After my visit to Worthing to sample the excellent Brookstead Alehouse and Anchored in Worthing micropubs I was delighted to hear that Chelmsford had also opened a new mini pub. Chelmsford is a short journey away from me and probably has the best local selection of decent pubs and beer bars, it’s size and choice narrowly beating Billericay and Rochford. After walking through the long wide Chelmsford high Street, past the shops, past the market stalls and crowds of busy shoppers you have to cross over to the other older part of town into Moulsham Street. About 5 minutes down this street opposite where the old KFC used to be (all my old college friends will know instantly now know where!) you will find that welcoming sight of a shop window draped in dried hop plants.
Micropubs have now hit numbers of over 100 in the UK in the last ten years since The Butchers Arms in Herne, Kent, was first opened. Hop Beer Shop joined the micropub community towards the end of 2014 and is the first to open in Essex. After previously working in the pub trade John Prior decided to open the Hop Beer Shop and started work on it in March 2014. Its a one man show with John putting the shop together and running the shop now.
It’s hard to miss the bright green sign as you walk past Hop Beer Shop along with cheeky cartoon character. Dried hops circle the ceiling along with a fine display of different Belgian beer glasses, not forgetting old pub clips to be seen above your head. As you first walk in the small room you will have some high tables with a long bench one side the length of half the room and gatherings of stalls on the other side of the table.
Past the bench is a beautiful wall of bottled beers featuring beers from Belgium and Germany as well as loads of home grown craft beer and real ale including Chelmsfords own brewery Round Tower. At the end of the wall of beer is a till area where you can pay for your bottles to take away or order your beers to drink in the shop, either from the large bottle selection or the decent range of cask beer from the cellar room which you can see to the left behind the till. Scattered around the room are a few areas for standing with a drink and a small table for two opposite the wall of beer. There is also a fridge for beers best drank at cooler tempretures.
When my friend and I first walked in the door there was a few drinking companions on the main tables and a conversation gathering by the till, so it was peaceful first couple of drinks, then within a matter of 15 minutes the place was packed wall to wall! It seemed that we had bumped into a Good Friday Essex CAMRA pub crawl! Even packed to the rafters the shop was comfortable and you was able to enjoy your drink, it was great to see the place busy and doing well. The fact the Hop Beer Shop was on the CAMRA beer crawl is a good stamp of approval at the quality of the place.
I am completely sold on micropubs, I love them, the small rooms somehow instantly have this great welcoming warm atmosphere. Maybe this atmosphere is from the owners themselves projecting their love for good beer into the room. Whatever the reason Hop Beer Shop has it and I am over the moon to add it to a healthy growing beer scene in Essex.