In order to tackle “binge drink Britain” the government have announced alterations to the tax structure for alcohol in the UK. This involves a reduction on tax for beers 2.8% abv and below and an increase for beers above 7.5% abv. This as far as I am aware is in addition to the impending VAT rise to 20%
The Pub Curmudgeon makes a case for special pleading for beers CAMRA members like, here. This negates an important point. All beer is more or less the same basic thing, and when considering his special case for “Old Tom” pong, the beer isn’t actually “real” by the CAMRA definition when sold in bottles. It is a brewery conditioned bottled ale. In fact I would suspect considering its production by a small regional brewery that most of its sales outside the region the brewery supplies its own pubs with, will be in this format.
Old Tom is by all accounts a well respected beer, that has won numerous awards as can be seen on the brewers’ website here. The beer is as far as I’m aware not widely consumed by tramps on the street, despite my own efforts to alter this fact here.
The Spesh, or Carlsberg Special Brew does have rather a fearsome reputation as “tramps piss”, though of late my own observations are that the Tramp community opt not for a can of Spesh but a cheaper alternative strong lager or more often a strong Cider. This I presume is related to a bang per buck assessment that the Spesh whilst being a strong beer does not actually offer the cheapest way of getting drunk quickly. The history of the Spesh is available to read here. Whilst not being “real ale” and therefore by default “chemical fizz” the beer clearly has a history unrelated to a product designed for tramps. It was produced for Winston Churchill’s visit to Copenhagen in 1950.
Arguably Old Tom claiming a history going back to 1899 trumps 1950, but at the end of the day both have a history beyond my own life on the planet.
So on what basis could you actually differentiate between Old Tom and the Spesh? Are we really to assume taxation policy ought to be determined by a narrow special interest group of beer geeks producing a list of beers they “like” and “don’t like”?
It is entirely impractical to suggest Old Tom ought to be given special consideration that is not afforded to the Spesh, and given a lower tax band.
I would add further that it there is a strong merit in taxing Old Tom far more than the Spesh. The country is broke and tax revenues need to be increased. The vast majority of CAMRA members are nice well meaning middle class types that can afford to pay a few bob more for their chosen pongy gut rot.
The tramps on the street can ill afford to pay more for the Spesh. These are people at rock bottom. Often with problems that are not solved by the simple measure of putting up the price of their Spesh. A tramp is unlikely to reconsider his alcoholism and reduced circumstances if the cost of his can of Spesh goes up by 50p and choose to dry out, get a job and become a productive member of society.
Cheap clean ethanol alcohol is not the greatest evil in the world. A far greater evil for those at the bottom of life’s ladder is illicit dirty methanol alcohol. A substance that can and does cause lifelong health problems for its abusers. Health problems that will have to treated in the UK by the NHS. The can of Spesh in the tramps hand may indeed be the lesser of available evils.
The official policy of CAMCL is therefore to agree with a higher taxation rate for anything CAMRA members drink, whilst campaigning for a lower taxation rate for the Spesh, and encouraging all CAMCL supporters to join our Christmas appeal. Share the joys of the season and regardless of personal theological belief do a Christian thing. Buy a can of Spesh and give it to a tramp today. It is what the little baby Jesus would do.