Until quite recently the Everards estate was concentrated around its Leicester headquarters, but lately the Company has been expanding southwards. Pubs have been purchased in places like Leamington Spa, St. Albans and Sandy, plus four in the Cambridge Branch area. The first acquisition was not from a big brewer at all - rather a very tiny one, Earl Soham, who originally developed The Tram Depot just off East Road. The next three all came from Whitbread.
Everards used to have breweries both in Burton and Leicester, but the former was sold in 1985. It operated thereafter as the Heritage Brewery, producing some Everards beers under contract. Subsequently, Everards expanded their Leicester site so that thcy could brew all the beer there. The Heritage Brewery has sadly now closed altogether.
There are four regular real ales. The Mild (3.3%) is smooth and well-balanced. In this area it is more likely to be found in the Free Trade, The Red Lion at Histon for example, than in Everards own pubs. Beacon Bitter (3.8%) won the Bitter class in CAMRA's prestigious Champion Beer of Britain contest in 1994 and was runner-up in 1995. It is a very drinkable session beer, retaining the characteristically sulphurous Burton taste. Tiger (4.2%) is the Company's flagship beer, well-balanced with a bitter, hoppy finish. At 5.2%, Old Original is not to be trifled with. The intensely bitter finish offsets any initial sweetness.
Although these are all high quality bcers, CAMRA has taken issue with the way the Company often presents them. The dreaded cask breather is regularly employed on the slower-selling beers and in the lower-volume pubs. More recently, Everards have espoused the use of swan-neck spouts on their handpumps, with tight sparklers attached. This knocks the stuffing out of the beer, rendering them blandly boring.
There is also a strong winter warmer called Daredevil (7.1%) and a cask stout, Spencers, was tried last year and may well reappear. Both tenants and managers have access to a range of guest beers, including Adnams, Exmoor and Enville. Of the local estate The County Arms is described in the Castle Hill crawl article. The Tram Depot is physically unchanged from its Earl Soham days, not that any improvements are needed. This must be one of the country's most attractive conversions to pub use of a historic building, exuding class and character. Usually three Everards beers and four guests are offered - on a recent visit the latter were Adnams, Gales HSB, Boddies and Theakstons XB.
The Plough, Duxford, run by the redoubtable Del Mitchell, is a Good Beer Guide regular these days. Well situated for the Air Museum, this 17th century thatched pub offers a warm welcome and excellent food. Real ales are Beacon, Tiger and Old Original, Adnams Bitter and occasional guests. Del is happy to take off the sparklers on request.
The Rose and Crown, Histon, has recently been remodelled. Previously there were two bars separated by a small room. A general opening out has produced a large L-shaped room albeit sectioned off with screens. Beacon, Tiger, Old Original and a guest are on handpump, but pulled through swan-necks and sparklers. The sparklers are supposedly not over-tight. The pub is open all day.
Considering they only started brewing real ale again in 1975, Everards have come a long way and the basic quality of the brcws is first-class. It is a pity that the Brewery condone their regular mistreatment.