Beer remains Britain's top alcoholic drink after '8.5bn pints sold' in 2018

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) gives a thumbs-up as he celebrates St. Patrick's Day with a pint of Guinness during a stop at the Dubliner Irish pub in Washington, March 17, 2012.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Ex-US president Barack Obama enjoying a pint — still the UK's most popular alcoholic beverage. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Beer remains Britain’s most popular alcoholic drink after 8.5 billion pints were sold in 2018.

The amount – the equivalent of 48,559,000 hectolitres – compares with 12,901,700 hectolitres of wine, or 7.4 billion 175 ml glasses, according to HM Revenue and Customs data.

Some 1.2 billion pints of cider, or 6,804,000 hectolitres, were sold over the same period, the figures, published in the British Beer & Pub Association’s (BBPA) latest handbook, show.

READ MORE: Brewery openings plummet as UK nears peak craft beer

The BBPA said 100 new breweries opened in the UK in 2018, taking the total number to 2,530 – an increase of 2,030 breweries since 2000.

However, the industry body said beer was overtaxed in the UK, with Britons paying a “staggering” 11 times more duty than drinkers in Germany or Spain. Drinkers pay 54p in beer duty on a 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) pint.

The BBPA said beer was “vital” to the manufacturing sector, with 82% of the volume brewed in the UK being drunk here, and pubs and brewing combined creating almost 900,000 jobs.

READ MORE: How much can you save brewing your own beer?

Friends making a toast while sitting in restaurant. Multi-ethnic group.
Friends making a toast while sitting in restaurant. Multi-ethnic group.

The association is backing a campaign calling on the chancellor to cut beer tax at the next Budget – yet to be scheduled – to support community locals which sell a higher proportion of beer, making them particularly sensitive to beer tax hikes.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “It is clear from these numbers that beer is the most popular alcoholic drink, but it is without doubt overtaxed.

“Should tax on a pint continue to rise then drinking in the pub will no longer be affordable for many British beer drinkers, meaning pubs will continue to close.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson urged to cut UK beer tax as a “feel good” Brexit gift

“This is why we are backing the Long Live The Local campaign, calling on the chancellor to cut beer tax and support local pubs.”

As of Friday, the Long Live The Local petition has 187,425 signatures. Signatories are also asked to allow an email to be sent to their MP on their behalf, of which 89,173 have agreed so far.

According to The Campaign for Real Ale, 854 British pubs shut their doors for good in 2018. However, the decline has slowed slightly since 2017, when 980 closed.

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