Denis Kilcommons: Black beer brewers hit by Osborne budget
BLACK beer is a taste that children used to acquire at their grandma’s knee. Does anybody remember it?
My grandma always had a bottle in the family home in Cheapside, Wakefield, where I was born. When my uncles went out for a Sunday lunchtime drink she and my mother and Auntie Doris would cook dinner.
Opening time in those days was 12 noon to 2pm and all the chaps in the pub or club had strict instructions to be back home in time for the first servings of the Yorkshires.
As the steam rose on the stove and the smells from the oven titivated the taste buds, my nose would rise like a Bisto kid and the ladies of the house would take a modest drink.
My mum and Auntie Doris would share a bottle of Tetley’s and my grandma would pour herself half a glass of black beer which she then topped up with lemonade. A smaller glass would be produced and I would also get a black beer shandy.
Those days have gone. Who can guarantee a chap will return home prompt at 2.20pm when licensed premises are open all day? And who, these days, still drinks black beer?
The only makers of this distinctive drink are Huddersfield’s Continental Wine and Food. Mather’s Black Beer is flat, thick and strong at 8.5% alcoholic volume.
The problem is George Osborne’s budget. He didn’t just hit pensioners and pasty eaters. He removed a tax exemption from black beer that has been in existence for 80 years because it was accepted the drink was taken for its medical and nutritional benefits. It is high in vitamin C. It is also never drunk neat.
Early this year, before the budget, Morrisons was selling a bottle for £2.10. Now it is online at £4. And this could be a leap too far for a specialist drink loved mainly by the elderly on restricted budgets in West and South Yorkshire.
Black beer can trace its roots back to 1555.
Captain Cook gave it his crew to ward off scurvy.
But now it could be scuppered because of Chancellor Osborne.
No surprise there, really. He obviously did not grow up in a household with a Sunday lunchtime ritual of blokes in the pub and Yorkshires at 2.20pm.
Or had a snifter of black beer at his grandma’s knee.