The Coalition of Small Brewers has accused SIBA of seeking to block meaningful reform of Small Breweries’ Relief.

The group, made up of over 70 brewers across the UK, said the ‘squeezed middle’ who exceed the 5,000 hl threshold to be eligible for the 50% rates reduction, were being forced to consider exiting brewing. It cited the sale of Fuller’s beer company as one example.

However, SIBA said it was committed to reform – to make it easier to grow a business by removing the ‘cliff edge’ as relief is rapidly withdrawn. It said 83% of SIBA members say it is ‘extremely important’ to their business.

The exchange comes on the back of a Government consultation on the issue launched yesterday.

A spokesman for the Coalition of Small Brewers said it welcomed the review, adding: “The Coalition of Small Brewers welcomes the Treasury review. After 17 years in which the beer market has changed dramatically it is very important that the good elements of the SBR scheme are built on whilst the anomalies are resolved. Currently it significantly disadvantages very small brewers as well as larger ones and creates a distortion in the 1,000 to 5,000hl sector of the market.

“Many brewers in the ‘squeezed middle’ who are larger than 5,000 hl but still very small by global brewer standards have had to exit their brewing operations, the latest being the very sad news of the sale of Fullers beer operation last week. Some medium sized brewers have even sought to reduce their brewing output in order to bring themselves closer to the SBR threshold, an unintended consequence noted by the Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick.

“At the other end of the spectrum, very small brewers are now finding it increasingly difficult to grow. We are keen to see a more level playing field for all brewers.

“We do not entirely agree with the demands SIBA are making of the Treasury – they have always sought to block a Treasury-led review. They appear to be continuing to set red lines which block any meaningful reform of a generous scheme which has operated unchanged for over 15 years. We think that a gradual change to the bandings based on a proper analysis of the real diseconomies of scale that small brewer’s face is the best way forward and believe this is what the Treasury are now engaged in. We support the review and stand ready to help when we are asked. We would still like to see the whole Industry join together to ensure the small brewer sector is financially sustainable and fair – and we trust reform could achieve this.”

James Calder, head of public affairs at SIBA said: “SBR is a great success story. HM treasury want to hear from brewers on how well SBR is working and how it could be improved. All options are on the table. Treasury will act on the evidence they receive during this review and from this questionnaire. It could mean positive reform which protects small brewers and incentivises growth, or if brewers fail to act, it could not.

“It’s vitally important that as many small brewers as possible have thier say in this questionnaire.”