Paying Our Way

Let’s face it, the quality of life would be so much worse without a good local pub or club. Well I would say that, wouldn’t I, as a CAMRA Branch Pubs & Clubs Officer, but I think most of us like to get out and meet other people over a drink somewhere convenient and congenial, supervised but without too much formality. All the more so in January, and this year’s seems to be particularly dark, wet and getting colder as I write.

Yes, it’s a good time to enjoy some beer or cider, or indeed a refreshing non-alcoholic drink if we prefer. ‘Dry January’ campaigners, whatever their motives, need not be deterring pubgoers. From a CAMRA per-spective, to quote the ‘Tryanuary 2020’ website, “We’re encouraging you responsibly to support local, independent beer businesses. . . If you’re still intent on taking part in Dry January, you can still support Tryanuary! A visit to the pub for some food and a soft drink, or trying zero alcohol beers from a number of independent UK brewers, is still not only supporting the beer industry, but keeping you on track with your resolutions too!

In the last issue I reviewed what the 2019 Cask Report had to say about promoting cask ale. I noted how its average price, especially in London, had continued to rise above inflation, questioned the suggestion that we should be paying yet more and noted the vast price difference we might find for the same beer in different pubs.

But how much less should we be paying for lower strength beers? The higher the ABV, the higher the beer duty and, if I’d take twice as long to drink a pint at 6% ABV than at 3% ABV, I might expect to pay twice as much for it. Finding Prince of Denmark (7.5% ABV) on cask in a well known Harvey’s pub recently, I thought a pint at £6.60 was quite reasonable. For that matter, I can understand that a high strength KeyKeg or canned beer may be good value.

In many places, though, there seems to be little difference in price between a 3% ABV cask beer and a 6% ABV one. So by my reckoning either the stronger beer is a much better deal or the session beer costs too much. For aficionados of stronger beers that is good news but, for brewers and publicans, promoting the Tryanuary message makes even more sense when sales of lower alcohol beers, not to mention soft drinks, can be that much more profitable. So drink responsibly, in moderation; it’s best for us, and for the prosperity of our pubs and clubs.

We are not a campaign for cheap beer as such. For that, there are plenty of Wetherspoon’s pubs offering locally brewed cask beers in good condition reflecting their rapid turnover. But should CAMRA discount vouchers, especially for those bargain strong beers, be allowed, in effect, further to erode microbrewers’ profit margins? I am sure the Editor would welcome letters from readers.

Geoff Strawbridge
Regional Director
CAMRA Greater London Region