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FOR MOST OF its existence, beer probably hasn’t needed its own day. It’s not a marginalised group or a pressing health condition that needs advocacy to raise awareness about its desperate plight. But now, in ‘bitter’ news for beer drinkers, the working man or woman’s beverage of choice is getting slugged with a tax hike. And for those of us who like a lager on a Friday afternoon, that is cause for alarm.

Australian beer drinkers were this week hit with a 2.2 per cent tax rise. The beer tax has increased from $57.79 to $59.06 per litre of pure alcohol, making Australia the third-highest taxed country in the world behind Finland and Norway. And it’s only going to get worse. Beer makers face higher excise duties each February and August under a Federal government system where excise charges increase twice-yearly in line with the consumer price index (CPI), which, as we all know, has been rising faster than usual.

The Brewers Association of Australia is naturally incensed about the tax, with chief executive John Preston pulling on emotive heartstrings with some nice rhetoric about the pub becoming a rich person’s preserve.

“While the Treasurer inherited these automatic half-yearly beer tax increases, we’re calling on the government to step in and take some action before a trip to the pub or a dinner out with the family becomes an unaffordable luxury for most Australians,” he said.

Nice work from Preston, who went on to say punters are now paying almost $4 in tax when buying a round of four full-strength pints, which definitely doesn’t pass the ‘pub test’.

“It was difficult to get people back in the doors after Covid and now it’s so expensive to buy a round.”

The implications of the new tax are dire. Now, instead of just sending out a mass invitation to the whole ‘the boys’ WhatsApp group for your monthly catch-up, you might find yourself becoming more selective and omitting dudes who are doing it tough right now and can’t cough up (some quick calculations based off a $15 pint for a crew of 10 dudes) a $150 round. Unless you’re an investment banker or tech bro, then you’re probably sweet. Buying big rounds is essentially another form of dick-measuring/swinging, so these guys might even take pride in shelling out.

If we step off the high horse and park the indignance for a moment, it’s at this point that we should probably note that alcohol is labelled a group one carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. According to heathdirect.gov.au, drinking more than 2 standard drinks a day can seriously affect your physical and mental health over your lifetime.

I know, it’s all a bit of a downer on beer’s big day. Here’s what you need to know if you do decide to set fire to your wallet and hit a pub tonight.

Sting I Richard Blanshard / GETTY IMAGES

Why is the price of beer going up?

The excise tax on beer is indexed twice yearly in line with the (CPI). The latest increase means the average tax on a slab of full-strength beer will cost $20, and 90 cents from every pint is now taxed. For each keg of full-strength beer, publicans will pay $80 in beer tax, which is too bad if you’re turning 21.

Why is the government taxing beer so heavily?

Alcohol taxes brought in more than $4.3 billion last financial year, not exactly small beer. This is used to fund infrastructure projects, roads, hospitals etc. Taxing beer, like cigarettes, is designed to discourage consumption. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2021, 1,559 people in Australia died of an alcohol-induced death, such as chronic conditions like liver cirrhosis or acute conditions such as alcohol poisoning.

The counter argument from ‘big alcohol’ is that the tax is putting undue pressure on an industry that employs 53,000 people and is worth $11.5 billion to the economy annually.

What is International Beer Day?

A day that didn’t really need to exist but one we’re happy to celebrate all the same. IBD is an annual global celebration of beer taking place in pubs, breweries, and backyards all over the world. According to the website: “It’s a day for beer lovers everywhere to raise a toast to our brewers and bartenders and rejoice in the greatness of beer!”

How do you celebrate International Beer Day?

Are you kidding? I would have thought this was pretty straight-forward but if do you require more didactic instructions, the IBD’s website recommends the following: drink good beer with good friends; find your nearest IBD celebration; give the gift of beer; enjoy beers from other cultures; and thank your brewer and bartender. Cheers!

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