Dorset microbreweries are struggling to export their beer, whilst new figures show that UK beer is becoming more and more popular overseas.
Latest Government figures show that the UK exported a record 1.1 billion pints overseas last year, and the number of micro-breweries has almost doubled in the past four years. However the challenges of exporting have drawn several Dorset-based microbreweries away from the international market.
The UK’s high alcohol duty is a major problem, according to Chris Mathers from Bournemouth Brewery.
“In brewing you have to account for every single drop you sell. And you have to pay tax on that. It’s disgusting, the level of duty,” he said.
Alcohol duty rose 42% between 2008 and 2012. Despite last year’s 2% cut, it is a high rate for microbreweries trying to export. The high level of duty levied on alcohol sold in the UK means that microbreweries have less capital to invest in exporting, which is a costly process.
Brent Smith from Sunny Republic Brewery used to export to four countries and hopes to start again next year. He had difficulty finding reliable importers.
“We had a nightmare story of an importer that was supposed to refrigerate the beer, but instead kept it in a warehouse with temperatures reaching 40 degrees, rotting the beer. He tried to sell the beer two months later and the beer was already tainted, and it was our reputation that was at stake,” he said.
Beer is difficult to transport anyway, according to Chris Mathers.
“It is difficult to find reputable importers overseas”
“Real ale is a live product with yeast which eats the sugars developing the flavours, so it does not travel well. It’s like moving cattle from one place to another,” he said.
Sunny Republic Brewery is working on finding a way to protect their beer in transit.
“We have been solving technicalities of packaging beer with no contamination and making sure that it has the right levels of carbonation. We have been sending samples to an independent laboratory for tests in order to have everything right,” said Smith.