Crouch Vale Brewery was established in 1981 by two beer enthusiasts. Financed by a bank overdraft, Colin Bocking and Rob Walster signed a 25-year lease on a new industrial building in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex. Various second-hand items of plant and equipment were acquired adapted and assembled, with almost all of the work being carried out by the founders themselves. After some months of toil, the first brew took place on 3rd October 1981. It was not a trouble-free event but the beer, Crouch Vale Best Bitter (all-malt mash, hopped with English Fuggles and Goldings and fermented with a yeast cadged from Youngs of Wandsworth) wasn’t half-bad. From a slightly inauspicious start, Crouch Vale Brewery was born!
The following years saw expansion of the beer range and distribution area as well as the acquisition in 1986, of the first Crouch Vale pub – The Cap and Feathers, in Tillingham. A second pub, The Queens Head in Chelmsford, was acquired in 1998 and remains in brewery ownership today. It was some years before the awards began to trickle in, but the trickle became a flood with the winning of the ultimate cask ale accolade – CAMRA’s “Supreme Champion Beer of Britain”, gained by Brewers Gold in both 2005 and 2006. Brewers Gold is an extremely drinkable 4% alc. vol., and now accounts for over 60% of our production. It is acclaimed worldwide as a leading example of the ‘Golden Ale’ style, with wonderful aromas and flavour, from carefully selected ingredients.
With the expiry of the original lease and demand exceeding the brewery’s capacity to supply, the decision was taken to move to new larger premises on the other side of the town, in 2006. Unlike the original plant which was cobbled up from whatever was available cheaply, the new brewery was larger, purpose-built and capable of much more consistent and better product quality. However, the original production ethos was (and still is) maintained – ingredients are purchased on quality rather than price and the brewery is still manned by real people, who hand-craft the beers.
Clearly the passage of time has been kind to the business but not, sadly, to the founders themselves. Colin remains at the helm of the company, somewhat disheveled but still making the tea. The other founder (Rob Walster) is no longer involved in the brewery but sells plenty of its produce at his terribly lovely pub, The Prince Of Wales at Stow Maries.