Britain’s cider-makers raised a pint to George Osborne’s decision to cut duty by 2p in the Budget – but a civil war has broken out in the industry over a tax-exemption deal.
A demand from Brussels that the UK Government abolish a duty exemption worth £2,500 to small-scale cider and perry producers has been met with cries of anguish from some makers and trebles all round from others. Reports that getting rid of the exemption would threaten the existence of 80 per cent of craft cider-makers were dismissed last night.
There are about 480 UK cider-makers and the current exemption dates back to 1976. It means those who produce less than 7,000 litres a year – about 12,000 pints – do not have to pay the duty. The Government has until April to comply with the European Commission demand.
One cider-maker, who is above the duty threshold, said the EU proposal would end what has been called a tax on aspiration.
10 best British beers
10 best British beers
1/10 St Austell Korev
Now available in cute and portable 330ml cans, this classy Cornish lager, in the Munich Helles style, has the benefit of tasting fresher than most imports. Don’t judge us: we’ve been enjoying drinking it straight from the tin. £32 for 24 cans, staustellbreweryshop.co.uk
2/10 Brew By Numbers Saison
This up-and-coming London brewery produce so many different beers that they use a numbering system: anything beginning 01 is a Belgian-style summer 'saison' with a twist. We most recently enjoyed a spritzy, Pimms-like variant with cucumber and juniper. £2.80, eebria.com
3/10 Lees Manchester Pale Ale
A rather old-fashioned family brewery, this attempt by Lees to brew a hoppy golden ale is actually something of an homage to Boddington's Bitter as it was 40 years ago - quenchingly bitter, dry and bluntly northern. Best enjoyed in the cool gloom of the back room of a pub. £14 for case of 8, jwlees.co.uk
4/10 Thornbridge Tzara
The team at this Derbyshire brewery express a distinct streak of Germanophilia and this beer is their precisely-observed homage to the traditions of the city Cologne. The native beer style, Kölsch, looks and tastes much like any other lager except for a subtle, flowery fruitiness derived from a distinctive yeast. Short of a weekend break, Tzara is the best way to experience it – far fresher than any imported bottle. £23.80 for 12, thornbridgebrewery.co.uk
5/10 Schlenkerla Helles
An oddity from Bamberg in the beer paradise of Franconia, Germany. The brewery’s flagship products are dark, bacon-y Rauchbiers made with smoked malt. This pale lager often, but not always, picks up a subtle smokiness on its way through the brewing kit. Perfect with grilled meat. €23.00 for 20, schlenkerla.de
6/10 Schneider Weisse Original
The most interesting of the German wheat beers, darker and a little more complex than its rivals, Schneider Weisse is nonetheless great fun: banana, bubblegum and toffee flavours all wrapped up in an effervescent body, under a Mr Whippy head. only available in certain bars, schneider-weisse.de
It’s not the trendiest product – the brand is owned these days by AB-InBev of Stella Artois fame – but remains the gold standard for the coriander and orange peel infused Belgian wheat beer style. Straightforwardly satisfying, it’s great value in bottles, too. only available in certain bars, hoegaarden.com
8/10 Redemption trinity
Billed as a ‘light ale’, this zippy, zesty ale from London is just intoxicating enough to keep your buzz going throughout a long afternoon session in a beer garden. Pick your pub carefully, though: it needs to be served cellar-cool. only available in certain bars, redemptionbrewing.co.uk
9/10 Magic Rock Salty Kiss
This attempt to revive an almost extinct German beer style, Gose, by the cult Huddersfield-based brewery is not an earnest academic exercise: it’s like Tango for grown-ups. Salty and snappily sour, it has also included various fruits, from lime to gooseberry. Our top beer of 2013. only available in certain bars, magicrockbrewing.com
10/10 Wild Beer Co Ninkasi
This ‘celebration beer’ is brewed by a Californian in Somerset, using Belgian yeast and a small amount of apple juice. Finished off and packaged like Champagne, it’s great for sharing, and much more refreshing than the strength might lead you to believe. only available in certain bars, wildbeerco.com
The producer said: “[The duty] makes it very difficult if I’m trying to sell my cider in or around Bristol, where a lot of the smaller producers are… because my costs are 25 per cent more than the smaller businesses.
“This figure that 80 per cent of cider-makers will be affected is nonsense. It’s much closer to 50. When you get close to the threshold you have to make a huge jump over it if you want to increase the size of your business and not lose money as a result.”
At a meeting of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) last week the EU’s proposal was the number one topic of discussion. One attendee said: “It pretty much amounted to ‘There’s not a lot we can do’, given it is the EU’s decision and we all have to comply.”
The NACM estimates that “probably a few hundred” small producers will be affected. A spokesman said that many would go out of business because of the ruling, which he described as “very disappointing”.Reuse content