Raising a glass to business

One aspect of being an MP I enjoy most is visiting local businesses. We need business people to generate wealth (and yes lots of it) if we are to create the tax base to provide the things we want as a civilised society.

Like many I also enjoy the odd pint — so what better than my recent visit to a micro brewery, the Exe Valley Brewery? Based outside Silverton this fine brewer specialises in prize-wining craft beers with regular stalwarts like Devon Glory, Dobb's Best and Barron's Hopsit.

The setting is typical beautiful Devon with the whole operation running from a converted wood-slat cowshed on a farm set in a gentle fold of hills.

Guy Sheppard the owner showed me around. We started with an inspection of the Mash Tun — the copper container in which the natural ingredients are mixed before being boiled and fed down to the fermentation vessels.

Guy was generous enough to pour me a pint at the end and I swilled the beer around in my mouth but didn't drink it, not least because I was off next to spend time with the police to discuss traffic safety on the A377!

Micro brewing is a highly successful phenomenon in the UK and we have more of these innovative businesses than any other industrialised country. Pubs may be closing at the rate of 50 a week (a shocking loss) and beer sales may be declining but the micro breweries just keep going, knocking out a dazzling variety of milds, bitters, strong ales, porters, stouts and more.

Devon is in the vanguard of this worthy movement with 30 micro breweries. At Westminster I have campaigned hard to support our pubs and brewers. Guy Sheppard's efforts strengthened my resolve to continue to do so.