The Dolphin and The Swan Inn – beers straight from the cask (or not)

Heading westwards on the A120 towards Braintree today, en route to Cressing Temple Barns I espied The Dolphin Pub displaying a new sign promoting their serving ale straight from the cask. They’ve being doing this for several years (probably on account of not having a cellar!), and I decided that as we hadn’t been to the pub since 2010, we’d pop in on the way back. That last visit had slightly disappointed as the beer on offer wasn’t a great choice, and Ruddles was the best on offer, as I reported in my article Essex Pubs and Real Ale – 2010 in review.

We duly stopped off, and I pondered my decision looking at the five casks behind the bar. Only two were on, one was Greene King IPA, and the other was Greene King’s Morland Original Bitter. Not much of a choice, so I politely told the barman I’d not bother, and walked out. He was a bit nonplussed, but heigh-ho.

But the thought of ale straight from the cask was in my mind, so where to go? Fortunately, only a few miles away and not much of a detour was The Swan Inn at Chapel. Our last visit there was a few years ago, but I noted at the time their choice included Mauldon’s ‘Silveradder’, and Brandon’s ‘Rusty Bucket’, so fingers crossed for this time. And yes, The Swan Inn showed what a decent real ale pub should be offering. Two beers straight from the cask : Adnams Bitter and Broadside. Three on handpump : two from Essex – Colchester Brewery’s ‘Jack Spitty’s Smuggler’s Ale’, and George’s Brewery’s ‘Valhalla’ and Adnam’s ‘Jester’.

I’m not a fan of golden ales, but the weather was lovely, the Colchester Brewery was probably only half a mile away, so I went for it. A ‘hoppy’ golden ale they say on their website, but not too hoppy by my reckoning, and it was quaffed quite quickly. They do good food at the pub, there’s a beer festival over the August Bank Holiday, and their beer garden has the Chappel Viaduct at the bottom of it, so plenty of reasons for you to seek it out. And what I didn’t spot until the way out, was the chilled cabinet with a good range of craft ales, and a sign saying ask the bar staff about the CAMRA discount. So two more good reasons to go there again!