Pub/Bar of the Month June 2015: The Star Inn, Bath, UK
The Star Inn, Bath, UK
I first visited The Star Inn a dozen years ago.
I was taken there by Alan Morgan, founder of Abbey Ales, which owns the lease on the pub.
After peeking around his brewery, we trudged down the hill on what must have been the wettest day Bath had seen for many months.
Rain was bouncing off the roads and hosing down the gutters as we dashed off the street into the terraced pub's unchanging, sixteenth-century interior.
Any port in a storm is welcome, but I've seldom felt more pleased to be stepping into a pub.
I found myself in a warren of tiny rooms – four separate drinking areas, all characterised by the simplest furnishings. Bare boards sounded under foot; dark panels lined the walls; the ceilings above were browned by years of smoke.
Things have not changed much since that time, as you would expect in a pub listed on CAMRA's National Inventory of pubs with outstanding historic interiors.
The Star is an elementary beer house, a perfect antidote to the gaudy trappings of many city-centre pubs, a place where you are given time to savour your pint and the freedom from electronic distraction to engage in friendly chit-chat with the locals.
That said, The Star is by no means bereft of comforts, with red vinyl/velour banquettes to sit on and numerous framed pictures to attract the eye.
One bench is nicknamed 'Death Row', after its popularity with more mature clients, and this gives you an idea of the black sense of humour that runs through the establishment, but the focal point is very much the bar … and what lies behind.
In this part of England, they are strong supporters of Draught Bass. They drink it in great quantity but with as little foam as possible.
The desired effect is achieved at The Star by decanting the beer from two casks racked down low behind the counter and serving it from jugs. The beer settles as calm as a millpond.
There are handpulled beers, too, one dedicated to Abbey Ales' flagship brew, Bellringer – described to me that damp and dreary day by Alan as 'the wine of Bath' – one given over to cider, and the others for changing guest beers.
Don't expect much in the way of food beyond the very popular fresh rolls and a pickled egg, but that's not why people come here.
They just enjoy the retreat from the modern world, the peace to read a book or a newspaper, to take a pinch of complimentary snuff (how many pubs offer that?) and the chance to warm up, as I did, by a glowing fire.
Sometimes, you really don't need anything more.
The Star Inn, 23 The Vineyards, Bath BA1 5NA
Tel: (01225) 425072
Opening Hours: 12–2.30, 5.30–11; 12–11 Saturday; 12–10.30 Sunday