Leicester brewer and retailer Everards has embarked on an innovative partnership with emerging local brewers to operate pubs.
The company is buying closed or dilapidated pubs and letting them to local, fledgling brewers. Everards currently has seven pubs let under the scheme, which is called Project William. Stoke-based Titanic Brewery is tenanting three Everards pubs.
Leicester-based Steaming Billy Brewing Company has two, while Chesterfield-based Ashover Brewery and Oxfordshire-based White Horse Brewery have one each.
There are four more small brewers lining up to tenant Everards pubs after the success of the scheme — they are Purity in Warwickshire, Amber Ales in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire brewer Springhead and one other.
The scheme was pioneered with Titanic, owned by Keith Bott, which had just one pub when it took on its first Everards site. Pubs are let on a rolling three-year tenancy with an open-book accounting agreement.
Microbrewer tenants are free-of-tie on cask ales, but agree to sell Everards through one pump — they are tied on all other products.
The scheme's success relies on Everards buying and refurbishing pubs at low prices and a retail offer centred around the local microbrewer's products and signage.
Microbrewer tenants benefit by earning much greater margin than most tenants are able through selling their own cask-ale products, which enjoy Progressive Beer Duty benefits.
Everards managing director Stephen Gould said: "Pubs look like a brewery tap for the brewers, and these companies generate enormous goodwill with the public by going in and turning round what was in many cases an unloved or closed pub.
"Typically known as microbrewers, they are really first-generation family brewers, and offer a fantastic point of difference in local markets." The scheme is called Project William in honour of Everards founder William Everard who was himself a brewer for 18 years before he bought his first pub.
Last week, Project William won the overall winner award at the Siba (Society of Independent Brewers) Brewing Business Awards.
Of Project William, judges said: "Project William tears up the old sterotypes that have entrenched "them-and-us" attitudes between large regionals and micros.
"Everard has demonstrated that there is at least one way for supposed rivals in the marketplace to grow their business in harmony.
"Project William represents a real opportunity for a small brewer to fast-track the process of establishing a presence and building a name in its local area.
"For Siba, it represents one of the very best examples of its members of different sizes working together, with so much potential and hope for the future."