People that work here, in the broadest sense:
Colin Bocking (Essex’s oldest brewer)
Despite having the appearance of an aging gymnastics teacher (in particular the haircut), Colin, or ‘Lord Bocking’ as he is known on his less-than rambling north Essex country estate, is a man of (frankly) inconsiderable means. When not overseeing his minions at the brewery, the guvnor wanders around the borders of his 1/5 acre small-holding, pretending to take pot-shots at startled ramblers with a gold-encrusted, walnut-butted Jeeves & Twitchet 12-bore, one of the few remaining examples of the fabled ‘Monday-Club Special Edition’ gun, first presented to his great-great-grandfather in 1866 and passed down the family line ever since.
The snap of Mr. Bocking (right) is particularly rare in that it is one of the few pictures available that does not feature him in his typical attire of tweed jacket (sturdy leather elbow patches), plus-fours and deer-stalker hat. It was taken during his tour of Europe with seminal death-metal band ‘Open Sore’, a brief and foolhardy venture which he abandoned after being threatened with disinheritance by his appalled family. A hasty return to the family seat ensued, and the young Colin was then groomed quickly and sensibly, in order that he could assume his lofty position at the very bottom of East Anglia’s pile of gentry. Likes proper dogs.
After a varied career at Radio One and a brief sojourn in a fake jungle with various other B-list “celebs” and a neurotic heiress, Tony has finally settled into some proper work here. He has also moved to Bora Bora, put on a stone or two and shaved all his hair off, as well as becoming about 20 years younger. Tony’s bike has been in repair, upside-down in the corner of the cold store, for about 4 1/2 years but we forgive him because he’s been with us a long time and he is a very nice chap. Tony washes and steams casks, organises the warehouse with massive efficiency, assembles pallets and is usually first in the (long, obviously) queue to dig out the mash tun. We also once saw him weeding but he has never, ever, once answered the ‘phone. We would be lost without him. Quite likes the tap room.
Snatched in a dawn raid, we have welcomed Julie into our bosom. She is much better looking than Olly and takes up far less space. As our first-ever female employee, there have had to be some changes. The office central heating has been upgraded with the fitting of a new thermostat – with just one setting – tropical! Julie has adapted well to some of our bad workplace habits and introduced us all to a new concept, that of Labrador Friday. Murphy, her large bear-like black Labrador joins us for work and tears the place up far better than we have ever been able to. I swear, this is a dog that watches us out of the corner of its eye. Julie’s only flaws are that she has (just once) confused Thursday with Sunday and also seems able to drink more beer than the rest of us put together – hence her local nickname, “hollow legs”! She also decorated the shop at Christmas, but we’ve forgiven her now.
Another raid and Peter was ours! Well-trained in the traditional Victorian environment of the now sadly-defunct Ridley’s Brewery, we have introduced Peter to hops and he is away! His consummate brewing skills are a joy to behold and he calmly and consistently produces the goods – almost always without actually moaning about anything. A member of the Labrador club of course, black Labrador Albert (and now also, Mabel) occasionally join us for Friday meetings and a tear-up with Murphy, before retiring exhausted to the family ranch in Great Leighs. Peter’s one and ever-so-slight flaw is a soft spot for traditional-style brown beers, even though we have made a bonfire of all his aged and dusty (but formerly beloved) Fuggles and Goldings.
Despite appearances, Mr. Priestley actually is human. Having been raised on a diet of Blackwater mud and raw gannet flesh in Heybridge Basin, Ben was perfectly happy working for another Essex brewer as Key Transport Operations Manager (South) until he was genetically altered in a “Zukon Mind-meld” experiment with old school chum Lambert Butler, now a respected high court judge. The result of all this tomfoolery was that Ben “came over a but funny…” and, tragically, asked for a job here. As it happened we were fresh out of wookies and took him on. He drives well and seems to know the way to things and that is as much as we can ask. Doesn’t own a Labrador but did have a mutt of some other description which seemed to cost him a lot of money at the vets. Loves his cricket does Ben and once scored a run for Maldon IV XI in a misguided, futile comeback. Chinese cut was it, mate?
Spiky rag-head hunk Lee likes nothing more than to feel the throb of a huge Japanese machine between his legs, and when he’s not wowing the ladies with his boyish good looks and G.S.O.H., he drives trucks for us, almost always without damaging anything (except for once, remember the tree?). Spends time in Thailand, so is no stranger to a dog or two – best not to mention Labradors. Owns an interesting collection of cars, vans, go-carts and motor bikes, almost all of which are permanently broken down, and is the first person in the history of the brewery to actually wear out a set of jump leads. Hopes to soon be allowed a bank account – sorry, it’s a long story.
