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‘The Brewery Tap’ – the next generation?

Imagine you’re a microbrewer.  You’ve established a few successful beers and have won the odd award here and there at SIBA competitions and CAMRA festivals.  Sales are showing healthy growth and you’ve got some local recognition.  In a few years time, you might have to expand.  But there’s one thing now obsessing you.

Your own pub.  You want a brewery tap.

But you can’t get one.

Buying a freehold pub is a financial step too far – you just haven’t got that kind of money to hand.  You could of course get a lease or tenancy from one of the big PubCos but what would be the point of that?  The tie means you’d have to take beers from their limited range, and your not on it – you want a pub that showcases YOUR beers, as you want them to be seen.

This is a scenario facing many micros at the moment.  To some, it’s a symbol of what they’re fighting against – an outdated model in the British beer and pub industry.

But now, things are changing.  And it’s my old mates at Thornbridge who are leading the way, with the first pub on an interesting new deal with Enterprise Inns.

Well, not quite leading the way.

Three years ago, Midlands brewer Everards started a scheme called Project William.  They took over defunct, failed pubs – the ones that we read about that are closing every week – and went into partnership with local brewers around the Midlands and the north of England.  Everards invested in refurbishing the pub – in partnership with the local brewer – and took a traditional tie on lager, soft drinks and spirits – meaning the publican had to buy all these from Everards at their rates.  This is usual enough for PubCos and regional brewers.  But they made cask ales free of tie, simply asking that one Everards beer be stocked on the range.

Now, if you were a bog standard pub that relied mainly on industrial lager (as most of these pubs were before they failed), it doesn’t make much difference.  But if you’re a micro looking for a pub where you can stick six handpulls on the bar to showcase your own beers plus a range of other interesting micros, it’s giving you what you want from a pub with much lower risk and investment than you’d get elsewhere.

There are about twenty Project William pubs now, and they’re all – apart from one uncertainty – booming.  Everards gets the return on its investment from the other drinks.  The micro gets its Brewery tap.  A community gets its pub back.  Everyone wins.

I wrote about Project William in the Cask Report and The Publican.  It’s such a clever idea, the biggest question for me was why no one else had done it, why the big PubCos didn’t take heed.

Well now, someone has.

Thornbridge have worked with Enterprise – one of the two giants of the PubCo world with between 7,000 and 8,000 pubs – before.  The Cricket Inn in Totley is an Enterprise pub, but the leasehold model is not ideal for a brewer with as many great ideas and beers as Thornbridge has.  So brewer and PubCo have been talking about doing things differently.  When Enterprise decided to take a leaf out of Everards book and create a different kind of leasehold, Thornbridge was the first to jump.

The result was the Greystones:

God bless Farrow and Ball.

This was a failed pub in Sheffield called the Highcliffe, a great building that had just become a haunt for local, erm, ‘characters’, the kind of people who spend more money in a toilet cubicle than at the bar.  The refurb was a joint investment – with Enterprise chipping in most of the cash.  Thornbridge are free of tie on ales so they can showcase their range.  Enterprise gets a big pub run by people who know what they are doing.  Sheffield gets yet another amazing craft beer pub, which also has an emphasis on ‘arts and the local community’, with gigs and other events happening regularly.

The Greystones opened on November 3rd.  It sold 3000 pints in its first 48 hours.

So if you’re that ambitious micro, it’s not simply a case of walking up to Enterprise or Everards and saying, “Gizza pub” – they need to be convinced that you have the business acumen to make it work, and that if they pay for a refurb it’s going to pay back.  But if this model catches on – as it surely will – we’re going to see more abandoned pubs revived, and a much greater variety of drinks on British bars.

Hats off to Enterprise – not always the hero in stories about British pubs – for having the vision to do this.    Props to Everards for coming up with the original idea in the first place.  And well done Thornbridge, yet again.

I’ll be doing a Hops & Glory event with a tasting of Thornbridge beers at the Greystones on Thursday 16th December.




Can it be true? Enterprise showing an enterprising idea? Even if it copied from Everads!


All well and good, but all that means is you end up with a nice bar which sends mixed messages. We care about the quality of our cask ale but we don't give a toss about the other stuff we sell.

Where are the quality lagers? What about the quality spirits? PubCo's like Enterprise don;t give a stuff about integrity, pravenance of product or anything else with any moral or ethical value, they care about the bottom line.

I find it hard to understand why a brewery like Thornbridge would associate themselves with something that is effectively half-arsed. What about when TB start kegging, which they will surely do? I'd find it heart breaking to see my hand crafted quality beers on cask next to a line up of Carling, Stella and whatever other shite Enterprise or Punch or some other backward thinking rip off merchant thinks will make them the most money out of their tennent.

