I wanted to investigate what minimum pricing means for beer lovers.
It’s been just over a month since the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland. This basically means booze can’t be sold for less than 50p per unit – so the stronger it is, the more you’ll pay.
The legislation aims to target drinks with high alcohol content favoured by harmful drinkers – like cheap cider and spirits for example.
But it hasn’t come without criticism.
Some say it penalises the responsible drinker who likes to consume alcohol in moderation, and I guess it does to an extent. I’m not doing cartwheels at the idea of paying more for my favourite drinks.
But equally, if it really does what it sets out to do – tackle Scotland’s issues with chronic alcohol abuse – it could be argued it’s a small price to pay if it makes a difference.
The tabloids have gone to town with all kinds of news angles – voicing the fears of the whisky industry, talking about the massive price hike in some ciders, pointing out the irony of Buckfast’s price remaining unchanged, and even predicting a new culture of ‘booze cruises’ to England.
But there has been very little said about beer, except to say that Scotland’s other famous amber nectar – Tennent’s – will now sell for a minimum of £10.80 for a 12 pack of 400ml cans instead of £9.
I decided to find out more by enlisting the help of a beer expert…
Minimum pricing Q&A: The Beerhive Edinburgh
Peter Sherry is owner of The Beerhive in Edinburgh, an independent beer and wine merchant. It stocks a vast array of ales, stouts, lagers and independently brewed gems. He kindly agreed to answer some questions on what the new law means for beer lovers…
How will minimum pricing impact on beer in Scotland?
We feel it’s a fairly small step but we do think it’s one in the right direction. The reason we’d say it’s a minimal change is shown in the fact that you can still buy (under the new law) a 9.2%, 330ml bottle of beer for £1.52 – that’s still irresponsible in our opinion.
Can you give me the names of some beers that have seen their prices change?
Personally, it’s not impacted any products in our shop. Our philosophy has always been to stock top quality products at prices that are relative to their manufacturing. The only names I could give you would be the same ones that we’ve all read about in the news and these aren’t products we’ve ever stocked.
What sort of rise are we talking here – can you give me a few before-and-after price examples?
Again, we’ve personally seen no rise.
I’m not a fan of weak lagers and gravitate towards Belgian beers in particular – tripels, quads etc. Given their high ABV will they be a whole lot more expensive now?
Do you reckon the policy will impact on beer sales for retailers?
It depends on the retailer – small, independent, left field shops will probably not feel the impact too greatly, as they tend to be selling products that they can only afford to price responsibly anyway. It may resonate for bigger retailers who stock some of the products mentioned in the papers, but really (for those size of retailers) it will be a small piece in a large puzzle and wont make a significant dent.
On the flip side, could the legislation actually benefit some retailers such as independent merchants in particular? I understand it’s the retailers who benefit from the extra revenue generated from the minimum pricing policy?
That all depends on the chain of supply and the domino effect within. It will have positive and negative impacts, like those we mentioned above.
What does this mean for beer lovers in Scotland who like to import beers from abroad? Will sellers have to charge Scottish buyers a premuim, or does the fact they’re being imported mean the rules won’t apply?
It’s unlikely that most things coming into this country should ever end up being under the minimum pricing, we’d assume. The act of importing itself adds duty and taxes which make an imported beer getting under the minimum pricing rules very difficult to make a worthwhile endeavour.
Are there any other points you think it’s important for Scotland’s beer lovers to bear in mind in the wake of the new law coming into force?
If you’re a genuine “beer lover” then you should be completely unaffected by the rises…so no need to worry.