What exactly is Beer Duty?

What is beer duty exactly?

If you’ve been around beer or in any pubs recently then no doubt you’ve heard grumbles of “that bloody beer duty”. It’s the bane of the British beer industry, but, what is beer duty exactly?

I’ve delved into some research to try and illustrate beer duty simply and concisely (and with as little rage as possible…).

The dreaded tax

Okay, so tax is one of those necessary evils. If we’re all completely honest, tax is a good idea – it puts tarmac on the roads and nurses in the hospital (shame about the uniforms) but some tax can be quite a pain in the arse. Beer Duty is, at its base level, a tax.

Lots of stuff is taxed, and alcohol is one of those things. Unfortunately, beer was singled out in 2008 by Alistair Darling and the decision was made to increase the tax (the money that goes directly to the Government) by 2% over the level of inflation each year until 2014/15.

Beer duty per pint

This is from CAMRA. Cheers, chaps!

To break this down, since 2008 the tax you pay on a pint has gone up over 40%. This means that breweries have to charge more, pubs have to charge more and we, the beer drinking public of Britain, have to pay more for our beer. On a £3.00 pint in your local £0.50 is VAT and 54.3p goes straight to Beer Duty. To put this in perspective, in 2012 the UK paid 43% of all beer duty in the EU, that’s nearly half of everything the 45 countries paid. Not only do we feel this in our pockets, but it affects the publicans, brewers and all indirect employees of the beer trade (one job in brewing creates 21 other related jobs).

The partial victory

As I’m sure you all know CAMRA, as well as many others, have taken up the good fight since this Beer Duty Escalator was introduced and last year George Osborne scrapped the escalator and went “one step further and cut beer duty by 1p”. It was good news, but only a partial victory, the escalator had already added 42% onto tax pre-2008 and 5800 pubs had closed in that time. Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive, commented the following:

Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive

Mike Benner

This is a momentous day for Britain’s beer drinkers, who will tonight be raising a glass to the Chancellor for axing this damaging tax escalator and helping keep pub-going affordable for hard-pressed consumers. This decision will keep the lid on the cost of a pint down the pub.


What is left to do

Many people and organisations are now pushing for either a freeze or a reduction in beer duty. After such an individualised increase there are calls to balance the tax across all alcoholic products and encourage people to drink weaker-strength British drinks (sorry to all you Jagerbombers out there). If you feel inspired to get involved you can head over to the CAMRA website where they have a nice little template allowing you to send a request to your local MP, you can also help support your local by heading down there and buying a pint slightly more regularly. There’s a full list of current campaigns on their site here.

Sources and resources.


Drop us some thoughts!