New and Rediscovered - Part 1

Justin Mason takes us on a journey around pubs in Brentwood that he's never been to (or hasn't been to in over a decade) in a small series kindly put together for Tryanuary.

The Brewery Tap, Brentwood

Towards the bottom of King Street, less than a minute from the Brewery Tap. Once part of A. Fielder and Company, brewers, before the rest of the site was converted into shops in the late 1920s, the actual pub building and layout remain unchanged.

I used to drink in here when we first moved to the area as an old school friend used to live next door, but it’s been more than a decade since I last crossed the threshold. It’s not changed much, which is to its credit, and as I sit here on a Wednesday afternoon I reckon it’s not a bad place to be.

There’s a group of men aged 35-50 discussing the latest episode of Countdown whilst three women in the corner are gossiping about mutual friends, a half of lager each and a few empty packets of crisps sit ignored on the table in front of them.

Aside from Timothy Taylor’s Landlord there’s Fuller’s London Pride, Adnams Ghost Ship and Southwold Bitter on the bar. The beer tastes good, and as I drain my glass I wish I had more time. It’s been a while since I’ve been in here, but it won’t be too long before I’m back.

The Victoria Arms, Brentwood

Just around the corner from the Sainsbury’s superstore, tucked snugly into its space on the Ongar Road is the Victoria Arms.

Built in the late 1860s this Victorian boozer, a Gray & Sons tied house, could make a very good case for being the most aesthetically pleasing of all of Brentwood’s pubs. Head inside, through the unusual internal porch and you’ll discover that it’s bigger inside than it looks from the street, cleaner and brighter too.

The interior is split into two distinct sections, and although you can freely between them now it’s not difficult to spot where the central corridor once led to a Tap Room on the left and a Saloon Bar on the right. Look back from the bar and you can see the writing on the period etched windows confirms this. 

Six hand pumps greet you, and I’m told that there’s a fair chance that you’ll find a beer from an Essex brewery on one of them. There’s four beers from Cornwall, two each from Sharp’s and Skinners, Greene King IPA and Maldon’s Farmers Golden Boar, on the bar when I pop in at lunchtime, and if you’re so inclined Heineken’s Meister lager provides a drinkable alternative to some of the usual brands.

A mix of ages of both sexes occupy the tables that keep to the edges of the room, eating, drinking and talking, each absorbed in their own company.

I take my pint and retreat to a table near the door to observe the comings and goings, content to watch the world go by for half an hour or so. The woman who served me comes out from behind the bar to clean the tables as soon as the patrons leave, smiling happily to herself as she does so.

I rather like the Victoria Arms and I’m guessing you will too.

Mike Hampshire