Pub/Bar of the Month November 2012: The Crown, Beeston, UK
The Crown, Beeston
Everards' Project William scheme is a laudable initiative.
Devised to breathe new life into struggling pubs, the scheme – named after the brewery's founder – revolves around Everards acquiring premises, refurbishing them and then generally allowing a smaller brewery (perhaps a micro in search of a brewery tap) to run them as simple alehouses.
The beer tie is relaxed so that, while at least one Everards cask beer remains on sale, most of the beers come from the other brewery or are guest ales.
What Everards loses on sales of its own cask beers it gains on revenues from other drinks, as the wider choice brings in more customers and a previously foundering, soulless pub bounces with renewed vitality.
The Crown at Beeston, on the outskirts of Nottingham, has been a Project William pub since 2009. Once owned by Hardys & Hansons, it became part of the Greene King estate when the Suffolk giant took over the Nottingham brewery in 2006, but it failed to attract custom in the subsequent years.
In stepped Everards to purchase the pub and, after a thorough refurbishment of the historic premises, The Crown was entrusted in this case not to a brewery but to experienced publican Dave Brown and his son, James. The transformation has been remarkable.
The Crown was built in the early 19th century and, it seems, started selling beer around 1830. The white-painted, town-centre premises are Grade II-listed today and stand in a conservation area.
Cask Ale Emporium
Beneath a sign reading 'Cask Ale Emporium', the front door opens into a tiny entrance hall with the small public bar heading off to the right. To the left as you progress is a cosy lounge, lined with leather banquettes, with cricketing cartoons on the walls. But this is only the start.
Keep walking through the pub and you discover other drinking areas, including a more spacious bar, nicely designed to build in lots of cosy angles and corners.
Here, an ancient telephone with separate earpiece is fastened to the wall alongside the bar, while a large clock sits above the heavy beam that splits the room in two. Small paned windows look out into the large backyard with its covered seating area.
Bouquets of dried hops show where the emphasis lies in this pub, as do the 14 handpumps and the blackboards revealing the current cask ales on offer. They include a trio of house beers brewed by Leatherbritches in Derbyshire, plus guest ales from the likes of the local Blue Monkey, Nottingham and Milestone breweries.
Food is restricted to nicely filled rolls, pork pies, cheeseboards and other simple snacks, leaving plenty of scope for ale quaffing and other elementary pub pleasures, be they darts in the dark, heavily-panelled snug behind the bar, some acoustic jamming or quizzes a few times a week.
There are no electronic distractions here. They went the same way as the garish lager fonts three years ago. There's no pool table either. Trade has soared and the awards keep rolling in.
I haven't visited any other Project William pubs but, if they're all as successful as The Crown, I can't see why other regional breweries don't adopt the same approach.
Most of them have pubs in their estates that are underperforming and this seems a great way to not only generate good profits but also provide the public with the sort of pub it very clearly wants.
The Crown, Church Street, Beeston, Nottinghamshire NG9 1FY
Tel. (0115) 925 4738
Opening Hours: 12–11