The Liberal Democrats are calling for a bailout for small breweries which have suffered as a result of pubs and bars being forced to close during lockdown.

The industry estimates that small brewers have poured six million pints of beer down the drain since last year, while larger brands have benefited from the boost in supermarket sales.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey criticised the Government’s support for small brewers as “bottom of the barrel” as he urged for rent relief and a new support fund dedicated to the sector.

The party is calling for the Government to compensate small breweries losing high levels of revenue up to 80% of their rent costs over the next six months.

It also urged for a brewers’ support fund to be established, in line with calls made by the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) and similar to that introduced in Scotland.

This would see a direct grant of up to £30,000 provided to each brewer to help compensate for the costs of the pandemic.

The Liberal Democrat leader will announce the policy during a visit to a small brewery in Sunderland on Wednesday, as part of his local election tour.

Ahead of the visit, he said: “Small breweries are some of the most cherished independent businesses in our communities.

“They represent far more than just a pint of beer.

“The Government’s support for these brewers has been bottom of the barrel.

“In their hour of need, the Government is hitting them with damaging tax rises and ignoring their calls for help to survive more tough months ahead.

“Independent brewers have been completely overlooked: the Tories haven’t provided the tax discounts or grants that other businesses have benefited from during the pandemic.

Beer glasses in a pub (Philip Toscano/PA)
Beer glasses in a pub (Philip Toscano/PA)

“This must be fixed immediately.

“Britain is known for the perfect pint but that proud reputation could soon be going down the drain.

“The Government must step up to small brewers without delay.”

Neil Walker, head of communications at Siba, added: “Our small breweries are at the heart of the community, supporting local jobs and the economy and providing what the public want, a great tasting beer from a local independent brewer.

“But with millions of pints down the drain, pubs closed and a lack of direct Government support, small breweries have struggled to survive the Covid crisis.

“In Scotland the Government has supported small breweries with a Brewers’ Support Fund and we’d like to see the Chancellor follow suit before it’s too late.”