In 2013, the Government took the decision to end the beer duty escalator, and beer duty has been frozen or cut several times since then. Duty on spirits has been frozen over the past two years. As a result of these changes, a typical pint is cheaper than it would have been had these measures not been introduced. I share your concern about the future of pubs and the hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The steps taken by HMRC to make it easier to claim back the duty on any beer thrown away as a result of pub closures were a timely and sensible intervention.
My understanding is that Beer Duty doesn’t always have to be paid to HMRC immediately, and that an application can be made to HMRC before duty becomes payable in these cases. These suspensions can be granted if, for example, beer is held post-production on your registered premises in duty suspension, has been sent to other registered premises approved to receive beer in duty suspension, has been sent to an excise warehouse approved to hold beer in duty suspension for certain purposes, or has been sent to a registered beer packager. There are strict rules governing these suspensions so I would suggest directly contacting HRMC to discuss these options, or identifying specific criteria at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/beer-duty.
I also welcome the temporary cut to VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for all food and non-alcoholic drinks, which initially applied from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, but has been extended to 31 March 2021. This will continue to support restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has supported thousands of businesses and help protect the jobs of over a million employees. Pubs, restaurants and others that participated will be fully reimbursed for the discount by the Government.