So who are you then?
I’m co-founder of Hackney Brewery. I started the brewery with my business partner, Jon, in 2011 as one of the earlier breweries in London. We had just enough money to setup as a small two-man cask ale brewery. Like so many breweries like ours, we worked our socks off to make ends meet, reinvested what we were making, allowing slow and organic growth of the brewery.
Over the years our direction changed to follow the market towards keg and can beers, and with the investment in more equipment, we’ve grown to a team of ten brilliant local staff. Currently we make about 4000hl of beer a year.
We pay our staff at least London Living Wage, we use 100% green energy from wind power in the brewhouse, we donate to local charities, we try to do things right. People like us and our beer and we are slightly profitable. We’re doing alright.
So why are you worried? Is it coronavirus?
It’s partly that, and like all breweries we’re going through the same thing and I think we can weather the storm.
Is it competition?
Again this has a role – but this has always been a factor, lack of access to market and sharp practice from multinationals has been going on since we started. It’s just another one of the many difficult aspects of our business.
What is it then?
It’s the Treasury’s decision to change the Small Brewers Relief for beer duty which means that small breweries like mine will receive less beer duty relief and it will be given to larger, richer, more profitable breweries who already receive the same amount as anyone brewing up to 5000hL.
It will mean job losses, changes in business practises, and cutting costs could mean changing the Living Wage policy, and having to move away from using more-expensive, green energy.
The Treasury seem to want me to burn down the world to make beer now and it could all ultimately mean the closure of our brewery and hundreds of others along with all the associated bad knock-ons from that.
But that doesn’t make any sense, wasn’t Small Brewers Relief introduced to encourage more small breweries, to increase consumer choice and to support, develop and ensure the protection of small artisanal producers?
It was put in place because of economies of scale and because it’s much cheaper for big breweries to make beer, all based on some sound accounting.
How could the Treasury have ever come to the conclusion that taking from the little guy to give to the big guy was a fair and sensible idea? And really, they’re doing this right now?
Ok, some good (and long) questions there. Well, an organisation representing around 30 brewers who would benefit from these changes managed to convince the Treasury that it’s a very good idea and everyone would be happy. The remaining 2000 odd brewers in the country, big and small, have said that if Small Brewers Relief was to be reviewed, then as a minimum the current 5000hL limit should not change.
So what are you going to do about it?
I’m joining a new organisation called the Small Brewers Forum. They only let small brewers join (sub-10000hL) so I can be sure that they represent what’s good for me without any of the big guys pulling the strings.
They’ve already been busy talking to the right departments in government and I’m confident that I’ll have my voice heard. Time for the little guy to have his say.
Are you done now?
Yep, beer time. Small brewers’ beer.
Help us to help you. If you haven’t already joined us please do so or become a “Small Brewers, Fighting for Fairness” campaign supporter, which is completely free: www.forumofbritishpubs.com/small-brewers-forum/.
The more members and supporters we have, the stronger our voice becomes and the more help we can give.