With CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) choosing Essex as a destination for their festivals, it’s hardly surprising that Essex breweries (and vineyards) are ‘jumping on the beer (and wine) wagon’ and attending food and drink festivals all over the county.
East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel near Colchester has been home to the CAMRA festivals for over 30 years – the 31st one will take place on 5th – 9th September. Those who wish to travel by train can take the Greater Anglia Sudbury Line (from Marks Tey) directly to Chappel Station, the destination of the festival, where literally hundreds of different beers will await you. The weekends have become so popular, it’s become necessary to buy tickets – so don’t miss out.
Grapes are not as fussy about soil types like other fruits and crops, and tolerate a wide range of soil chemistry and conditions. Having the least rainful in the UK, Essex appears to have the perfect soil for them, as there are a vast selection throughout the county. New Hall Vineyard in Purleigh, one of the oldest and first vineyards in the UK to grow the Bacchus grape, which is now one of their most popular wines, will hold an annual English Wine Festival and Fun Day in September (on 3rd and 4th), which features winery and vineyard tours, crafts and food stalls, plus entertainment and lots of fun activities for kids. Don’t forget to visit the Shop whilst you’re there too, as they’ll be holding a ‘wine sale’!
‘The Only Way was Gold’ for Essex’s newest vineyard West Street when they won the prestigious award in the World renowned International Wine Challenge 2017 in May – only six were won throughout the UK. The award celebrates all that’s great about West Street – the vines, the great restaurant serving local produce, and of course as much wine-tasting as you can muster.
The wonderful ‘Essex Way’, afootpath from Harwich to Epping or the other way around!, runs through Dedham Vale Vineyard, where you can grab a bicycle and tour the beautiful Essex countryside, before returning to try some of their fabulous wines and cider. There are guided tours and tastings, or just visit and enjoy the surroundings at your leisure. You may choose to have a glass of wine over-looking the glorious lake, or have your next party there – the vineyard caters for weddings too, affording a wonderful backdrop for treasured memories and those fabulous pics. The vineyard will be hosting their Cider and Wine Festival over the weekend 25th – 27th August, where there’ll be wine, cider, beer, food, live music, and camping if you desire!
Talking of beer, Billericay Brewery, a micro-brewery and beer shop based in Billericay, produces conditioned, crafted ales that have great taste and character. Selling directly to the public from The Essex Beer Shop, their beers are made from 100% natural ingredients and sold in bottles and casks. Every second and last Sunday at 2pm, throughout the year, they offer brewery tours and tastings, explaining the brewing process and ingredients used – so you can be sure of going home with a beer that suits your palette. You can even be a ‘Brewer for the Day’ and return 2 -3 weeks afterward to collect your pint!
Also as a point of interest, Wilkins and Sons of Tiptree, the world-famous preserve makers, now also produce their very special Little Scarlet (strawberry), Raspberry and Sloe Gin – pop it in some Essex sparkling white wine and it will definitely ‘hit the spot’!