The story behind beer and brewing in Bath
Bathonians know about their pubs and they relish local beers and ciders (pronounced Zider in Zomerset). If Bath Rugby are playing at home the fans will be out in force with a drink in hand; the Bath folk love their ale!
There has been much debate about which is the oldest pub in Bath… and the answer still remains inconclusive to this day. Although we can’t be sure of the oldest Bath pub, we can boast that the Old Green Tree in Green Street, built around 1716 on the site of a tree that shaded the bowling green, and the Star, dating from 1760’s, are both listed in CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) guide as pubs with interiors are of outstanding heritage interest.
The history of brewing in Bath dates back to the time of Ralph Allen, one of the founding fathers of the city who owned the Bath stone quarries at Combe Down. He established a large brewery at Widcombe in 1736 – up until that point most of the beer consumed in the inns and alehouses came from small brewhouses in their backyards – and a number of further large breweries began to spring up throughout Bath during the course of the Eighteenth Century.
By the end of the Victorian era, Bath had become heavily industrialised and beer was brewed on an industrial scale. The Northgate Brewery (located where Waitrose is today in the Podium) was the largest in the West of England by 1850 and other smaller breweries mushroomed around it, often attached to public houses. The Museum of Bath at Work tells the story of Bath in its industrial heyday.
Local Beer Breweries & Cider Mills
Bath Ales’ first beer was called Barnstormer, after the former Bath and Bristol rugby player Stuart Barnes. Distinctive, high-quality ales include The Dark Side (smooth stout) and Forest Hare (a hoppy autumn ale) and the famous Gem (an exceptional bitter).
They also offer a deliciously appetising cider, ‘Bounders’, lovingly crafted from local Somerset apples.
Bath Ales operates three very successful pubs in Bath: Graze, The Hop Pole and the Salamander; all of which have developed a strong reputation for fine ales, tasty food and warm atmospheres.
If you’d like to get a first-hand taste for how Bath Ales turn malt, hops and yeast into the deliciousness that is Gem, then take a tour of the brewery!
Abbey Ales is Bath’s very own brewery founded in 1997, and many of the finest pubs in the region stock Bellringer Bitter, their award-winning, flagship beer.
The brewery owns the Star in the Vineyards, regarded by many as a national treasure, built around 1760 by the architect for the Paragon, one of Bath’s finest terraces. They also operate The Trinity, the Star Inn, the Assembly Inn and Bath’s smallest pub, the Coeur De Lion, tucked away on Northumberland Place.
Box Steam Brewery
Box Steam Brewery is a family-owned micro-brewery, that is passionate about producing characteristic and distinctive beers. Named after the magnificent Box Tunnel, the work of 19th Century engineer Brunel, his influence is evident in their ales; “Brunel was famous for his visions, passion and dedication to quality; values we aim to match every time we brew”. Try their well-rounded, traditional Tunnel Vision, or their spicy and exotic Dark & Handsome.
If you fancy a peek behind the scenes, brewery tours are available by prior appointment, or pay a visit to one of their pubs for a taste of the good stuff; choose between The Inn at Freshford or the Cross Guns at Avoncliffe (or a delightful walk links the two if you fancy a pub crawl through some gorgeous countryside).
Electric Bear Brewing Co.
A new artisan brewery bringing craft beer to Bath, Electric Bear Brewing Co. opened in July 2015, born out of a love of great tasting, well-crafted beers. The name comes from the Bear Flat area of Bath and from the Bear Brewery that used to be there.
There’s also a relaxed brewery taproom and shop, where anyone can pop in and taste keg and cask beers, and buy beer to take away.