A Review of the Vic

Taken with kind permission from Chelmsford CAMRA's Thirsty Times Magazine, a review of us... 

Colchester Pub wins another CAMRA award

If someone were to ask you what is the best pub in East Anglia what would you answer?

I’m saying this as The Victoria Inn in Colchester has been given this CAMRA accolade for 2014. By the time you read this the pub may have been judged as being the best pub in the eastern quarter of the UK. Whether this happens or not this is a remarkable pub and a “must visit” if you ever pass close to Colchester. Located a short walk from the busy town centre and even closer to the station, in North Station Road, you will find this 3 storey Grade II listed building, dating from the 17th century but with a Victorian frontage.

5 years ago the pub was closed and the building was facing what seemed the inevitable demise of so many buildings in a similar position. Luckily for the beer-drinking, and pub-going, population of Colchester and the rest of Essex enter Sheena and Andy, both originally from Yorkshire. They bought the unloved pub in September 2010, their key reason for going for The Victoria rather than so many other closed pubs available was that it was completely free of tie and they were in control of their own destiny. The pub had no real history of selling decent beer. Although their initial budget was small, all spare income was, and is still, directed back into improving the pub. Both Andy & Sheena have backgrounds in the trade and have a lot of experience and positive views on how to run a pub.

The key component of their strategy is focusing on good beer. Apart from the odd pickled egg they do not sell food. They are surrounded by a plethora of fast food outlets and there are a huge number of quality restaurants nearby, so why compete. The raison d’être here is quality beer, over 100 different ales have been served in the last year. Oh, and cider too, with up to 9 usually available.

When they first opened they decided to start with just a single handpull. As trade and their reputation for good beer built up they increased this and now have now five. They are also proud to feature a keg Craft beer on draught which can be sourced from any of the increasing number of breweries now available. Beers usually come direct, fresh from breweries rather than agencies and come from all over the country through good brewery relations. In an interesting experiment recently customers were encouraged to compare draught and keg versions of the same beer (with prices equalised). There is also a good selection of bottled beers from breweries large and small around the globe.

The pub has 3 distinct areas, a quiet area with sofas, a traditional pub area with low tables and a real fire in winter and a lively rear bar with high tables and stools, but all are connected around a central bar. Outside is a sheltered courtyard with seating leading to an open "barn" with comfy conservatory style seating. There is live music on Sundays from 5.30pm, usually folky/blues/acoustic based and often featuring touring artists.

Upstairs is a function room and the pub is the home of the Colchester Cheese Appreciation Society, The Victoria Wine Club and the Mile End Coffee Club. A beer festival in the summer features 30 award-winning beers.

Yes, folks, it’s a “proper pub” and it’s on our doorstep. Go and have a beer.