Back your booze: a star in the making

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Tucked away in a quiet corner of Albert Square, where casual passers-by are rare, lies Rugby’s best-kept real ale secret.

The Seven Stars may not have previously enjoyed the prominence of its peers, but that is all changing.

Despite reopening under the Banks & Taylor brewery just eight months ago, the revived pub has already eclipsed its local competitors by winning two awards from Rugby’s Campaign for Real Ale: Most Improved Pub and Pub of the Year.

On entering, it’s easy to see why.

The pub’s reputation over the years has not exactly been glowing, but the atmosphere has been completely reinvented.

Last year’s refurbishment has transformed the Seven Stars into a modestly plush, modern-yet-homely establishment.

There are no TVs blaring out sporting events (although the pub will be screening Six Nations rugby matches)and music is sociably quiet.

But the most important changes have come at either side of the bar.

“Now we are specifically a real ale pub, which tends to draw in a different clientele,” says landlord Ryan Ashley, 28.

“It’s all about trying to bring in new faces and then keep them coming back.”

The reinvention seems to be working.

CAMRA members Jeremy Bristoll and David Groves were visiting from Birmingham to put the pub’s growing reputation to the test.

“They’ve done a great job,” said Jeremy. “You walk in through the door on a cold day and the first beer that you see is Thornbridge Jaipur, one of the best ales in the world. What a way to start a day!”

Regular punter Douglas Smith agrees. “Everything’s improved: the clientele, the beers - the beer is wonderful now. For a young lad, Ryan keeps a very good pint.”

The appreciation goes both ways. Bartender Simona Apanaviciute, 24, enjoys the friendly working atmosphere. “The customers are very polite and I’m glad I’m working in that kind of pub.

“There’s no drunk teenagers, no misbehaviour, no swearing - I love it!”

But it’s the range and quality of beer that drew the attention, and accolades, of Rugby CAMRA.

Publicity officer Steve Heighton said: “The staff are very good because they take an interest in what they’re selling, and understand what the customers are looking for.”

Steve added that he is delighted to see a new young landlord step into the already-thriving local real ale community. “Young Ryan will probably be an institution in years to come because he’s very likeable, very knowledgable and very enthusiastic,” he said.

“Many of the older publicans like him.

“There’s a good camaraderie between the licensees in Rugby, which I think helps because it’s all good people coming into the town.

“It’s almost gone from nothing to where it is now, and being voted Rugby Camra Pub of the Year is - for what is essentially a new pub - quite something.”