Interbrew, the Belgian brewing giant, has settled for a "Celtic Fringe" strategy it hopes will allow it to keep the Tennents and Caffrey's arms of Bass Brewers in Scotland and Northern Ireland after the Department of Trade and Industry blocked its acquisition of the whole Bass brewing empire.

The ruling early in January by the secretary of state for trade and industry, Stephen Byers, said Interbrew had to sell the whole of Bass's UK operations.

However, with industry sources saying there is only one real buyer available for the business, and Interbrew facing a loss of up to £800m for the whole business, the Belgians want to be allowed to sell only the English part of the business, which includes the Burton on Trent brewing complex, the old Tower brewery in Tadcaster, the Mitchells & Butlers brewery in Birmingham and a brewery in Alton, Hampshire.

Interbrew has now filed a case with the High Court for a judicial review of the decision. A High Court judge will decide on the acceptability of the case in the next two weeks. If he gives permission for Interbrew to go ahead, the full case should last two to three months, with a ruling taken by the end of April.

The Belgians hope the court action will allow it to argue its case for holding on to Tennent's and Caffrey's. Interbrew, which also bought Whitbread's beer business last May for £400m, sees the two concerns in Scotland and Northern Ireland bolstering its nationwide position.

One industry source said: "The old Whitbread beer business was weak in Scotland and Northern Ireland so this plan should not encounter competition problems, while both are geographically separate from the main Bass business in England and Wales."

Under Byers' directive, Interbrew can hold onto Bass's Czech beer business, Staropramen; its alcoholic soft drinks wing, where it has the market-leading Hooper's Hooch side; and Bass's export business.