12 of the best real ale pubs in Essex

PUBLISHED: 11:49 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:34 16 September 2020

'The Swan' public house at Little Totham (c) Robert Edwards, Geograph (CC BY 2.0)

'The Swan' public house at Little Totham (c) Robert Edwards, Geograph (CC BY 2.0)


Nothing beats a good pint of ale. Whether you’ve got a favourite that you stick to or you like to try as many varieties as possible, we’ve picked 12 Essex pubs that you’ve got to visit

1) The Ale House, Chelmsford

Situated just a short stroll from Chelmsford High Street The Ale House is housed in two old railway arches with panelled walls and curved ceilings, creating a unique character that grows on you quickly.

They stock a huge selection of drinks, with 12 varieties of ale, 12 ciders and five German lagers on tap. There is also an eclectic assortment of bottled beers from around the world to work your way through.

They don't serve hot food, but do have a delicious selection of bar snacks such as crisps, peanuts, pickled eggs and various flavours of biltong - they will also provide plates and cutlery if you wish to bring your own food.

2) The Sunny Sailor, Maldon

The Sunny Sailor is set in a 450-year-old listed building overlooking the Chelmer River in the town of Maldon. With an original inglenook fireplace lit in winter and a glorious raised deck outside for the summer months, The Sunny Sailor is the perfect spot in any weather.

They stock a large selection of lagers and real ales including a number of local favourites. After a few hours in the pub we'd recommend following the river down past Hythe Quay and all the way to the Statue of Byrhtnoth.

3) The Ship Pub, Chelmsford

The traditional and classically decorated Ship Pub in Chelmsford is well known in the area for its warm atmosphere and friendly staff, making it hugely popular with locals and visitors alike for many years.

As a 'Cask Marque' accredited establishment they always keep at least 6 ales on tap, three of which are regulars and three guests that are changed up regularly. The food is tasty and well priced traditional pub-grub featuring classics like fish and chips, steak and Guinness pie and bangers and mash.

4) The Broker Freehouse, Leigh-on-Sea

The Broker Freehouse in Leigh-on-Sea has been running since 1992 and is the epitome of a local pub for local people. Welcoming, family-friendly and traditional, they take pride in what they do. They're well known for hosting various events including cracking quiz nights as well as raising money for local charities.

They stock a stunning beer collection that they regularly change up with all sorts of ales from local favourites to unknown oddities. As if that wasn't enough, they also have a small courtyard allowing you to enjoy a few drinks under sunny Essex skies.


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5) The Square & Compasses, Fuller Street

You can't beat a traditional country pub and that's exactly what The Square and Compasses is. This freehouse in the hamlet of Fuller Street is reported to date all the way to back to 1652, initially starting off as two farmers cottages. It has now been lovingly restored by and has retained many of its original features.

The atmosphere inside is cosy, with an assortment of comfortable furniture and eclectic antiques, perfect for relaxing on a Sunday with a glass of one of their many real ales. Their tap room features an excellent selection of draught beers, country ciders and real ales served from the stillage right behind the bar.

6) The Olde Trout Tavern, Southend-on-Sea

This traditionally-styled ale house in Southend is the ideal place for a peaceful drink with friends, especially if you're passionate about ales. They offer an ever changing assortment of real and craft ales that they've worked hard to source from all over the UK.

They understand the importance of supporting local businesses, and where they can they source their ales from local, Essex-based micro-breweries. Since October 2011 they have served over 1,000 different varieties of ale to support their own Trout Ale brewed by Wantsum Brewing Company.

7) The Three Wise Monkeys, Colchester

The Three Wise Monkeys in Colchester is the ale house of the 21st century. A huge freehouse split over four floors right in the centre of the city, each floor has its own theme with the ground floor being the dedicated Tap House that serves a staggering range of beers from both cask and keg. In fact they serve so many varieties that they offer customers 'beer racks' allowing them to sample four types of beer in 1/3 pint glasses - genius!

When you start to feel peckish, have a wander up to the first floor where you'll find the kitchens serving up slow-cooked, American-style smoked barbecue brisket and mouth-watering gourmet burgers.

8) The Eagle, Kelvedon Hatch

Sitting in the village of Kelvedon Hatch, The Eagle is a real pillar for the community and always offers a warm, inviting welcome. The bar boasts two permanent ales and three guest ales that are changed up frequently, as well as five draught lagers and a selection of draught ciders. These can be enjoyed from the comfort of the bar or if the sun is shining from the beautiful and spacious beer garden.

Although food is served daily, the real culinary highlight is the Sunday lunch, served with all the trimmings fresh from the pub's kitchen - the perfect sidekick to your pint of real ale.


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9) The Fox Inn, Matching Tye

This charming 18th century village pub in Matching Tye is the perfect place to enjoy a cask ale. As a freehouse it's able to buy from a variety of different breweries allowing them to stock all of your popular favourites and, at the same time, experiment with a selection of brews from further afield.

Open seven days a week the pub is full of character and exudes a thoroughly relaxing atmosphere. Following an afternoon of sampling ales and indulging in the wholesome classics from their extensive menu, head out to explore some other notable locations including Chipping Ongar and Old Harlow.

10) The Swan, Little Totham

A previous winner of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year Award, The Swan in Little Totham is a quaint old village pub that is quintessentially British and famed for its cask ales.

As well as being a haven for real ale lovers during regular operating times, they also run a beer festival every June where drinkers work their way through a huge range of real ales on the green areas near the pub. Incredibly, the pub was ranked in the top 50 in the UK by a man who has visited over 50,000 different pubs - that's what we call a seal of approval.

11) Coach & Horses, Billericay

Self-described as "Billericay's premier alehouse and eatery", the Coach & Horses keeps six regular real ales, a variety of craft kegs and a guest ale changing weekly.

Although not widely known outside of Billericay - quite possibly the way the locals like it - it does everything a traditional pub should do by keeping their beers perfectly and always offering a warm welcome to anyone who comes through the doors.

12) The Queen's Head, Fyfield

This 15th century pub in Essex's gorgeous countryside oozes traditional charm and so, like any classic village inn should, serves a varied selection of ales and ciders.

Although dogs are not allowed in the pub, they are welcome in the garden so they can join you as you enjoy a pint while the River Roding runs nearby. If you visit on a Sunday then we would also recommend accompanying your pint with one of their delicious roasts.


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