Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has spoken out against a campaign by big breweries to remove the tax relief scheme afforded to their smaller competitors.
A coalition of large breweries including the Marston's-owned Wychwood, Jennings and the Ringwood breweries are calling for the Small Breweries Relief scheme to be reviewed and reformed.
The scheme was established in 2002 and allows breweries producing under 60,000 hectolitres to pay a reduced rate of duty on a sliding scale of up to 50%. It has been widely credited as a major catalyst in the explosion of craft breweries and innovation in real ale and keg beer varieties over the last decade.
Ms Wood, who is a member of the Campaign for Real Ale, said it would be highly detrimental if the scheme was diluted or abolished.
“The large growth in the number of small breweries, particularly in Wales, over the last ten years has been a welcome addition for beer drinkers,” said Ms Wood. “It was not so long ago that beer choices were limited and, what was on offer, was bland at best.
“The brewing scene has changed beyond all recognition, and it has changed for the better for drinkers because of the improved choices and quality of products. The small breweries have brought with them a vibrancy that was desperately missing not so long ago.
“We have seen this in the Rhondda with the Cwm Rhondda Ales brewery and pubs such as the Pencelli in Treorci which has embraced the small brewery revolution. A resident of the Rhondda has also set up his own brewery in Trefforest called Bragdy Twt Lol.
“They have been a big boost to the local economy of Wales. The large increase in the number of small breweries in Wales has created jobs and it has encouraged people to go to pubs because of the better beer on offer on tap.
“We cannot risk jeopardising all that to serve the interests of big breweries. Small breweries need a helping hand in the early years and the rate relief provides that.
“The scheme has kick started a revolution in the beer industry. Bigger breweries like the internationally successful Tiny Rebel, who started out very small and have grown dramatically in just a few years, would not be where they are now were it not for the Small Breweries Relief scheme.
“That’s further proof, if any was needed, that this scheme needs to remain in place.”
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