OPINION: Beer price hikes ‘tosh’

loose change. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

loose change. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

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Do you ever feel you are being short changed? That something simply does not add up and leaves you flummoxed? Well, after the major brewers announced their 2015 price increases, I thought something certainly doesn’t add up here - and it was time for some fearless, investigative journalism!

Allow me to ascend my soapbox.

Let me, in this quite baffling instance, trumpet the cause for pub goers and licensees alike as I reveal a few facts and figures to you discerning beer quaffers.

In the “big business corner”, we have Molson Coors, Carlsberg, Heineken and finally, Diageo, who brew Guinness. This gaggle of major brewers have just announced prices rises ranging from 3% to 4% for their beer.

So, I think it’s fair to say, that by the time the Pubcos and licensees have made their increases, in order to maintain their profit margin (understandable in the case for licensees), consumers at the bar could be facing an increase of up to 10p a pint.

Now hang on a minute here.

There appears to be no justification whatsoever for whopping, inflation (0.5%) busting price hikes. And the “beer slurper corner” is now going to explain why.

Over the last 12 months I have witnessed no increase in the price of gas and electric. The price of a barrel of oil has halved in six months as fuel at the pump spirals downwards towards a quid a litre. And I believe inflation is at its lowest figure since records began.

So, for some of the major brewers to blame increased production and running costs for the price hike is surely a load of old tosh.

The figures simply don’t add up.

Also, there has been a bumper harvest of hops and grain in 2014. European hop prices are currently stable. And malting barley is now almost half the price it was a few years ago.

Crikey! All things considered, I’m beginning to believe the annual price rise is a traditional announcement among the “big boys” of UK brewing.

It certainly appears so, as the present economic climate, in relation to brewing, does not justify a price increase. Don’t you agree?

I speak to many licensees in the trade on my beery travels.

Undoubtedly, they are hard-working, honourable and honest in their opinions.

One such licensee said: “There is no justification whatsoever for any increase. Operating costs have gone down over the last 12 months.”

Well, I couldn’t argue with those sentiments - and he has my sympathy, as more price increases will probably lead to more publicans going out of business.

Of course, there is likely to be another cut in beer duty in the forthcoming budget - as it’s General Election year.

Wow! Another penny off duty?

But will it make any difference?

I think not. In fact, have the previous two in 2013 and 2014, made the beleaguered licensee, or the long suffering customer, jump for joy and scream “Alleluia, praise the Chancellor”.

Err ... no.

Let’s be honest, it had no effect on our pockets. It was just like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Apologies, I digress.

In conclusion, don’t you agree the major brewers have no valid reason for increasing the price of your beverage - in all likelihood by about 10p.

It’s a most cynical and below-the-belt act of decision making, in my opinion. They have shown utter contempt for both licensees and customers alike. Hopefully, some of the regional, family and micro brewers, who presently have not announced their intentions, will exercise more understanding - and not follow suit.