Welcome to the penultimate Thoughts…. of the year, and I hope it sees you all enjoying the pre festive season.

Unfortunately in 3 weeks time our pint will cost us another 7p on average as a result of the VAT rise. I can remember when I first started drinking in my late teens (18 years ago), I was paying £1.50 a pint for a decent bitter, now I pay on average £2.50 a pint for my ale, and it can be up to £4.00 for a decent beer in certain venues. It’s not going to be long before we hit £3 a pint at this rate, certainly within the next 5 years even with just VAT increases applied. There is a certain tolerance with pricing any product and we are moving towards that limit faster than desired with alcohol duty and brewery imposed increases.

I’ve decided to give Greene King a break from criticism this week (think of it as my christmas present to them) and point my guns at my other regular target, Enterprise Inns. As you all know I not their biggest fan due to their practices, which is where one of my favourite breweries of the year Brew Dog comes into the story. In attempting to get direct distribution to Enterprise Inn pubs they found that they were being locked out due to not being members of SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers). SIBA do some good work, but I worry about the cartel which seems to have been formed between the organisation and Enterprise. For the sake of their ongoing business growth, Brew Dog joined the organisation, taking a swipe “Business is business and we want to sell to Enterprise bars through the Direct Delivery Scheme. It is the only way we can sell to Enterprise”.

I commented on the outcome of the CAMRA report in October about the increase in the number of new brewers starting up. According to QuaffAle, since the start of this month, 24 new breweries have opened nationwide. That is more than two a day, which is a fantastic comment on the health of the real ale market in itself, when taken along side the fact that we can support 8 breweries in Calderdale with room to spare. A brewery not too far from our borders is Ossett, which is the maker of my beer recommendation of the week “Silver King”, a pale beer with a ton of taste. Sampled at my local, the Cock and Bottle, it went down rather too well on Saturday afternoon (and Sunday teatime). This along side their Excelsior and Pale Gold, the brewery is really hitting the mark with their brews. For a wider selection of their beers I recommend you visit the Travellers Inn at Hipperholme which is part of the Ossett estate.xcelsior

I’m of an age now where I drink because I like the taste of the product and not to experience the less friendly side-effects of alcohol (at least not on purpose, but given the right beer and company, it can soon lead from one bar to another). I can count the number of hangovers I have had this year on one hand, and most of those were when down visiting my parents in Leicester while drinking “less crafted” beers. I only mention this because everybody, when mentioning alcohol legislation keeps referring to the “youth binge drinking problem” and “pre loading on supermarket beer”. This is not a new problem, its been around since alcohol was available in the home, we had the moral panic over gin in the 1800’s and probation in the US in the 1930’s, as well as many smaller “demon drink” crusades in between. However the side effect of this focus is that any tax increases or new laws also have an effect on us responsible drinkers who like 5-6 pints while relaxing on an evening and the sensible publicans who serve us. As Mr Bing Crosby sang “We’d better accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative”, however the positive can’t be used to raise revenue by the government, the negative can.

I’ll see you next week for my look back over the past year.