Steely returned from his gap year in the Far East and having successfully mutilated the citizens of the Dengie peninsula for some months on his return via his bodypart-piercing business, has come back to the warm bosom of his brewery family. One of his arms has now completely vanished under a liberal swash of tattooist’s ink. A consummate all-rounder, ‘Stainless’ can most often be found in the brewhouse with brewer Peter but only when he isn’t training for his daily triathlon, or preferably even-more-challenging ultimate endurance event. Has taken to the tap room rather too well and has become, by default, the brewery tour guide. Take it or leave it on the dog front.
Part doughty school-ma’am, part mischievous will ‘o’ the wisp, Mrs. B patrols the draughty corridors and ancient panelled meeting rooms of CVB almost like a ghost in search of a long-lost appendage. In a world where nothing makes sense, Mrs. Bocking is a voice of reason; if the foul stench of bad humour permeates the building, she is the air freshener that spruces up and cleans all of our aspects. Mrs B has only one, central tenet by which to live her life, one message to spread and it is thus – “I just want everything to be nice”. Amen to that. You rock, Mrs. B! Prefers small, shitty, non-stinky dogs.
Summer employee Ben is unashamedly looking for dosh to finance a career in musical theatre. From his cv, it would appear he can do everything – we’ll see. Update (26/07/2015) – Ben sings as he works and is yet to grumble about anything. Promising. Further update (15/10/2015) – Summer’s gone and so has Ben but he’ll be back for Christmas, he says. Further update (15/02/2016) – he DID come back and work over Christmas, but only for 4 days because of his hectic social schedule. We’ve kept his P45 this time. Still further update (18/08/2016) – Ben’s back. His singing has, shall we say, evolved. Mum and Dad seem to be in the tap room a lot . . .
We have been trying to employ Ken for two decades or more, but his mastery of the good excuse is such that he always evaded our clutches. However, the advent of Tap Room 19 gave us an excuse to pounce again and this time he was unprepared, capitulating readily to our advances and free at last from a trial by committee. Ken manages the Tap Room now it is open (but only when he feels like it) but in the meantime, has supervised the purchase of wrong-colour paint, sugar soap and odd items of builders’ apparel, as well as presiding over the hanging of doors the wrong way round. Once proud owner of the slobberiest boxer ever Buster, RIP. Proper, characterful managerial-type barman who lives for Christmas. His bar is a stage. A rare breed.
Dun Crouchin’ – This lot don’t work here no more – day f’cked off.
After 26 years in the service of Crouch Vale including an exemplary spell at The Cap & Feathers in Tillingham, where he was manager when the pub won the ultimate accolade of ‘CAMRA National Pub Of The Year’ in 1989, Richard (Olly) Graham hung up his computer, telephone and order book on 29th November 2013. Hell-bent on a gentle retirement sampling the finer things in life, like lay-ins and foreign travel; he spent December 2013 in Australia and April 2015 in the West Indies, watching cricket.
Having been an employee of the brewery for all that time, he is unlikely to ever be beaten in terms of long service, but is currently surpassed by Managing Director Colin Bocking, who was there at the inception in 1981. Olly’s easy personality and jolly wit has won him friends all over the industry and made him an Essex real ale legend, who was notably fighting on behalf of proper beer back in the days when it was extremely hard to find.
We’re sure you will all join us in wishing him a happy and fulfilling retirement and you must be sure to treat him to a pint if you see him, to thank him for over a quarter of a century of service to beer – he deserves it!
Still hates dogs.
Charles Ashley Saville
He just couldn’t live without us…or with us, as it happens. But anyway, he’s back on a consultancy basis to subsidise his Champi training. I’m afraid you’ll just have to look it up. Sadly Charlie now can’t find anything because it’s either all been tidied up/thrown away or is hidden in his beard. Hates cats, is OK with dogs, but prefers a field of Muntjac. Dislikes Citra hops – how did we tolerate him for so long?
Moved on in 2015 after 15 years (yes, 15) in the job. James blossomed in his time here at Crouch Vale, and as a graduate of the Tap & Spile school of pub management, used his background in vinyl retailing to good effect. Free of the shackles of regional brewerism after a three-year stint with Bateman’s, he brought a new meaning to the term ‘flexitime’ and his natural lack of dress sense made him an ideal office colleague. Showed promise, but never lived down the “up-front retro discount” mis-selling scandal of his earlier days.
Moved on in 2015. ‘Turbo’ Myke Winn was mostly just a blur as he raced around the brewery, eagerly scoffing up any new work opportunities that came his way. He was most happy when spending his lunch break on his hands and knees smoothing down the rough concrete of the yard to a mirror finish with emery paper. Exemplary bottle labeller, with just one failure. His new life sees him printing tee-shirts in Suffolk.