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Britain to lower taxes on weaker beer

The British government is poised to decrease the duty on low-alcohol beers, a move that has some brewers tweaking recipes and searching for tasty alternatives to a full-strength pint.

'We have to develop new recipes,' brewer says in response to price shift

The British government is poised to decrease the duty on low-alcohol beers, a move that has some brewers tweaking recipes and searching for tasty alternatives to a full-strength pint.

There are more than 500 beers on tap at a major beer festival in London, but none of them has less than 2.8 per cent alcohol. Mike Benner, one of the festival organizers, said he thinks that's about to change.

"We're very confident that the country's brewers can rise to the challenge and brew some great low-strength beers, and we're looking forward to seeing those at the festival next year."

The driver is price — once the government's tax cut on low-alcohol beer goes into effect in October, a pint of weaker beer could be nearly a dollar cheaper than traditional ales and stouts, CBC's Alison Crawford said.

Health advocates hope the lower prices will lead to Britons taking in less alcohol and fewer calories with their daily pint.

The British government has hiked excise duties on beer every year for the last three years. This year's increase for full strength beer is 7.2 per cent and 7.5 per cent for extra strong beer, while excise duty for low-alcohol beer will go down in October.

Changing markets

Ken Johnson, who works with Marston's Beer Company, said the beer market has been changing for years and this is an opportunity not to be missed.

"One of the growing trends in the market is for younger women to be taking up beer drinking, amongst the lighter beers, the golden ales," he said. "And younger people tend to have less disposable income."

John Keeling wasn't at the beer festival. But the head brewer for Fuller's was one of the first out of the gate on the quest to develop a tasty low-alcohol beer.

"The problem with producing the 2.8 per cent beer, if you do it on normal standard recipes, it's not going to taste of a lot," he said.  "So we have to develop new recipes."

Keeling said he's using more hops and experimenting with roasted malts.

He hopes to have his first 2.8 per cent beer by early next week.

Drinkers divided

Beer-lover Soumak Cinha told Crawford that he has never tried a low-alcohol beer. But he said he would be willing to give it a go, as long as it tasted good.

"If it's like, quite feasible, then might as well shift to light beers, rather than having proper pints, you know?"

But pub-goer Craig Kilmartin said the price change won't alter his habits.

"I don't think that by interfering with the price you're going to affect someone's drinking, sort of long term," he said. "I think that's too much meddling really, it's more of a nanny state isn't it? I mean, it looks good on paper."

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