Strong beer tax could boost weak ale market

Plans to increase tax on high-strength beers while decreasing duty for lower strengths could see a rise in the number of weaker drinks on the market, a consumer group claims.

As part of an attempt to tackle problem drinking, the UK government announced plans yesterday to increase tax on beer with a strength of more than 7.5 per cent alcohol by volume, and reduce the rate on drinks of 2.8 per cent or less.

Consumer group, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) welcomed the move, although only a handful of beers will be affected. They include Weltons Brewery's low-strength Pride and Joy, and high-strength beers Special Brew and Skol Super.

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But Camra said high production costs have limited the number of low-strength beers on the market and it was confident this would now change. "Camra has welcomed the government's decision to introduce a reduced rate of excise duty for beers at or below 2.8 per cent, and will be pushing for a reduction of at least 50 per cent," chief executive Mike Benner said.

He added: "This move will incentivise brewers to invest in producing new low-strength real ales packed full of flavour."