Why 2018 is beer's year of living dangerously


The Sip

Our eyes were far too hazy to peer into the 2018 crystal ball during the past couple of weeks.

After all, 2017 was the year of the cloudy NEIPA so getting a clear picture of the Australian beer scene has been like trying to look underwater while swimming in the Yarra (although why anyone, except an Australian Open champion, would do such a thing is beyond us).

On parting the mind fog that comes with a pleasant Christmas-New Year period enjoying a bunch of the country’s great range of artisanal brews, The Sip’s team has gone Nostradamus to foresee what is in line for the beer industry over the next 12 months.

Unfortunately, the prophecy is that 2018 will be beer’s year of living dangerously.

CONTAINER DEPOSIT SCHEME

Container Deposit Scheme. The Sip

Let’s be clear about this Government-inflicted penalty.

It is not a recycling program it is a litter tax. A program can’t be considered recycling if the State that imposes one of the most imbalanced financial sanctions on a community doesn’t actually have the capacity to turn the collected items into new things.

Sure, the WA Government will spend the next 12 months spinning the message to the public that it should enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling from putting beer bottles and cans into reverse vending machines instead of seeing them dotting parks and roadsides. In itself that seems a noble exercise.

But as our NSW cousins have discovered the Container Deposit Scheme is as flawed as an oxidised India Pale Ale.

And the people who are going to wear the burden of the program are those who can least afford to be caught up in the mess – small breweries.

While the WA Government bullshit peddlers will keep telling us the scheme is all about getting back 10 cents for each beer can and bottle returned, they aren’t going to mention that it will cost you – yes you, the drinker – up to 19 cents to get back little more than half.

Naturally the Government isn’t going to fund the scheme so the drinkers will. And that means that a carton of beer will instantly cost almost $5 more. The rise has nothing to do with cost of ingredients, distribution or wage increases. It is a dirty little litter tax.

Although the CDS isn’t slated to start until January 1 2019, the cost of supporting the scheme – that is building a bevy of funds – will kick in later in the year.

It could well mean that 24 x 375ml cans of 7.5% ABV will now push past $100. That smashes smaller breweries who often operate in that domain. There is no price elasticity at that end of the market. And it will make the mass-manufactured brews from the macro companies, who ironically will run the scheme (talk about the fox in charge of the hen house!) more appealing to consumers.

Every beer in a brewery’s packaged stable will also require a $80 registration fee. If you have 10 cans/bottles in your arsenal then that’s $800 just for existing. And then if the brewery operates in another State market with a similar program, it will have to fork it all out again.

Short of the Liberal Party’s GST platform going into the 1993 Federal Election there hasn’t been a more confusing and deceitful political policy in living memory.

Many in the WA Brewers Association fear job losses because of the costs and impact of the Container Deposit Scheme. At best, it will stop the growth of some small beer producers. At worst, it could end the dream for some brewers.

And did we mention that the wine industry is exempt from the CDS? Not even the Farrelly Brothers could write a more humorous script. Yet the beer sector isn’t laughing.

No wonder our New South Wales brethren has referred to its scheme as “shambolic”.

FLOOR PRICE FOR ALCOHOL

On top of the CDS is the State Government’s push for a minimum floor price of alcohol.

The legislators will whack drinkers for the vessel so they might as well have a crack at what is inside, too.