Not unusual at all

‘It’s good, but it’s not quite Carling,’ according to the advertising slogan.
As it turns out, it’s not as good as it says it is on the label.
The company behind the lager has dodged a £50 million tax bill because the drink is weaker than advertised.
Carling is marketed in Britain at 4 per cent alcohol strength, but brewers Molson Coors have admitted it is weaker for tax reasons. Court documents reveal the lager has been made to a strength of about 3.7 per cent for the past five years.
But Molson Coors did not change the strength recorded on Carling labels to prevent drinkers from ‘demanding a slice’ of the saving, tribunal documents said. The brewer insists customers have not been misled and its labelling was ‘entirely consistent with the law’.
The details emerged in a tax tribunal brought against the beer makers by HMRC over an alleged unpaid multi-million-pound duty bill.

There was, back in the heyday of the plastic beers, one which was withdrawn from sale once the strength had to be publicly announced. It was brewed to a strength where it wasn’t really alcohol you see, at least not in what duty had to be paid although it was sold in pubs at something close to the price of other beers.

18 thoughts on “Not unusual at all”

  1. Jesus Christ, that’s criminal. I can understand allowing a 10% variance on an individual batch for a craft beer, but anyone selling buyers short by that much ON AVERAGE over time from all their batches should receive the death penalty .

  2. Maritime Barbarian

    My immediate reaction was “Starlight” too. From Watneys.
    Strangely, many years later I met the man who did the planning and marketing campaign. It was designed to allow teenagers to drink gallons of it without getting drunk.
    He should have had a medal for promoting public health, but would not get one from CAMRA.

  3. Allowing a 0.5% ABV variance of physical product from advertised ABV is understandable, especially for things like craft beers or small brewers where the quality is variable.

    The mega breweries like AB-InBev run industrial processes to ensure that their quality is consistently manufactured below the advertised ABV though, so certainly not within the spirit of the law, even if compliant with the letter of the law.

    I am the man, the very fat man
    That waters the workers’ beer
    I am the man, the very fat man
    That waters the workers’ beer
    And what do I care if it makes them ill
    If it makes them terribly queer
    I’ve a car, a yacht, and an aeroplane,
    And I waters the workers’ beer.

    Now when I waters the workers’ beer
    I puts in strychnine
    Some methylated spirits
    And a can of kerosene
    Ah, but such a brew so terribly strong
    It would make them terribly queer
    So I reaches my hand for the watering-can
    And I waters the workers’ beer:

    Now a drop of good beer is good for a man
    When he’s tired, thirsty and hot
    And I sometimes have a drop myself
    From a very special pot
    For a strong and healthy working class
    Is the thing that I most fear
    So I reaches my hand for the watering-can
    And I waters the workers’ beer:

    Now ladies fair, beyond compare
    Be you maiden or wife
    Spare a thought for such a man
    Who leads such a lonely life
    For the water rates are frightfully high,
    And the meths is terribly dear
    And there ain’t the profit there used to be
    In watering the workers’ beer:

    – “Paddy Ryan” (Dr. R. E. W. Fisher), 1938

  4. My father knew a farmer who watered his milk. He’d been done for it a couple of times. His excuse: “Ah canna stop the beasts drinkin'”.

  5. Beer is brewed at 7-8% and watered down to spec, there’s no honest reason for the difference of 0.3%.
    The tolerance rules are probably there because there is variation in what you brew, but with industrial beer it makes no difference.
    Yes, it requires special yeasts to do this, but it’s worth it because the the brewing vats are half the size they would be.

  6. This is no surprise for me, whenever I’ve bought a crate of Carling (because it’s often the cheapest thing in the shop) you have to drink an awful lot of it to get a buzz on. I stopped buying it for that reason.

  7. Tax dodge?

    Excise Duty is paid by the producer and passed on via the price structure to the consumer. If anyone were ‘dodging’ tax it would be the consumer – a good thing I think.

    Since the correct duty (as decided by the tribunal) had been paid on the strength of the beer, there was no tax ‘dodge’.

    The question whether the consumer was paying over the odds is a different matter and depends on whether the price of the beer would have been the same or higher had the strength been greater and thus the duty higher.

    My money would be on the extra duty being passed on to the consumer.

    In recent times alcohol content of beers and spirits has been reduced in response to increased duty rates and to keep pricing competitive, so it seems plausible that is what is happening here.

  8. “Beer is brewed at 7-8% and watered down to spec”

    7-8% is watered down to 3.7%? I guess the making love in a canoe joke hits close to home.

  9. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I used to know a bloke from Golden, Colorado. He said he would go hiking in the hills and piss in the stream that fed the Coors brewery because “it needed all the flavour it could get.”

  10. Ironically it’s the other way round with ‘alcohol-free’ beer. There’s a mini percentage in there.
    Doesn’t bother me, but I have a Muslim acquaintance who had to (regretfully) forgo.

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