Hogs Back Brewery owner Rupert Thompson has warned of the “squeezed middle” in the brewing sector caused by the unintended consequences of Progressive Beer Duty.

Thompson spoke to MCA following new figures which highlight the boom in new breweries across the UK, with 300 new openings in 2016. The British Beer & Pub Association puts the current tally across the UK at 2,250 – the highest since the 1930s.

Thompson, who is co-chair of the Small Brewers Duty Reform Coaltion, said the brewing landscape is now unrecognisable from the situation when PBD was unveiled by the chancellor Gordon Brown in 2002 – with numbers having quadrupled in the interim. The group commissioned an independent review from Europe Economics on the impact of the legislation – which gives brewers producing under 60,000 hectolitres a year up to 50% rate relief – and is preparing to present its findings to Government.

Thompson told MCA: “Our message is clear. It has been 15 years and it is time this well-intentioned but ultimately flawed policy was reviewed.

“It is creating a squeezed middle of brewers who can’t compete with the global giants of the sector or the emerging operators for different reasons. It is also acting a disincentive for small brewers to grow and makes it incredibly difficult to have M&A activity in the bracket. It is creating false market conditions.

“The idea behind the policy is sound and undoubtedly it has encouraged a lot of people to try to earn their living through brewing. But there are a lot of other sectors behind the growth and it runs parallel to the growing interest in other countries, where these tax breaks aren’t available.

“We believe there is a better way and we are not asking the Government for a huge handout. We are just asking them to make the situation fairer.”