Liverpool will be famous for premium lager, says Sonya Hook

Former customers of the Dusanj brothers' old fish and chip shop in Kent would no doubt be surprised to discover the same pair now making waves in the UK's beer market.

Sudarghara and Ajmail Dusanj's career change in July 2002, when they purchased the Robert Cain Brewery in Liverpool, was a risky move. Not only had they no experience in brewing or the beer market, but the brewery was losing £2m a year at the time.

However, the brothers insist their lack of knowledge has not been a hindrance. Four years on, the brewery has grown turnover from £17m to £27m and the brewery now employs 150 staff. "We came along with a very hands-on approach. We changed the culture of the business and showed our commitment in doing this," says Sudarghara. "We know how important quality is from our chip shop days so we have always asked the brewers to produce the best quality products, even if this adds to the cost of raw materials."

This line of thinking certainly seemed to pay off with their ambitious Cains Finest Lager project. "We were amazed that Britain did not really produce a premium lager it could call its own. It seemed wrong to us that classic lagers were associated with the Czech Republic or Germany and British brewers mostly stuck to brewing ales," says Ajmail.

So the brothers set out to make Liverpool famous for premium lager. The resulting beer takes longer to produce than other beers (three months) and the Maris Otter malt costs double the price of some of their other brews. Despite its short life on the market - it launched in November last year - Cains Finest Lager was awarded Winner of the Camra Beer Festival in Liverpool 2005 and the Best English Beer 2005 at Scotland's Beer Festival. Recently it was voted number two in GQ magazine's 100 Best Things in The World.

The Dusanj brothers now have plans for premium wheat beers. "They shouldn't be limited to Belgium and France," they say. They are in the process of bringing out Cains Creamy Stout, and the brewery's unique Raisin Ale has also turned heads with fans often sending e-mails asking for stockists.

But their success isn't just about inventing new styles of beer. Luckily the brewery - a magnificent Victorian building in the heart of Liverpool - has a number of long-standing contract brewing projects for own label beers and it offers brewery tours to the public. Visitor numbers have boomed since the brothers took over. The tours have been important in the creation of the new image for Cains, they say, as they have helped to strengthen the links with the city on a wider stage. "We want to build a branded business," says Sudarghara. "We are trying to move away from being a regional brewer, and we have a lot more national listings for our beers now. But we are proud of our Liverpool identity."

The off-trade side of the business is an important one and a modern but classic label design was key. Many beers in the Cains portfolio are now listed nationally in supermarkets. The brothers talked to buyers when they were working on the off-trade side and this led to the decision to change some of the bottle sizes, going for 500ml bottles instead of the usual 275ml.

Although building a national presence in the off trade is how the brothers want the business to progress, they also spend time working with the licensed trade and are developing a loyal following among the city's beer drinkers. Cains has a number of pubs in the Liverpool area, two of which only serve Cains beer. "These pubs that only serve Cains beer are doing really well," says Sudarghara. "We want to have a whole range of different beers. If you are in the brewing business you should be allowed to do it all."