The Hop Beer Shop, Chelmsford and a cheeky lunchtime half

Me and Moulsham Street go back some 34 years. Back in the spring of 1982 I was at Leeds Polytechnic in the final months of my degree course, and I spotted an advert for a job at County Hall in Chelmsford. Having lived in Hartlepool all my life, and with a job to go back to, Chelmsford might have seemed a funny choice to consider for job-hunting, but it was in Essex, and the girl who I had started dating way back in the first year was from Essex, and me getting a job in Essex near to her family seemed a better idea that the pair of us going up to the north east, a long way from her family. So the job was applied for, I came down by train for the interview, and before I’d finished the course, the job was mine, and Chelmsford it was.

As the future in-laws lived in a village outside of Harlow, to the west of the county, and I hadn’t passed my driving test, for a few weeks I got the bus to Chelmsford early Monday morning, and stayed in a B&B in a street just off Moulsham Street for four nights, heading back on the bus on the Friday evening. And I can tell you that having spend 3 years in Leeds with its nightlife and gigs (The Clash, The Jam, Joy Division, The Ramones, The Fall, UB40, The Specials etc etc etc), Moulsham Street in Chelmsford was just a bit … quieter. A pint in a pub on Moulsham Street, and a KFC for dinner was the usual routine.

Anyone staying in Chelmsford overnight in 2016 has a much wider range of options for evening entertainment. And in November 2014 Moulsham Street saw the opening of the town’s, and the county’s, first micropub – The Hop Beer Shop, and we finally got there yesterday.

It was opened by John Prior, and he’s done a great job, especially as he made a lot of the furniture in the shop. There are hops festooning the ceiling, benches and seating for a dozen or so people, and a fair bit of standing room. There’s a couple of shelves full of bottled beers from all over the world. There are four casks tucked into a temperature-controlled walk-in cabinet, and, a relatively new addition, a pair of keg taps. There’s no food, no music, and the non-alcohol drinkers have a few choices from the bottles on the shelves.

We had a nice chat with John whilst supping on a Beavertown Beer Neck Oil IPA on keg, which was in cracking form. Just a cheeky half as it was a lunchtime and a drive back to Colchester beckoned. He’s done a great job with the pub, and had me mulling over where I would put a micropub in Colchester. One with a pico-brewery out back…

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