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Andrew Liddle
Features Writer
5:25 AM 9th April 2020

Raise A Glass To William Bass

Not many people know this but a National Bass Day 2020 was to have been held this Easter Saturday, 11th April, to coincide with the 243rd anniversary of William Bass buying his Burton brewery, in 1777.

It is – or, perhaps, we should now say was - an independent campaign got up by a bunch of Bass lovers with no official links with either CAMRA or the brewers. If to the outsider it all seems a bit like jumping the gun for a grand 250th anniversary in seven years’ time, apparently a good many pubs and drinkers, particularly in the beer’s traditional heartland, places like Derby, Leek, Burton and Hinckley, were about to take it seriously and celebratory events were planned in local pubs.

Now with all 3,000 pubs selling Bass currently closed, any celebration will be more in spirit than in actuality and likely to be confined to devotees on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the small army of beer bloggers. No doubt they will be exchanging messages and posting pictures of themselves pint in hand.

And why not? Bass is worth celebrating.

A century after being founded, Bass had become the largest brewery in the world, with an annual output of one million barrels. Its famous Pale Ale was once the highest-selling beer in the country and exported throughout the British Empire where it became recognised as the beer drinker's taste of the homeland. The distinctive red triangle symbol became the UK's first registered trade mark and one of the most potent marketing images of all time. These days they would call it an icon.

Draught Bass may not be what it once was but, currently brewed under licence by Marston’s in Burton, it is still a well-crafted eminently respectable traditional beer. That it remains so is quite a complicated story and one that might not have been predicted back in the 1960s when Bass merged with Charrington United Breweries to become the largest UK brewing company, Bass Charrington.

Roll on a few more decades to 2000 by which time the beer’s reputation had suffered and we find the brewing operations of the company being sold to Interbrew - now Anheuser-Busch InBev - who to avoid infringing monopoly quickly disposed of much of Bass and Carling and Worthington to Coors Brewers but sensibly retained the rights to the Bass Pale Ale brand.

So finally, let’s sample the beer itself. Bass Pale Ale, 3.8 ABV, pours a reddish light-amber with a mild head that quickly fades. It gives off pleasant aromas of caramel malt suffused with fruity yeast and earthy hops. The taste is sweet and lightly citrus. It is well carbonated, seeming to come alive in the glass. The first quaff bespeaks a nice, light, smooth, and enjoyable beer. It puts me in mind nostalgically of definitive English pale ale - decidedly different from an IPA, with little bitter hoppiness in the taste even though you can smell them. The lingering impression on the palate is nicely balanced, a pleasant fruitiness overlaying a mild pine bitterness.

You definitely want to open another bottle. I’ll certainly be raising a glass to William Bass.