For all their shouting BrewDog have at least had the balls to put their own money where their mouth is and opened up a bar they 100% believe in.

Its no bad thing that old pubs are being ressurected, I jst think its a shame that Thornbridge, one of the best breweries in the UK is prepared to compromise their product.


Another point is that Enterprise have a record of jacking rents up, thus making pubs unviable. I suppose as long as the contract is very carefully written and scrutinised though, that can be avoided or minimised.

I'd rather deal with Everards than Enterprise. He that sups with the devil, needs a very long spoon.

So at best two cheers then.

Pete Brown

Anon 2 (why all the anons?) please tell me you're basing your rant on having actually visited the Greystones and found it to be less than ideal.

Tandy's points are general points about how Enterprise operate and he still manages to find a cautious welcome for this. But you dismiss it out if hand. Do you know what the lager selection at Greystones is? Or the spirit range? If you do, please specify, and your rant is entirely justified.

If you haven't been yet, this comments falls into the category of "people who make me want to stop writing about beer." God knows I can rant, but the pub industry needs all the good news it can get. It depresses me beyond words that whenever I post some positive news, there are people queuing up to find the negative angle in it.


I think Pete, in fairness, given Enterprise's record, a degree of caution is possibly justified?

But yes. If done properly on a partnership basis with goodwill, it has to be a good thing.

Pete Brown

Totally understand – and share – caution, Tandy – not suggesting everyone just campaigns for Simon Townsend to be given a knighthood. But that's very different from our anonymous contributor's blanket demolition.


No, not visited, purely based on lengthy experience of Punch and Enterprise, who make their money by squeezing the brewers margins through pure volume (and no doubt forcing them to compromise production as a result) and then selling that beer on to their tennents at an extortionate rate. I felt it was a reasonable assumption, given that this is a Enterprise tennancy, that the tied kegged beer would have to come from one of the big boys, in which case its unlikely to be of high quality.

I had a similar discussion once with a microbrewer who was making amazing beer but complimenting it in his bar with Magners, Ernest Gallo and some other dross. I asked why he didn't get local produce in, given his local area (it turns out it hadn't occured to him that customer can subconsciously judge your product based on the product it sits next to on a bar or in a fridge)..

I also have a bar locally that is Punch tied to keg but have just managed to get free of their cask and bottle tie, so now you have a great cask bar with 6 local breweries on rotation, fridges full of cool UK, US, Belgian and German beers and a keg line up of John Smiths, Stella, Kronembourg, Carling and Dry Blackthorn…

If I'm wrong I apologise, but experience tells me that Enterprise have seen a great way to exploit a great British brewer rather than an opportunity to change their business model and help revitalise a flagging trade but extending an arm to the craft beer industry.

And 'Anonymous' because I was in a rush and it was easier


Curmudgeon said…
A pity they haven't finished painting the Greystones and it's still in primer.
Oh, sorry, pastel is trendy for pubs nowadays 🙁

:-)) You heathen! Not pastel…I think the words you want are "traditional/authentic with a stupid name and a pretentious description". Personally I prefer Little Greeene over Farrow and Ball. Less bollocks in the catalogue and they are hard/from up north.


The Greystone's my local (although I never visited it before the Thornbridge makeover) & I can assure Anonymous & all his friends that the whole of the bar offer is good quality. There's Leffe & (I think) Warsteiner & the wines are good quality (I have this on good authority from friends, not having shifted from the cask beers myself) Presumably Thornbridge are not tied to just buying the low quality products, big pubcos like Enterprise have a wide range of prpoducts in their range.


Sorry Pete, I really don’t see this as a good thing as it will stifle change not encourage it.

Whilst this may be good as a one off, for a specific pub, or as a one off for a cask brewer it can’t be good for the trade as it legitimises to the whole pub tie model. When the PubCo stands up in front of parliament and says “us sir, no sir, we support the small brewer sir.” They will be able to point to this and say look we are helping them!!

If PubCo’s really want to help the local brewer they should make and allowance that say 30% of the beer (Hand pump or Lager tap) can be free of tie and ‘sourced localy’ say within 40 miles of the establishment.

The PubCo could be ‘protected’ by saying that these can’t be off their current list (Stella Fosters etc) thus stoping the publican going to the cash and carry and buying it for £90 instead of the £210+ the PubCo charges the publican, we wouldn’t want them to pay a fair price afterall.

By default the publican would want to sell more of the free of tie beer, and therefore would seak quality, and look to improve standards in brewing and the pub trade, this would improve things for all.

