Making independent brewers’ voices heard in Brussels

Campaigns update from Barry Watts, SIBA Head of Public Affairs and Policy (above left)

With our attention totally focused on Brexit, it often appears to me that we are less alert to changes in Brussels which continue to affect our industry and our lives.

One recent example is the announcement by the Brewers of Europe on labelling. The group and its members signed an agreement to include ingredients and energy values on all beer bottles and cans in the EU by 2022.

While many craft brewers in the UK already voluntarily do this, the way the organisation is set up means we don’t get a seat at the table. With only one trade body per member country being allowed to join, it means that they are less representative of the views of independent craft breweries.

With this in mind, Shane Swindells (SIBA Director and owner of the Cheshire Brewhouse) and I went over the Brussels to make your views heard.

First, we met with Mariann Skar (heading photo) and Aleksandra Kaczmarek from Eurocare – an alliance of health organisations working to reduce alcohol harm. Shane outlined the importance of responsible drinking and the issues faced by independent brewers in the UK. He explained that labelling can be more complicated for small brewers, where the inclusion of fruit and other specialist ingredients can alter the calorie content over time.

Later we visited the headquarters of the Brewers of Europe. Simon Spillane (right) confirmed that nutritional and calorie information on bottles and cans above 1.2% ABV continues to be voluntary, but members are encouraged to include it. Shane made the case for why small independent brewers should have a greater voice on decisions being made.

Even though the UK is planning to leave the EU shortly, we should not forget the importance of continuing to engage with other organisations and partners across Europe and beyond. This is why SIBA is working with other independent craft beer organisations to form the Independent Brewers of Europe.

Of course, afterwards there was just enough time to try a couple of fantastic Belgian beers to consider what Shane and I learnt from a long day in Brussels.

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