Once upon a time (4th March 2012 at 1100 hours) Colchester CAMRA members assembled outside GALA bingo. This was the meeting place not the activity for the day I hasten to add! People bundled straight onto the two Community minibuses for fear of being washed or swept away by the wind and rain caused by the special weather system that GB loves to talk about so much! Once everyone was seated and had their seatbelts fastened we set off. As we neared our destination it became obvious that our destination was not obvious! The minibuses followed each other with condensation covered windows [not the windscreen too, surely? ed], blindly down tracks through a few fields before giving in and having to get directions via a high tech communications device and a brewer to the home of the Hopmonster Brewery.
As we entered we were efficiently filtered straight into the cold room where we all received a very generous taster of Long Shadows 4.2abv. Large white boards dominated the back wall of the brewery where each barrel is numbered and the date and pub where it has been sent is recorded. It all looked very good! The scales hanging from a hook in the wooden beams of the Barn with a glitter ball also drew some attention! I have to say the brewing vessel named ‘Hannah’ reminded me very strongly of the rocket in a childrens’programme I used to watch when I was younger called Button Moon.
It did not take long before Al was mysteriously drawn into the office where a ‘Heritage’ juke box was displayed on the wall. The rest of us sat on barrels or stood chatting and drinking as we were supplied more with tasters of Wakerly Gold 3.8 abv. The mixture of drinking and drinking went down quite well. The beer was flowing ...and so were the sales of the various items of clothing with Hop Monsters on them! Then there was the obligatory group photo in the rain, with a banner, and of course the Col U scarf! Mark the Head Brewer then gave a quick tour of the Brewery and we drank some more. It was interesting to find out the history of the Banshee Porter which I had been drinking the previous evening. Apparently it was brewed as a German beer originally however I had not expected the word Marmite to be used as a description! Its being referred to now as a smoked porter. I refered to it as ‘that fantastic dark beer we had last night’. Mark went on to describe how the brewery uses both the name’Georges brewery’ and ‘Hopmonster brewery’ to distinguish between and more new and adventurous beers and its slightly more traditional beers. He showed us the vast array of hops he has from Germany, Slovenia and America, and talked about how experimental the Americans are with their beer.
Several beers later and people were starting to show signs of intoxication.[CAMRA promote sensible drinking, ed]. Just when Mark thought he was safe and we were all leaving someone…who will remain nameless knocked over a barrel and of course glasses and beer went everywhere... whoops!
Any intellectual conversation on our bus had vanished on the way to the Trout Tavern and was replaced by repeated blows on a duck whistle. If this was not bad enough would you believe that the calls were returned by a SECOND duck whistle brought along by another CAMRA member on our mini bus. I wondered why I had not gone on Robin's bus [did he have a robin whistle?, ed]!
The Trout Tavern lived up to expectation. Its owners are the licensees from the old ‘chalk and cheese’ pub which was enjoyed by so many. They had on Trout Ale by Hopmonster and Dark Horse by Farmers. Not sure the Dark Horse at 6.6 abv was a good plan for some people who were already on route for being mashed, but what do I know. So I ordered a pint! They supplied us with a much needed buffet, which was very gratefully received before heading back off into the sleet on our newly rearranged route that would take us to the Swan at Little Totham. Obviously people fell asleep on the bus and inevitably childish attempts to put things on their heads, ears and noses passed the time.
The Swan had a roaring fire and had many ales available. Including Captain Bob, Doom Bar, Oscar wild, Brewer's Gold, Southwold Bittter, Broadside, Flying tackle, Ridgway Bitter and Swallowtail. But the best beer in my opinion would have to be Tring's Side Pocket for a Toad which came on whilst we were there.
On arrival back into fair Colchester which was wet and cold we had a drop off at the Victoria, and the rest of us made our way either home, or to the New Inn which luckily had on Wallsea Wench, which bizarrely enough was brewed by Hopmonster! Then I went home and proceeded to sleep until it was time to go to bed.
Thanks you to Hopmonster for supplying us with a great trip out and great Beer, and to the Trout Tavern for a lovely buffet. Thanks to JT who organised the trip and to both him and Robin for drinking J20 and Tea so that they could drive us all to drink!!