Brexit brewing boost brings Nettle brewery back to life
NO STING IN THE TAIL Brexit brewing boost as nettle beer brewery ‘destroyed’ by EU tax law plans relaunch after our escape from bloc
Cornish Stingers brewery was forced to close after getting stung by brutal EU tax laws - but may be able to resume work after Britain leaves the EU
BRITAIN’S only nettle beer brewery – forced to close after getting stung by EU tax laws – is preparing for a Brexit re-launch.
Former Royal Marine Miles Lavers launched Cornish Stingers beer seven years ago using an old English recipe.
But he then discovered Brussels was a right pain.
Customs officials warned his tipple could not be a beer under EU rules because it did not contain malt. Instead it was classed as “made wine” – the same category as alcopops – adding a whopping 10p duty to each £2.50 bottle.
Miles, 51, who had built up a brisk pub trade, was hit with a £9,260 bill for back-taxes and had 2,280 bottles impounded.
He was forced to stop production and claim benefits, later taking part-time decorating and building jobs.
However he moth-balled his brewing equipment and continued his foraging business – selling wild plants, herbs and seaweed to chefs.
Now Brexit has given Cornish Stingers the chance to grow again.
Miles, of Helston, Cornwall, has bought some land to harvest nettles and other wild produce.
And Britain’s brewers, distillers and wine-makers are all demanding a fairer deal on duty.
Miles said: “Brexit gives us the chance to get this ridiculous EU rule overturned.
“All it has done is destroy the family business I’d built up from scratch and deny people the chance to enjoy one of our country’s great traditional drinks.
“Nettle beer has been known by that name for centuries. At around 4.5% the alcoholic content is just like beer – it’s nowhere near wine or alcopops.
“People love the flavour and that would be ruined if I added malt simply to qualify for lower duty.
“If Brexit gets me brewing again, with a sensible Customs duty, I will gladly pay back every penny of back-tax over time.”
Pressure is already building on the government to review Britain’s alcohol duty laws once EU ties are cut.
The British Beer and Pub Association has launched its “Brexit Manifesto” demanding a more effective and light-touch regulatory regime for the UK in the future.
It wants tax changes that “support the consumption of lower-strength drinks” – a move which would benefit nettle beer.
Meanwhile the Scotch Whisky Association says EU rules must be replaced by “a new excise duty regime that is fairer to Scotch Whisky and taxes alcohol more rationally across categories”.
HMRC officials have always insisted their hands were tied by the EU over nettle beer.
After Cornish Stingers was shut down in 2010 a spokesman said: “The rules concerning the taxation of alcoholic drinks are set out in European legislation.
“To qualify as a beer, and be taxed as a beer, a product must be made from malt.
“Alcoholic products that cannot be defined as either beer, wines of fresh grape, spirits, cider or perry are charged with the duty rate for made-wine.”
When The Sun asked HMRC whether it was now reviewing nettle beer duty a spokesman conceded: “Brexit reaches right across HMRC. Significant work is underway to ensure that we are ready to deliver on what is required after the UK leaves the EU, while also continuing to deliver on our existing commitments.”
Miles, whose Foodswild business supplies restaurants from Scotland to London, said: “Losing the brewery felt like the government had come along and hammered me with an iron fist.
“Brexit gives me hope that Cornish Stingers will be back.”