing when the wound is still gaping. And that’s what Tim at Timothy Taylor’s is trying to do. Rather than push for a long term fix, he’s trying to rip the plaster off and let parts of the industry bleed to death.

Firstly I want to thank Mike for what he’s done, and what he’s doing. Keeping a small brewery going involves a lot of hard work, and making time to do what he’s doing involves rescheduling, roping people in to help, putting stuff off until your “day off”.

But now let’s look at the conclusions that Mike came away with, these are the points that were most pertinent from the meeting that Mike felt the need to write down.

  1. Beer Duty in the UK is too high.
    Yes, it absolutely is. But this isn’t related directly to SBR. This is a whole other problem. SBR was brought in to level the playing field for the economies of scale with regards to purchasing and distribution. Even now SBR does not cover the difference in production costs between a small and a medium sized brewery. SBR is also a % relief, reducing the amount of overall Duty paid would mean that the difference in Duty paid between small, medium and large breweries would reduce. Beneficial for the larger breweries.
  2. Route to market is difficult.
  3. Pub ties are damaging. Absolutely are. Yet Timothy Taylor’s pubs, as far as I’m aware, are tied houses. Does Tim plan to open up his tied estate to other breweries?
  4. Major pub chains and intermediaries are devaluing cask, turning it into a low value commodity. Absolutely are. Not as much as supermarkets are though. Why pay a premium price for a pint of Landlord in a pub when you can get 4 bottles for £6 in Asda? You can’t address one of these issues without addressing the other. Either beer is premium or it’s not. And while you’re dealing with supermarkets, who drive the hardest deals with the lowest margins, you can’t preach about premiumisation.
  5. See b.
  6. Fixing Beer Duty and route to market and there’s no need for SBR? Sorry, what? No.  This goes back to the reason SBR was introduced. To reduce the effects of economies of scale enjoyed by the larger breweries. Lowering Beer Duty would lower it for larger breweries too, they would gain far more benefit financially than smaller breweries. Forcing Pub Cos and supermarkets to pay a decent price for beers would also mean that larger breweries, with their higher turnover, would benefit more too. Fixing 1 and 2 would mean that SBR was needed more than ever.
  7. Splintering of breweries is going to cause long term issues and build factions. Yes, absolutely yes. Which is what has already happened. The Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition (SBDRC) split off from SIBA (the industry body) because SIBA wouldn’t bow to their wishes fast enough. This is what has caused the most harm to our industry in recent years.  Oh, and Timothy Taylor’s are a member of SMDRC.
  8. We need to talk more. I’m not very good talking face to face. I need time to process what’s said, to do a bit of research, check notes, etc. Tim at Timothy Taylor’s has said that his emails are open, well Tim, so are mine. But I reserve the right to make everything public.

My self-imposed ban on Timothy Taylor’s remains, but it’s been in place since I read this blog: