Gordon Brown got it right!
He created the progressive beer duty which came into being in 2002, allowing small brewers to pay less tax on their products encouraging new small breweries to open.
In 2020 our own county of Essex now has a vibrant growing diverse collection of breweries
They offer excellent beers, from classic IPA’s to golden ales, the aromatic brews are a delight, produced using quality local ingredients. There is something satisfying about dropping into the actual brewery to pick up a few bottles or a cask of finest local ales.
Many brewers now offer direct deliveries such as Bishop Nick in Braintree. At some breweries you can even enjoy an excellent lunch and sample the beers such as Wibblers of Southminster (Only a stroll away from the railways station too). Some smaller brewers team up with local pubs, The Courtyard Brewery in the small village of Gosfield now supply many local pubs in the area
why should we care?
So what makes an Ale?
The basic ingredients are Malted Barley, Hops, Yeast, and fresh water. Many brewers add spices herbs and fruits to enhance the taste. The British are good at growing these ingredients, so much so that the burgeoning Ale Brewers of the United States are now looking to buy up as much as possible for their own pale ales.
Nelion Ridley at his brewery, Bishop Nick in Braintree
Bottles, cans, casks?
One positive to come out of recent events has been the want to buy local. Professional delivery services and a choice of bottles, cans and mini casks that hold 9 pints are proving very popular – oh but you have to consume the casks within 3 days once opened . . . actually that’s a plus though isn’t it?
Conveniently spread over the whole of Essex . .
With these small breweries now dotted all over Essex you won’t have to go far to find one. Following below is our Essex Lifestyle directory of the small Brewers of Essex..
- Keppels Brewery – Rochford – 07912 251278
- Maldon Brewery Co. – Maldon – 01621 851000
- Mighty Oak Brewery – Maldon – 01621 843713
- Red Fox Brewery – Coggeshall – 01376 563123
- Wibblers Brewery – Southminster – 01621 772044 WEBSITE
Is your brewery not included in this directory? Let us know!
Damian O’Connor spends a day at The Courtyard Brewery in Gosfield
‘It’s all about cleaning, checking and testing,’ says Marc, hosing out the tun with a pressure washer and pointing to a collection of hi-tech instruments by the door.
I spent a day with the Courtyard Brewery team, watching a batch of their trademark Gold go from mash to sparge to wort and then, when the hops and finings are added, into the fermenter where the yeast and sugar work their particular magic. Marc hands me a glass of liquor from the mash, better than the richest coffee, which is just the first of a series of delicious tastes and smells to fill up the day ahead. At the nest stage, the aroma from the copper has the comforting, wholesome, grainy feel of a stew just starting in the oven or meat caramelising in the gravy pan, while the hops being used carry a citrus scent like slightly burnt lemons.
It’s an all-day business is brewing, with long waits between stages which necessitates a certain amount of sitting in the sunshine and sampling – ‘testing’ – past products to make sure the quality is just as it should be. Daisy the brew dog is in charge of this part of the process, being adept at sitting quietly in the courtyard and staring into the blue sky. It’s also a good time to sit and marvel at life’s journey which began for Marc as an apprentice in a south London bus garage and has since brought him to a rambling house in the picturesque Essex village of Gosfield, via no less a place than the Golden Road to Samarkand and the mysteries of the East. His wife, Tanya, has had no less an interesting journey to here, as I learn when a welcome sausage sandwich arrives to compliment the IPA under my scientific consideration. She grew up in Moscow during the Cold War where her dad was a spy (probably). Her brother Mark (II) remembers eating caviar on toast after school as casually as the rest of us ate fish paste sarnies. His job in the organisation is to do the technical stuff – refractometers, no less – and then clean out the copper.
There’s a fine range of beers on at this fabulous little brewery; the Gold is my favourite but there’s also IPA, a bunker-busting strong ale named The Blues , a porter named Dark and Gosfield which with its barn, Spitfire and goose motif sums up the essence of an English village very well indeed. The brewery itself sits in a pleasant shaded courtyard adorned with a Harley Davidson and statues of the Buddha which lacks only a couple of suitably weathered and leathered old dudes with fat guitars to reach true perfection, but Marc tells me that those are on the way (possibly) when the Covid restrictions are a thing of memory. The next development will be the opening of Courtyard’s very own micro-tap in nearby Halstead and from there – the world! Actually, Courtyard’s products have already made it as far as Russia and have received accolades from any number of beer festivals in the surrounding area.
It’s late in the afternoon when things start to wrap up. Tanya collects up the grain from the mash which goes for cattle and chicken feed, fertiliser for local gardens or gets baked into dog biscuits for Daisy as a reward for her sterling service in the courtyard. Mark (II) gets in the copper to shovel out the hops – which look rather too much like the contents of a baby’s nappy for comfort – while Marc monitors the fermentation in vats named after football players; the reason they are named after football players was lost to me in the haze of a last glass of The Blues under the dappled leaves of perfect day.
‘Actually, the cleaning and checking is important, of course,’ says Marc, popping the top off a bottle, adopting a more managerial role and settling into a chair. ‘But it’s the tasting that’s the essence of it all.
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