Byline: Alex Turner
BREWERS, like bookies and bankers, find sympathy in short supply when times get tough.
Beer alone accounted for profits of pounds 810m in 2000, according to a report by accountants Ernst & Young, so it will be difficult to find too many drinkers crying into their pint glasses at their current plight.
But the sector is going through some very tough times - pubs are shutting at an alarming rate and profits were down to pounds 65m in 2005 - as it fights battles on several fronts.
The smoking ban has been followed by the next moral crusade, against excessive drinking.
Alcohol duties continue to rise at a time when consumer spending is being constrained. Global rises in food costs have caused steep increases in the cost of the industry's raw materials, malt and hops. To cap it all, beer drinking is falling.
And that's before the indirect, but potentially damaging, effect of England's …