People love beer almost as much as they hate taxes…But like it (or not) they’re joined at the hip. And here’s some ‘beer and taxation’ factoids that will blow your mind.
Ancient Egypt Imposed Beer Taxes
It’s true! Egypt, one of the first civilizations to refine the art of brewing, was also the first to impose a tax on beer.
According to Forbes “Queen Cleopatra imposed a tax on beer in order, she claimed, to discourage public drunkenness, though it is believed that the tax was used to raise money to fund a war with Rome,” (some things apparently never change).
Beer Taxation In Medieval Europe
Even though Egypt was the first region on record to tax beer, its effectiveness in raising civic revenue was not wasted on 11th century European societies, some of them who took to beer taxation with a vengeance!
According to All About Beer, in 1271 the French city of Aix-la-Chapelle mandated cutting off the right hand of brewers who failed to pay their beer taxes! Taverns that didn’t pay taxes were even torn down. And we gotta think that with this kind of attention on taxing beer the city’s revenues must have soared…just sayin’.
Great Britain Gins Up Taxes
In 1695, Great Britain raised taxes on beer, making gin the cheapest beverage in England with devastating consequences!
Gin was taxed at 2d (about 2 US pennies) per gallon, while beer was taxed at 4 shillings 9d (about 57 pennies) per gallon. That price difference is seen by many historians as the root cause of a serious drinking problem in 18th century England especially among the country’s poor.
The British government responded to the protests of reformers by raising the taxes on spirits, and beer soon regained its popularity among the drinking public.
Guinness Was Born Of A Tax Dodge
Some historians claim that beer tax avoidance led to the creation of the world’s most popular Irish-style stout.
In his book, Classic Stout and Porter, Roger Protz notes that Arthur Guinness II developed his famous recipe by using non-taxed un-malted roasted barley in the place of black malt in his porters to reduce their cost And in doing so he created the hugely popular (and much more affordable) Irish-style stout
Guinness Export Stout came to dominate the London market where it lower pricing (the result of less taxation in Ireland) led to complaints from the English brewers about the tax-dodging activities of their Irish competitors.
Beer Taxes Helped Fuel The American Revolution
In 1764, the first customs duty on beer and wine was imposed by the British on the American colonies just one of many unfair taxes that outraged the colonist and led to the American Revolution.
Following American independence, however, no taxes were levied on beer—a wise choice, since public had just gone to war over taxes (among other things).
But the tax-free status of beer was changed by none other than Abraham Lincoln, who issued a $1 per barrel tax on beer on July 1, 1862 to help pay for the Civil War and started a taxation progression that continues today.