INDEPENDENT breweries are calling for new measures to protect the British beer-making industry.

Black Sheep Brewery, which is based in Masham, in North Yorkshire, is one of the signatories of the letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak, recommending a series of policy ideas to help independent brewers.

They include halving beer duty bills to provide an immediate financial boost and support the restarting of operations.

Andy Slee, chairman of Black Sheep Brewery, said: “Independent UK breweries are a vital part of our industry, contributing billions of pounds to the economy, supporting thousands of jobs.

"However, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented threat to small British breweries and the jobs they support.

“Following the closure of pubs and restaurants breweries lost 80 percent of their business overnight, but we are ready to fight back and need the support of the government to make the necessary investments to sustain and grow our businesses.

“The introduction of a temporary duty reduction would provide spend with our smaller suppliers, many of whom are Yorkshire based.

"It will therefore also help protect their businesses and multiple jobs too further down the supply chain.”

The brewers have also called for the same level of government support that has been given to other areas of the hospitality sector.

Despite being a primary supplier to pubs and restaurants, breweries have not been eligible for business rate holidays or the £25,000 business support grant.

Other measures recommended to the chancellor include encouraging HMRC to take into account the record low levels of beer production in its duty calculations and give brewers additional time to pay.

Mr Slee said if the measures were introduced it would enable Black Sheep to protect jobs and make investments to increase the sustainability of the business, including the creation of its own packaging plant in Masham.

A reduction in beer duty costs would also allow the company to expand its Yorkshire home delivery service, which it launched at the start of the government lockdown, and would ensure it can continue to serve vulnerable and remotely-located customers.