Pub beer sales plummeted by 7.5% last year — and a rise in beer duty is chiefly to blame, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), writes Ewan Turney. The UK Quarterly Beer Barometer showed sales of beer in the off-trade rose 0.6%, leaving overall beer sales down 3.9% for 2010. Pub beer sales have now fallen over 20% in the past three years while beer duty has risen 26.1% and is set for a further 2% above inflation rise in March under the controversial duty escalator. The BBPA estimates that the Treasury has missed out on £257m because of the drop in sales. “Huge tax rises are having a big impact on beer sales,” said BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds. “The Government should abandon plans for above inflation hikes in beer tax in the Budget, as further rises are simply unsustainable. “Beer has always been a rich revenue source for Government — but they may now be cooking the golden goose. As beer duty has increased so dramatically over the last few years, the amount of beer produced and sold in Britain has fallen. “This has had a telling impact. Beer and pubs are vital for the economy, and pubs play a vital role in local communities. With beer the core seller in pubs, the Government needs to pursue more pub-friendly tax policies. This would create a win-win situation, with a boost for lower-strength, pub-based drinks like beer, and more revenues for the Treasury.”