The law also needs to change to stop the PubCo’s putting covenents onto “former pubs” stopping them trading as pubs once they have strangled the life of them. The Pubco does this so that it can’t be run as a going concern again ends up being a Tai restruant fails and is sold as a land for development, becuause in the planning they can prove it is no longer viable.


I was in on Saturday and the lager range was decent (Staro etc) and the missus was on the malts – Jura etc.

Only downside was having to watch Emma Harrison flouncing around like she owns the place.


I don't know what the figures are, but I do know that in a similar position I'd sure look extremely hard at getting my own finance for a full freehouse before agreeing to any kind of tie.


PS – Here is another example which I think predates this story, and has more figures in it.


I think this is great news. It's all very well having a go at the big companies but I think this shows movement in the right direction which is surely a good thing. Large corporations change slowly like the proverbial turning super-tanker. Hats off to Enterprise for taking a risk and recognising a potential growth area (after all they put a (large?) sum of money up to invest in an area they are unfamiliar with). If this works from a business sense then I'm sure they will look to expand the concept. It may be unfashionable but business is business and you need to make money whether an Enterprise a Thornbridge an Everards or anybody else.


Hi Guys

It took me nigh on 3 years to sort this deal to get our beers on at The Greystones and I am very pleased with how things have gone in the first 2 weeks or so of trade.

When i first approached Enterprise it was a case of whatever the question the answer is no, obviously as time and circumstances change so did their attitude which allowed the relaxing of the tie and the ability to list our beers alongside the said keg products(no Carling or Smooth Flow)

I also have special dispensation to put our keg product on too (which we will be doing next week) – I am also in the process of converting the lease into an agreement that will protect us from rent increases in the future.

Whilst in negotiations no one told me that this was a good idea, the pub had suffered for years and the community didn't want it nor the people running the place, however, as I live locally I knew its potential – infact when i met Enterprise Directors there their immediate response was 'Why this pub?' – I suggested that if it was a cleared site you would build a pub …. and yes paint in lovely heritage colours!

With regards why didn't we put our money where our mouth is like brewdog – well we do operate 2 full free of tie leases and a The Coach and Horses we offer an extensive keg listing alongside our own beers and a great bottle selection

My own thoughts were that the Enterprise model was broken and it needed a revamp, over time I was encouraged by them that they were not completely averse to change – however I wholly agree that the model still needs to move – ours is hopefully just the start of this movement.

This whole agreement was brokered by us and at no time have we been exploited, if anything we have seized the initiative and struck whilst this giant has been a little unsteady – i don't think for one minute that we have cleared the way for everyone else but i do believe that we have helped – i am already aware of some other quality brewers in discussions to do likewise


Simon Webster

Rob Nicholson

Ohh my goodness – the Highcliffe!! I used to go there in my teens so many, many years ago. It's just about walkable from my mum who still lives closeby. Ohh dear, memories…

Okay, so nothing to do with the thread but what the heck 🙂

Lucy Harper

I'm not a massive beer expert but I trekked over to Greystones from Crookesmoor last Saturday after a very expensive taxi ride, to see what all the fuss was about. I can tell you it was worth every penny.

It was a joy to discover that somebody had splashed out and put some love and attention into creating a proper pub, just the way I like it.

Fabulous ales
Lovely, sensitive restoration job on the wooden panelling and stained glass
Fab choice of new decor, lights, leather seating, tiled floors, decent loos, tasteful exterior paintwork
Fab backroom venue promoting live music
Every table crammed with drinkers chatting away as if this was their front room
Yorkshire crisps
Oh and no slot machines, no Sky Sports, no crap music, no gimmicks

Clearly looking at some of the miserable comments in this post, you can't please everyone. Suffice to say it deeply pleased me and gave me hope in this age of austerity, when the Great British pub industry seems to be on its knees.

I have no idea about the business model. Suffice to say, if this is what it achieves and it turns out to be sustainable, I say bring it on Thornbridge, preferably somewhere nearer to my neck of the woods, I raise my pint to you.


Everards at the forefront of innovation in the market. It was at an Everard's pub that I first came across guest beers, a good year or so before the Beer Orders became law. Their partnership with Titanic has revived the Sun, Stafford, once a great pub and now a great pub again after many horrible years as an O'Neill's, a restaurant, and a Tequila bar


have to agree with what someone else said. the greystones is my local and although its great that they have thornbridge beers on, its a bit crap and looks half arsed that the lager offerings are, well, rubbish. becks vier? nah thanks. I know it might not be the case but it felt to me like a lack of thought or care had gone into this area of the drinks menu. Also, why is it so expensive for a pint of thornbridge beer when its only brewed up the road?


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