You love your local beer, right? We all do; we like it tasty and we like it fresh. We like a little variety too, it's the spice of life, after all.
Well here's the truth: you're very lucky you can get local beer; economies of scale within manufacturing in general, and brewing in particular, provide a huge force towards centralised production and it is only balanced by two opposing forces: consumer demand (well done CAMRA) and a tax break for small brewers called Progressive Beer Duty (well done Gordon Brown, really). Without consumer demand there would be little point in brewing locally and without PBD there would be no economic possibility of brewing locally (well, not whilst making anything approaching a reasonable and fair income).
I rely on these two forces to keep my business afloat and I try to take care of them: if I don't brew consistently tasty, fresh beer local demand will fall away and if I lose my PBD I lose too any chance of bringing my beer to market at a realistic price.
You'll forgive me, therefore, if I feel a touch protective over PBD - it's vital for the survival of our business and gives us the chance, if we're good enough at what we do, to flourish and to enjoy the fruits of our not inconsiderable labour. For the moment, at least, you have the opportunity to enjoy tasty fresh ale and we have the opportunity to earn an honest living, working hard and working well for it.
But there are those that appear to be jealous of our cosy relationship and would seek to undermine it. They lobby against PBD, vociferously, in the hope it will be scrapped or reduced and in the short sighted, small minded belief that they will benefit from our downfall. Those that are large enough to enjoy the economies of scale do not need PBD but it doesn't seem to stop them from wanting to take it away from those of us that do need it. It's deeply ironic that the whole cask ale sector is enjoying a revival as a direct result of the quality, consistency and diversity that the new wave of breweries has been able to bring to the market since the introduction of PBD.
I doubt very much that the tone of this piece captures my feelings accurately for, were I to attempt to convey those feelings in writing, this post would be unreadable. I'm angry. I'm as angry as I would be if an adult were to pinch my 5 year old's football or deliberately frighten my 10 year old. And I'm as angry as I would be were someone to threaten my ability to put bread on my kids' table and shoes on their feet.
Next week there's a meeting between a few interested parties concerning this very subject and I will be present, along with some of the most influential figures in our little industry. They will discuss the pros and cons of the PBD system and seek to smooth out their little differences and reach a consensus so a united front can approach the Treasury with a plan. I, however, will be the only person in the room whose future is directly and inextricably linked to their discussion. I don't know how this came about, how we end up with a situation whereby I'm fighting for the right to continue making a living against people I have nothing whatsoever to do with otherwise, people who I have never had the least effect on, people I wouldn't know from Adam. I won't tell you who they are, not yet, not until I confirm their intentions and the effect it will have on me, my family and my friends. Then I'll tell you, I'll tell everyone the sordid little bully-boy story of petty jealousy and the vindictive use of power. And I'll tell it loud and I'll tell it wide and people will listen and they'll be appalled.
But hey, maybe I won't have to tell you. Maybe they've seen the light, changed their minds and elected to leave me, and others like me, alone to continue building little futures for ourselves. If they have, we'll be good friends, if they haven't, we certainly won't.
Hi guys! See you next week. Oh, and sorry if I might have described your intentions in the worst possible light - that's just the way it feels to be on the receiving end, so to speak. I'd been meaning to tell you but I was too busy being reasonable. We can get down to the nub of matter now.