British beer gets weaker

Brewers have been cutting the alcohol percentage in beer to save money on taxes.

By Kim Peterson Mar 16, 2012 5:11PM
Image: Beer (© Corbis)Big brewers have taken the unusual step of watering down their beer in Britain, and they're hoping customers won't notice.

The reason comes down to taxes. The "beer duty" is incredibly steep; about a third of a pint's total price goes to taxes, the BBC reports.

But there's a twist: The stronger the beer, the more taxes brewers have to pay. So the brewing industry is hoping to cut its tax burden with weaker beer, but not so weak as to lose customers.

Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD) has cut the potency of Stella Artois, Becks and Budweiser, the BBC reports. OK, you can have a minute to joke about what a weaker Budweiser would taste like. Got it out of your system? Let's move on.

The reduction could save Anheuser-Busch $13.6 million a year in taxes. Another brewer, Carlsberg, has cut the alcohol by volume of one of its beers, Carlsberg Export, to 4.8% from 5%, the BBC reports. It's a small reduction, one that probably will go unnoticed by most drinkers.

Speaking of beer -- and with St. Patrick's Day just around the corner -- the following video shows you the proper way to pour a Guinness. But you just might want to make a mad dash for the pub after watching it.

Post continues below.
The government has been piling taxes on beer and cider in a move that it says is to encourage responsible drinking. It's only pure coincidence that the government happens to be in dire need of cold hard cash as well, right? Any beer with an alcohol-by-volume percentage of more than 7.5% was hit very hard by duty rates, while those with very low alcohol volumes got a break.

The British Beer and Pub Association now estimates that the profit a brewer makes on one pint of beer is a measly 0.4%.

One London brewer, Fuller's, has gone so far as to develop a beer with 2.8% alcohol by volume. It's been a challenge, the company's head brewer told the Independent. "Alcohol content comes from the malt," John Keeling told the newspaper. "The more malt you use, the more alcohol content you have, and malt gives flavor."

Some British are open to weaker beer, he added, especially during the workday. Lunchtime drinking is increasingly frowned upon, so a lighter beer could be popular then.

Tags: BUD
Mar 16, 2012 6:28PM
Mar 16, 2012 6:13PM

Kim, before you start ripping on Budweiser for being weak to begin with, you should do your research.  Budweiser is at 5% ABV vs 3.2% for a Bud Light or Miller Lite.  It is actually stronger than the majority of the m****duced beers Americans tend to drink.  You should check out any beer advocate website for little bits of info like that before you go running your mouth without facts.

Apr 28, 2012 4:14PM
I have tried the new 4.8% Budweiser, very disappointing. I am not bothered about the drop in alcohol volume (it's only 0.2%) but to me the change in the taste of this slightly weaker Bud has made me not want to buy it ever again. A shame as it was my favourite lager.

On a positive note, Stella Artois with the lower 4.8% is just as tasty as the 5% version. My 2nd favourite lager.

My favourite Irish ale, Caffery's went from 4.8% to 4.2 % and its tasted better at 4.2%, although its now gone to 3.8%, still taste good not not as good as at 4.2%

As long as taste is as good its not a problem.
Mar 19, 2012 12:36PM
I wouldn't waste my time or money on Budwater or any other flavorless beer.  About the only m****duced beer that still tastes like beer is Sam Adams.  With so many great microbrews available, there is no reason to ever drink watered-down beer.
Mar 16, 2012 6:14PM

Taxes based on alcohol content are not "an unusual twist". Most, if not all federal and state taxes of beer, wine and spirits are based on the percentage of alcohol in the beverage. Based on the brewers and winemakers I've talked to, that is also the case in Canada and the E.U.

Mar 16, 2012 7:56PM
Regular Beer in the US in 3.6%,  lower for the lite beers. They must be saving a bundle over here.
Mar 16, 2012 6:34PM
Eff this whole effen planet!  How long to governments think we will take this before we start shooting those mofo's and their families in their effen puke, money grubbin faces!!!!!
Mar 16, 2012 7:09PM

Everyone's going broke:  companies, counties, towns,transit agencies, homeowners, renters, working people. And it's happening all across the western countries.

Everyone except the wealthy.  There's no crisis for them, is this a coincidence?  Hardly.  2008 was just a small, small hiccup to them.  


Of course money on a vast scale is too hard to contemplate, so people blame the bus drivers, teachers and gardiners for bankrupting the state.

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