Happy Maudlingsday, Home Brewers!

Reginald Maudling as proud mother of the 1963 budget.
Regi­nald Maudling as proud moth­er of the 1963 bud­get.

Fifty years ago today, Con­ser­v­a­tive Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer Regi­nald Maudling made this state­ment as part of his spring bud­get speech:

Under the present law, peo­ple who brew beer either for their own con­sump­tion or, in the case of farm­ers, for con­sump­tion by their workpeo­ple are required to take out an Excise licence and, in some cas­es, to pay duty based on the Sched­ule A val­u­a­tion. The amount of rev­enue involved is very small indeed, and is prob­a­bly less than the cost of col­lec­tion. The abo­li­tion of the Sched­ule A val­u­a­tion sys­tem pro­vides a con­ve­nient oppor­tu­ni­ty for get­ting rid of these licences. So the pri­vate cit­i­zen will have the same free­dom to brew beer as he already has to make wine.

He did­n’t legalise home brew­ing in Britain, but he did remove the require­ment to reg­is­ter and pay for the priv­i­lege.

What effect did this have? It led to a boom in home brew­ing sup­plies avail­able on the high street, instead of through a hand­ful of spe­cial­ist sup­pli­ers. It meant that home brew­ing ceased to be a clan­des­tine activ­i­ty (few peo­ple actu­al­ly reg­is­tered – they just did it in secret) and prompt­ed a flood of books and columns.

Among the first hand­ful of new British brew­eries in the sev­en­ties, one was based on a back-room plas­tic fer­men­tor, and anoth­er was found­ed by the own­er of a home brew­ing sup­ply shop.

Now, years down the line, there are quite a few new British brew­eries being start­ed by home brew­ers. Would many of them have even got start­ed if they’d need­ed a licence? Even if they had brewed, in secret, would they have become as good as they are with­out the option to talk open­ly with their peers online?