With the announcement of the Colchester CAMRA Ale Trail 2014 the Young(ish) Members decided to run a pub crawl of sorts. The aim was to visit all ten ‘town’ pubs as a transient group guaranteeing company for those visiting new pubs, but keen to allow people to join and leave the tour as they wished.
12:00 Skip forward a few weeks and five young(ish) members congregate at The Norfolk on North Station Road for their first beer. The Norfolk has made significant improvements recently, including now having a very fine beer garden. The ale was also of good quality and included St. Austell Tribute, and Skinners Betty Stoggs. Four pints of Betty and a Tribute later the fellowship is formed, oaths were oathed, pacts were pact-ed and vows were vowed, and so we set of for the long walk up into town.
13:00 Our Five intrepid explorers enter The Duchess where we are greeted by two more CAMRA members. This is another pub that’s improved their ale range in the last year or so, the Duchess also won the Green King Brewery Craft Ale pub of the year award, (they had a 7.4% craft ale on tap which we stealthily avoided). We opt for the eponymous Duchess Ale, but expect it’s one of GK’s standard brews rebranded for the pub. Beers a bit cold, but the staff and atmosphere are all pleasant enough, and it’s worth a look in - especially for those of us able to remember the Wig & Pen at its rowdiest!
14:00 The Magnificent Seven now make their way down Balkerne Passage to The Hole in the Wall, the pub famously extended through the Roman Wall in the 19th Century, and now owns (possibly) the best beer garden view in Colchester. Most of our group sampled the Colchester Brewery Smugglers Ale though there’s a decent selection of beers available in this ancient hostelry full of tradition, (which including the town watch running a pike drill during our visit). The pub still hosts bands most nights, but has maintained a welcoming ‘real ale pub’ atmosphere in the daytime, perfect for a relaxing pint after slogging round the town centre shops.
15:00 Another short walk brings the group to The Ale House on Butt Road where a larger CAMRA contingent awaits, including a small contingency of committee members; Tony, Annabel and Ted Ted. This may be a CAMRA young(ish) members tour but anyone who enjoys a pint and good company is welcome to join. The bar was moved during the pubs refurbishment a few years ago, resulting in a light and airy space, providing room for a big group like ours to sit and an often used Bar Billiards table.
16:00 In a change of plan due the group split with some diverting into town to visit The Purple Dog, while meeting those who wish to only visit a few pubs going straight to the next location. The weather has improved and the group settle to the secluded town centre beer garden for a pint. While our group was diminished we met another three having ticking off a few pubs – we exchanged stories and supplies then bid them farewell as they headed off to (the Olde) Albion.
17:00 The group reconvene at The Odd One Out on Mersea Road. This is one of the few pubs in Colchester that hasn’t changed in recent years – when you’re onto a winning formula why reform! Good beer, a homely atmosphere and great company as the party once again make it to full strength. Talk highlighted a relatively successful day so far, and suggestions for future young member’s events were passed around, both for current members and this Ale Trail and discussion into how to attract more young members in the future – watch this space!
18:00 The next pub was new to the author, The Britannia now a Pub and Gurkha restaurant on Berechurch Road. This is a new pub to your author, however one I feel I will visit again. The staff and locals made us feel local, and the pub is very clean and well looked after without losing the authentic feel that decades of existence alongside the barracks has given it. Lighter Ales are prevalent however Colchester Number One was chosen by most of our group, the juke box is abused, a few games of pool are played, and we’re even given some spiced potato’s and veg from the on-site restaurant to try – I for one am already planning a return for some dinner and to try to rest of the beers on tap.
19:00 Simon opens the door and welcomes out thirsty expedition to The British Grenadier, previously an Adnams pub, and for a long time threatened with closure. Today however the Grennie faced a new threat – as your author and photographer witnessed a zombie invasion. It turned out this was just the CAMRA cohorts thirstily re-enacting the apocalyptical zombie assault on the Winchester in Shaun of the Dead. A good range of beers are available, some of the group have a few rounds of darts, and our stay is extended beyond the normal half an hour - due in part to the ferocious chilli nuts being passed around.
20:30 The longest walk of the day, leads the group to The Foresters Arms on Roman Road, some of the party have dropped away leaving only a few from the original fellowship carving out a meagre existence on the long hike down Brook Street and up East Hill. The pub has a nice atmosphere and as standard stocks Wherry and Tribute. The warm evening results in even the non-smokers sitting outside of the final pub of the tour, reminiscing and regaling each other with stories of chivalry and dragons.
22:00 The group have disbanded having completed their quest, two of the five see The Victoria Inn (the well-deserved Colchester and North East Essex CAMRA Pub of the Year) and are drawn towards its welcoming embrace, one more for the road?