well, it was later than I hoped, since I was busy on opening night, but I finally got in the Bath Hotel tonight. Red of face and short of breath after an arduous trundle up from work via nobheads at the bank and idiots running the buses I was hopeful of a visit to an unchanged, unruined, even, dare we suggest an improved Bath Hotel experience.
DBH had already texted his rather more succinct review ("very little change to the innards") so I was mildly optimistic, and on entering I noticed only one change, that being a Thornbridge advert/branding on the sign outside.
Inside there were 3 Thornbridge offerings, Brock, Kipling and Wild Swan, and 3 guests, Phoenix Arizona, Allgates Napoleon's Retreat, and Dark Star American Pale Ale. I opted for the latter, given my love of Dark Star beers, and though the lively brew took a few goes to reach a full pint, I was richly rewarded. So, no reasons to cry yet, no need to engage in battle; lets look at the positives.
Principally, the positive is that nowt much has changed. A lick of paint, it seemed lighter but that's hardly factual, and it wasn't an orgy of Thornbridge ego wank on the bar. The Dark Star was, in fact, absolutely stunning - I was gutted to learn that they'd had Revelations on the opening night, as I still want to try that.
The bar has been revarnished, and you can now see all the woodwork, the stools appear to have been reupholstered, but thats because I think they were red not blue, but I am not going to claim this is a fact. The bar was busy, with a mix of after work crowds enjoying the beer and people starting a night out.
So the downsides? The horror and plague suggested, interpreted (by me, I confess) and the decline envisaged?
Well there are some downsides.
Firstly, dark grey paint. The same despairing shit they have coated the Hallamshire in. Why? What does it do? What does it say about the pub, or instill in the visitor? Gloom, is, I suspect, the answer. Also, there is no price list. Interestingly, I don't recall one before, but you are starting anew, so given recent emphasis on consumer rights and pub responsibilities am surprised this has been overlooked.
I also didn't get in the back room (but assume its not purple, baronial, pastel grey/green or light wood), and I didn't find out how much the lower gravity beer cost ( the 4.7% Dark Star was £3.10 a pint, more expensive than Shakespeares, but not exactly absurd).
There are minor changes to the outside, and it seems lighter somehow, but there appears to be nothing from my point of view to indicate that this is now suddenly a no go venue.
One thing stood out for me though. About 20 minutes into my hour long visit four blokes came in. They asked if there were any normal lagers, and on hearing the recommendations advised that they'd had them at the Sheffield Tap - the choice was Versa, and the Kolsch, Tzara. Choice discourse included far reaching assessments such as "theres two lagers and they both taste fucking shit" and "I could piss better than that". No-one is expected to be impressed or indeed pleased with such analysis, but the problem is this.
The Bath wasn't always a haven of guest beers. It has sold Tetleys for as long as I can remember and despite being a regular outlet for Tetleys Mild it wasn't exactly somewhere you'd flock for choice. During that time, and into Brian's tenure, Tetley has always been available, along with the standard, mass market brand lagers.
Now I can't see the point of moaning endlessly about the choice and staying for forty minutes "enlightening" customers with a new range of swear words and choice remarks such as (the Kolsch) "it doesn't even taste like lager" but if you don't usually drink Kolsch, and maybe favour Carlsberg as a regular (probably cheaper) tipple, Tzara and Versa are probably comparatively quite shit.
That they have removed two of the stalwart brands from the bar in the pursuit of proving how great Thornbridge is attracts rightful derision and engenders resentment. This lets the pub down following what is a surprisingly smooth and pain free transition.
Otherwise, this visit and the outlook for future trips serves as a rewarding demonstration of Thornbridge's desire to at least entertain the concerns of punters, mixed with a rather wearying lack of appreciation of context re colour scheme, and a blase approach to the mass market regular.