Thursday, 5 March 2015

Beer In Essex: Billericay Brewing: Looking To The Future

Beer In Essex
Billericay Brewing: Looking To The Future

I don't like working on a Saturday, but as I'm contractually obliged to do so I can't really avoid it, but fortunately it's a short day and it's not long before I'm locking the door behind me and wishing my colleagues a good weekend before hoisting my bag over my shoulder and setting off up the high street. Turning left before I get to Waitrose, I follow the road round to Chapel Street and enter the shop-cum-micropub next door to Billericay Brewing and find Trevor clearing the glasses from one of the tables as four satisfied drinkers say their goodbyes. He looks up as I walk towards the counter and smiles, "Hello," he says, "would you like a beer?".

I first met Trevor Jeffrey, the owner and brewer of Billericay Brewing in the December of 2012, although I had been following his progress since the website went live earlier that year. He had just received the first batch of bottles of his inaugural beer, Mayflower Gold, and he invited me into his home to open a few of them as we talked about and tasted it. This had been brewed with the help of the Pitfield/Dominion brewer, Canadian Andy Skene at his brewery near Moreton in Essex, as Trevor was, at this point, a brewer without a brewery. By the time I came to write up my impressions of the beer however he had found some premises and although it would be another year or so before he was actually brewing on site, Billericay Brewing was well and truly in business.

Even though it was called the home of Billericay Brewing from the outset, in truth it was little more than the home of the Essex Beer Shop, with Trevor selling bottled beers from all over the county as well as some from London and Belgium, and there were mutterings that it wasn't really a brewery as there was no equipment and no brewing going on there. This of course all changed when the kit finally arrived and in March 2014 brewing finally got under way.

It would be fair to say that it hasn't been all plain sailing. There were teething problems as you might expect with early bottles having some problems with their seals and the beer being overly yeasty, but Trevor has listened to the feedback and his brewing has improved, so that over the last few months his beers have become fully rounded, clean tasting and full of flavour. As a consequence of this they are selling almost as quickly as he is brewing them, and for the few hours that I was there a steady stream of customers were bottles and sampling the beer directly from the casks that he has on stillage in the micropub and shop he opened next door to the brewery in December last year.

To date he has brewed a total of nine beers:
Mayflower Gold a US-influenced Pale Ale with spicy citrus notes.
A Mild With No Name, full of dark coffee and roast meat juice caramel notes.
Billericay Dickie, a light amber ale brewed with a nod to the Ian Dury and the Blockheads song of the same name, and the first beer exclusively brewed at the Chapel Street brewery.
Billericay Blonde, a golden ale with grapefruit and marmalade flavours that leap out of the glass.
Chapel Street Porter, with hints of chocolate and a little smokiness.
Billericay Zeppelin, originally called Dead Zeppelin, an easy drinking amber ale with a good caramel and biscuity malt character.
Festival Beer, a golden ale brewed for Billericay's Summerfest in 2014.
Rhythm Stick, the second of the 'Ian Dury' series, and the beer I'm drinking as I write this part of the post,
Mild Bill, a mild ale brewed with extra chocolate malt giving it a lovely rounded flavour.

Having done all this when just under a year ago he didn't have a fully working kit is rather impressive, but as Trevor gets up to serve some more thirsty customers I turn over the page of my notebook and write the heading, 'So what's next?' When he returns to the table after a minute or so I put this question to him.
"I thought you might ask me that," he answers, "and I've jotted a few things down. I'll just go and get it."

He has already told me that he has what he will be calling the 'Mayflower 2015' in the fermenter. This is a slightly amped-up version of the Mayflower Gold that will settle out at around the 7-7.5% abv mark, and he hopes to make an annual beer. Brewed with Pilgrim and Willamette, this version will be dry-hopped with Cascade, the first time that he has dry-hopped any beer, and he also plans to use a different hop for this in successive editions, in a similar vein to Duvel's annual Tripel Hop. This should be available around the end of March, and I will be making a special trip to the brewery to see how this comes out.

When Trevor comes back he is brandishing a piece of paper full of ideas and hastily scribbled musings, and considering what I have written about Essex beer recently and how, let's say safe, he current beer range is, there is much in there that lifts my spirits. I won't go into too much detail now but what you might expect to see from his small 4.5 BBL plant but I will give you a sneak peak into what he is planning.

First up is a US-hopped Spring ale, Norsey Gold, which will be almost immediately followed by a dry-hopped ESB, Clever Trevor, nicely dovetailing the 'Ian Dury Series' and the name of the brewer himself. Also in the pipeline is a lighter smoked beer, possibly using malt smoked at the local Hanningfield Smokehouse and locally grown malt and hops, as well as a Black IPA. Modestly prevents me from saying who suggested the latter beer, and who might be brewing it, but hopefully it's one that can be sorted out in the not-too-distant future if Trevor and I can get our heads together. In addition to this you'll be wanting to look out for Christmas Blockhead, around December, a festive barley-wine, but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself a bit here.

The conversation flows and so does the beer, and all too soon it's time for me to leave. For a man who appears to be quite unassuming when you meet him he becomes passionate and alive when he talks about his beer and it's obvious that it's something he cares deeply about. My job is taking me away from Billericay, and I'll miss being able to drop in on Trevor on a whim for a swift half and a chat. I will be back from time to time to see what he is up to, and I'm wish him well. He always welcomes visitors, particularly if they have a love of beer so why not call in and see him if you're passing, or make a special trip if you're not. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.


The Billericay Brewing Company can be found at 54 Chapel Street, Billericay, Essex, and the Essex Beer Shop and Micropub next door are open every day except Monday. Opening times vary, and may be extended soon, so you might want to check out the websitetwitter or Facebook for more information. Alternatively you can ring on: 01277 500121 particularly if you want to order some beer or participate in one of the 'Brewer For A Day' experiences on offer. Maybe I'll see you there.

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