Wychwood, the brewer of Hobgoblin beers, is in exclusive talks with Refresh UK, the beer brand owner, and the Balaclava Pub Company for the sale of its brewery and 29 pubs and bars.

Refresh UK sprang from the break-up of Usher's Brewery in the West Country in 2000, while Balaclava was started nine months ago by Leo Murphy, formerly with Greene King. It already has some 25 pubs and will more than double in size if it succeeds in buying Wychwood's 29 mostly student-oriented pubs from Bristol to Leeds.

Wychwood, which started in Witney, Oxfordshire in 1983, branched out into pub-owning in 1992 when it was joined by Ian Rogers. It came onto the market last month when its main backer, the venture capital company 3i, decided it wanted to sell its 37% stake because it no longer fitted corporate criteria.

Wychwood, which produced 30,000 barrels a year, has built a considerable niche with its bottled beer brands in supermarkets and off-licences, and 70% of production is believed to be in bottled form, with brands such as Fiddler's Elbow.

Refresh UK has built up its own portfolio in the on and off-trades, with brands including Manns Brown Ale, Bishops Tipple and Ushers Best Bitter, which are brewed for it by the Thomas Hardy Brewery in Dorchester.

Rupert Thompson, chief executive of Refresh UK, which is based in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, said the company would not be transferring production of its current brands from Thomas Hardy if it succeeds in its bid to buy the Wychwood Brewery: "Thomas Hardy do an excellent job for us," he said. However, he said, Refresh UK hoped to work with the Wychwood Brewery team on new product development at the Witney brewery.