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EDITIONS
 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 12:42 GMT
Monks insist on high-alcohol beer
Advert for Trappist beer
The monks refuse to water down their beers
A French Government drive against alcoholism has incurred the wrath of Belgium's famous Trappist monks.

Famous for vows of silence, the Trappist monks are also well known for brewing strong beers, including Chimay and Westmalle.

Advert for Trappist beer
Trappist beer uses one of the oldest recipes around
But the French Government now wants to slap high taxes on any of those beers that contain more than 8.5% alcohol.

The Trappist brewers argue that this is against the spirit of the European free trade area, the single market.

They also say the new tax will effectively double the cost of a bottle of beer to the consumer and dent their brewing revenues by 2.5m euros (1.63m; $2.63m).

The French Government's decision to tax high-alcohol beers is both unfair and illogical, according to Henroz Phillippe, a spokesman for Trappist brewers.

And they have asked the European Commission to investigate.

Watered down

The new fiscal measures were announced unexpectedly at the end of last year in order to deter alcoholism.

But French wine - which has a stronger alcoholic content than Trappist beer and is already taxed less than beer - is not being penalised in the same way.

Glass of wine
Most French wines have more than 10% alcohol content
"If somebody wants to get drunk quickly, I guess they would go for a cheap wine rather than a specialist beer," Mr Phillippe told the BBC's World Business Report.

Some of Belgium's biggest brewers have already watered down their products in order to evade the new policy.

And the tax will affect very few French brewers who do not tend to brew beer of that strength.

Mr Phillippe says the real losers are the small brewers who are unable or unwilling to adapt their traditional products.

And he is confident that the European Commission will come to their rescue.

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  ON THIS STORY
  Henroz Phillippe
"The tax means that all beers with more than 8.5% alcohol would double in price."
See also:

07 Nov 02 | Scotland
01 Nov 02 | Business
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