April 17, 2018 – Manchester Beer Week will hold an open debate on the future of the Small Breweries’ Relief (SBR) scheme during this year’s festival, which runs from June 29 to July 8.

The move comes after proposals to reform the current tax system were put forward by the Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition (SBDRC), sparking widespread discussion throughout the industry.

Under the current arrangements, all breweries that produce no more than 60,000 hectolitres of beer each year are entitled to pay a reduced rate of duty. Reductions start at 50% for breweries producing 5,000 hectolitres or less and decrease on a sliding scale as production volume increases. One of the changes suggested by the SBDRC is a reduction of the 5,000-hectolitre threshold to 1,000, meaning a large number of smaller brewers would be forced to pay more in duty.

The debate held as part of Manchester Beer Week will aim to bring together figures from across the industry to address current concerns and attempt to find solutions that protect the future of British independent brewing.

“As a festival working with many of the smaller breweries across Greater Manchester, we stand against any proposals that would threaten their livelihoods or result in a reduction of choice for drinkers,” said Manchester Beer Week organiser Connor Murphy.

“Brewing has boomed over recent years, both across Manchester and the UK, and SBR has played a significant role in revitalising the industry. Britain’s independent brewers should be working together, not against one another, to ensure a healthy future for a product that deserves to be treated as a great source of pride for this country.”

Members of the SBDRC include Greater Manchester breweries JW Lees, Joseph Holt and Robinsons.

JW Lees, in particular, has played a major role in the festival since its inception and states that it is open to discussion around the issue of SBR to find a solution that works for the wider industry. The brewery believes SBR was a catalyst to spark the creation of lots of new breweries, but supports a review of the current situation. However, it has not yet backed any specific proposals.

William Lees-Jones, Managing Director, said: “JW Lees believes that SBR is currently unfair and that SIBA cannot come to an agreed position shows how there is no black and white solution. We would like to see debate so that brewing sector can come to a united consensus.”

In order to further the conversation around SBR, JW Lees has agreed to participate in a collaboration brew with Marble and Beer Nouveau, two Manchester breweries who have both spoken against any changes that might affect the 5,000-hectolitre threshold.

The three will work together to create a beer for entry into the Manchester Beer Week City Clash, and will use the opportunity to learn more about each other’s challenges and discuss solutions that might help small and medium-sized breweries to join forces for the benefit of British independent brewing.