A month or so ago, with an afternoon off work, I embarked upon an epic journey in search of bottled beers.
Actually not that epic, as two of the three shops I visited were in Billericay, about a mile apart.
First up was The Craft Beer Shop, home to Ales By Mail. Not much to look at from the outside, but truly a portal to paradise! The mail order has been going for several years, building on the experience of brewing their own Discworld beers. They had plenty of bottled beers to choose from, and some on cask, and clearly they do a roaring trade (over 10,000 followers on Twitter @AlesByMail). And for the dark ale lover, more than enough choice, including those new-fangled can things. I could have filled a shopping trolley, but mindful of other shops to visited, came away with a half-dozen varied ales.
Next, a return visit to the Essex Beer Shop, tucked away in the shadow of Waitrose. They’ve had a move around since I was there last year, with the shop and the micropub now on the right-hand side of the pebbledashed fronted building, which has a couple of tables outside. It was sunny, so you could have sat there, closed your eyes, and dreamt you were basking in the sun of the South of France whilst quaffing one of the cask beers on offer in the micropub. The shop didn’t have as broad a range of bottles as The Craft Beer Shop, but I was able to come away with four dark Essex ales, which is what I call ‘a result’.
And finally a trip to the Essex Brewery Company, set up by Ian Chisholm after turning his back on egg farming (do you ‘farm’ eggs?). He’s got a big farm building with his brewing gear at one end, and rack upon rack for bottles at the other end (guarded by a huge ferocious dog). He’s had a busy summer at many festivals, and shifting his own beer has taken a bit of priority over his plans to make his shop the numero uno bottled beer destination. And whilst I mention the word destination, if you put his postcode into your satnav you’ll probably end up, having turned off the A414 and taken turnings off progressively smaller roads, on a lane with houses to your left and no sign of a brewery. Just keep on going along the lane until you see the gates on the left. (The locals I asked had no idea of it being there!)
So I opted for a few of his dark ales to add to my collection, and headed home on the A414 and A12 before Rush Hour Madness descended, reflecting on the warm welcomes and wide range of beers on offer from like minded enthusiasts, and counting the hours to Beer O’Clock…..