The politics of craft beer: for the many not the few

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2017 by kmflett

The politics of beer: for the many not the few

Going back over the decades there wasn’t much doubt that if you were drinking a glass of beer in a pub as well as some of the money you’d paid for it going to the Exchequer, a bit was also finding its way into Tory Party funds.

The Beerage, as the brewers were known were very largely Tory supporters and not in any way ashamed of the connection.

With August seeing both the 40th Great British Beer Festival organised by the Campaign For Real Ale and the wider London Beer Week around it its becoming clear that the politics of beer are changing and arguably moving to the left.

A good deal of the beer which is consumed in the UK is now produced by multi-national brewing companies such as ABInBev. They owe little allegiance to any particular national polity (and no doubt pay taxes where it is most financially lucrative for them to do so) and have little interest in donating money to the Tories or any other UK party.

That said some of the large breweries which are still UK based such as Fullers in Chiswick and Greene King in Bury St Edmunds certainly are still associated with supporting the Tories.

But in the world of 2017 for many big is not always beautiful and that goes for beer too.

In the last 10 years or so there has been a huge increase in the numbers of smaller breweries in Britain, helped by tax changes brought in by Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor.

Some of these breweries are no longer as small as all that and have taken trade away from the multi-nationals.

A result and growing trend has been for the huge breweries like ABInBev to buy smaller ‘craft’ breweries and claim that they will operate just as before. So for example AB bought Camden Town brewery and has provided funds for a massive new brewery in Ponders End, the biggest investment in brewing in Britain for decades.

There is tension between drinkers who want to consume locally brewed beers, brewed on a small scale to reflect particular trends and interests in taste, and big capital, that wants to produce and market such beers on a large scale to make profit.

Matters came to head recently when brewing giant Carlsberg announced that it had acquired London Fields brewery in Hackney. Its plan is to market its own craft beer from the brewery in conjunction with the US brewery Brooklyn which it also has an interest in.
London Fields was one of the original breweries of the new ‘craft’ wave and although it has had a chequered history, the fact that it would be owned by a brewing giant but still marketed as small scale craft provoked a reaction.

SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, which represents many, though not all, of the smaller craft brewers, immediately announced that it would be issuing a certificate to the effect that beer from a particular brewery, was produced by an independent concern and not owned by a huge company.

The new logo will be used on pump clips so that drinkers can see straight away that what they are drinking is genuinely small-scale beer and not just something else claiming to be that.

The logo will be widely on display at the Great British Beer Festival in August and of course the event is organised and run by CAMRA on a volunteer, not for profit basis.

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a drinker, but the politics of for the many not the few is clearly finding its way into beer as well

This piece originally appeared in the Morning Star.

The beer writer Matt Curtis pointed out on social media that the SIBA move doesn’t solve the many issues involved here. I agree. It’s a beginning not an end.



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