It’s astonishing how quickly the Craft Beer revolution has hit Bath – astonishing too that a city which at the start of the year only boasted one brewery now has three.
In March, Independent Spirit opened on Terrace Walk. Despite its name, this independent off-licence not only sells spirits, but wine and beer as well. The underlying principle, though, is that all the tipples on offer are ones you’ll be unlikely to find elsewhere in Bath. Its fantastic range of craft beers from around the world, including many from local brewers, fills the shelves on both sides of the entrance, and new arrivals are appearing constantly. There could be no finer introduction to the craft beer scene, and, for those who are unsure what they might like, Chris Scullion and Christian Morrish are more than happy to share their considerable expertise in recommended suitable brews.
In May a pop-up bar from the Wild Beer Company opened in the old Octagon Chapel in Milsom Street during the Bath Festival. The Wild Beer Company share premises with the Westcombe Cheese Company at Evercreech in Somerset, and platters of Westcombe were on offer as well. Despite being based in deepest Somerset, this is one of the most ground-breaking breweries in the country. It was set up in 2012 by Andrew Cooper, one of the UK’s few beer sommeliers, and Brett Ellis from California, where craft beer has been going strong for years.
As is the habit with pop-up bars, it sadly popped down again after a couple of months. By now, though, Bath’s drinkers were starting to acquire a taste for craft beers, and since then three permanent craft beer outlets have opened. Two were revamps of long-established pubs that were starting to look a little tired – the Porter on George Street and the Metropolitan (formerly the Midland) on James Street West – the third was brand new.
The Metropolitan, now reborn as the Bath Brew House, complete with its own six-barrel brewery, generally has four craft beers on offer from the likes of the Wild Beer Co, Tiny Rebel and Magic Rock, along with six cask ales – three brewed on the premises.
The craft beer bar at the Porter, meanwhile, generally has nine or ten craft beers available. On a recent visit there were keg beers from Tiny Rebel, Kernel, Arbor, Williams, Moor, the Wild Beer Co and Buxton, along with bottles from Wiper & True and elsewhere. If you remember the old Porter, the revamp will come as a bit of a shock. The ground floor, where the main bar used to be, is now a Michelin star restaurant that seems to be the new place to be seen – the Bath Chronicle recently featured a front page report that Ricky Gervais had been seen having lunch there wearing dark glasses. The craft beer bar – which doubles as a cocktail bar – is on the first floor, and is open all day. There is also a cellar bar serving cask ale, which seems to open in the evenings only, with dancing, DJs and live music as the night wears on. The only problem is that, from the street, the Porter just looks like a restaurant, with little indication that lots of great craft beer is available on the first floor – but just walk in, head upstairs and take a look at what’s on offer.
The other craft beer outlet is down by the station. Bath Ales opened their Graze bar in a newly-built retail complex just under twelve months ago, and since then it has acquired its own microbrewery. It is pleasing to report that Shane O’Beirne, the brewer in charge, has not gone for a safe, middle-of-the road, lowish-ABV option. Graze’s flagship brew is a potent 5.7 ABV IPA, with real body, and reminiscent of Thornbridge Jaipur. Called Platform 3 it is available on cask and keg, so you can contrast and compare. One a recent visit Bath Ales Dark Side was also available on keg, with Gem and Spa on cask.
Finally, for those in search of unusual craft beers, especially from local microbreweries, it is worth calling into Raisin Wines at the top of Walcot Street. Among the breweries represented here on a recent visit were Wiper & True, Muddy Wellies from Cirencester, Stroud, North Cotswold, Cotswold Brewing Company and Rocket Science from Yate.
That’s it for now – unless anyone knows different (and if so, get in touch). Given the speed at which craft beer has hit Bath, and the success it’s enjoyed, it’s unlikely to stay like this for long, though. And who knows which of the city’s established cask ale pubs will be the first to join the craft beer revolution? Our local, the Star, on the Paragon, has already started stocking bottles of Brew Dog Punk IPA … Watch this space.