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Everards’ Project William scheme lauded by CAMRA

A groundbreaking £11.5 million scheme that has so far saved 28 community pubs from closure, and is now spreading out from its Midlands base to other parts of the country, is being highlighted by the 2015 Good Beer Guide published today.

Project William, the brainchild of Leicester family brewer Everards, gives smaller brewers the opportunity to run pubs. Of the 28 pubs so far re-opened, 14 had closed and 13 were trading so poorly they were unsustainable but are now being run very successfully, making a healthy profit. Roger Protz, Editor of the Good Beer Guide comments:

“With 31 pubs a week closing, I salute Everards for their initiative in launching Project William, which saved 28 community locals and boosted sales of real ale for both Everards and its brewing partners. I urge other breweries throughout the country to investigate launching similar schemes.”

In all of the now thriving pubs, real ale has been central to their new-found success,

 “The remarkable fact about Project William is that real ale accounts for 63% of beer sales in the pubs – that’s a very high percentage and shows the appeal of community pubs that serve good local ale.” Roger added.

Everards, based in Leicester, dates from 1849 and was founded by William Everard, after whom Project William is named. The current chairman is his descendant, Richard Everard, whose company today owns 170 pubs throughout the Midlands.

Project William was an idea that emerged from a discussion between Everards’ managing director Stephen Gould and Keith Bott, who runs the specialist Titanic Brewery in Stoke-on-Trent. As a result, Everards bought the Greyhound, a failing pub in Stoke, for £145,000 and spent a further £150,000 refurbishing it. Roger explains how the initiative works in practice and the success it has had,

“The pub was busy from the day it re-opened. Under the terms of the Project William scheme, Titanic became the tenant and runs the pub, paying rent to Everards. The full range of Titanic beers is sold with at least one Everards’ beer, usually its flagship Tiger Best Bitter, on the bar. Everards also supplies cider and lager.”

Everards now has 10 brewery partners involved in the Project William scheme, these are Ashover (Derbyshire), B&T (Shefford, Bedfordshire), Brampton (Chesterfield), Brown Ales (Clay Cross, Derbyshire), Derby Brewing, Raw Brewing (Staveley, Derbyshire), Slaughterhouse (Warwick), Titanic (Stoke), White Horse (Stanford-in-the-Vale, Oxfordshire), and Wrekin (Telford). The 29th Project William pub will open early in 2015 with Lincoln Green Brewery as the partner.

Stephen Gould of Everards brewery points out that the £11.5 million investment in the scheme was made during a recession and is one of the biggest investments in pubs made in the brewing industry.

“We’re about quality beer in quality pubs,” he says. “We don’t deal with new build, only with existing properties. Some of those pubs have seen trade increase from £3,500 a week to £14,000.”

The scheme now reaches as far west as Shropshire, with two Project William pubs in Telford. One, the Old Fighting Cocks in Oakengates, was bought out of administration at a cost of £95,000. The second, the Pheasant in Wellington, had been closed for three years and re-opened in the spring of 2014 with 10 handpumps on the bar and the relocated Ironbridge Brewery – renamed Wrekin Brewing Co – at the back.

The Campaign for Real Ale is an enthusiastic supporter of Project William, which has received several CAMRA awards. In April, Richard Everard and Stephen Gould were given the prestigious Bill Squires Award by the East Midlands branches of the campaign. The award was presented in the Sir John Borlase Warren in Nottingham, a Project William pub.

You can read more about Project William here.