Bath Brew House: Smoke House vs. Brew House at the Great Bath Feast
I must be honest – until I spotted it in the Tenner Feast section of the Great Bath Feast programme, I was only vaguely aware of the existence of the Bath Brew House, down on James St West next to the cinema. But it was a lovely surprise – this really is a gem. The interior is light, airy and friendly, with mismatched furniture and reclaimed wooden floors, table football and an open kitchen with a charcoal spit and a smokehouse. There’s also a lovely big beer garden (sheltered by a marquee now that the weather’s getting a bit autumnal) and a huge selection of beers behind the main bar, including plenty brewed in-house.
So when I was invited to a four course beer & food tasting evening, pitting the smokehouse against the brew house in honour of the Great Bath Feast, my only thought was how fast I could say yes. Upstairs in the cosy, softly-lit tank room, round a single long table set with candles and a hotchpotch of beautiful vintage china, we started with bottles of Bitter & Twisted from the Scottish Harviestoun Brewery, a really light and refreshing beer, chosen by head brewer Anna to go with a fabulously rich roasted red pepper soup, topped with smoked macaroni cheese. This might sound pretty crazy, but trust me – it was unbelievably good. The soup was creamy, perfectly seasoned and bursting with flavour, and the smoked macaroni cheese was beautifully judged – not too smoky and overpowering, but rich enough to cut through the tomato flavour.
Once we’d all scraped up the very last morsels of our soup (and there was a lot of scraping going on), the table was refreshed with brimming jugs of the Bath Brew House’s very own Brutus, a slightly bitter, malty beer with a distinctively biscuity taste. We washed this one down with the fish course – tender, juicy hot-smoked salmon with a dark brown sugar glaze and smoked garlic aioli. Not being an expert, I have to confess that I’d assumed the point of food & drink matching was to make the food taste better, but in fact it worked just as much the other way round – the beer lost its slightly bitter edge and really mellowed out when tasted with the fish.
Loosening our belts, we forged ahead to the main course. When I first looked at the menu, this is the one I was most excited to try – a smoked reindeer sausage jambalaya with wild rice, smoked gammon and prawns. It was the perfect winter evening dish – huge flavours, hearty and satisfying, and with a kick of heat to warm you up all the way down to your toes. The beer with this one was Black Ball Stout, from Williams Brothers Brewing Co, which to be honest I wasn’t sure if I’d like (my only experience of stout up to this point being Guinness) but actually it was my favourite beer of the night, and much lighter than I was expecting. The flavour was smooth and ever so slightly chocolatey, perfect with the heat of the dish.
By this point, we were all feeling pretty stuffed, but we knew our duty – we had to finish this meal, and finish it with one heck of a dessert. Glass tankards were passed round, filled with the most gloriously bonkers trifle I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting – layers of crushed bourbon biscuits and custard creams, marshmallow, salted pretzels with smoked chocolate sauce, caramelized smoked bacon, peanuts, caramel and Kahlua cream. It was unutterably fabulous. All round the table, people were groaning “Oh, I’m so full…” and then dipping their spoons in for just one more mouthful. Luckily, we had a really sharp, citrusy beer to wash it down – E Bomb from Bristol’s Arbor Brewery – which perfectly cut all that marvellous sweetness.
With spoons finally laid down, all we had left to was stagger down the stairs and roll all the way home. The Bath Brew House does this kind of thing on a regular basis (always with a different theme) and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The food and drink is fantastic, the setting is gorgeous, and (keep this under your hat) the price is amazing. See you there next time.
Sal Godfrey is a blogger and food writer from Bath who loves scribbling, cooking and eating, and provides creative content services for foodie companies.
Images courtesy Sal Godfrey.