A cool pint of Bass — Photo courtesy of hyougushi
Bass Pale Ale: that reassuringly golden colour glistening in a pint glass. On a hot summer day, it's the drink of choice for many a beer lover throughout the world, even though it's still thought of as a classically English beer.
Bass Pale Ale was founded in 1777 by William Bass in Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire near Birmingham. The town, as the name suggests, straddles the river Trent. The Bass brewery produced several different beers, but Bass Pale Ale was once the highest selling beer in the UK. In 2011, the company produced 365,000 hectolitres of Bass Pale Ale (that's a thousand litres for every day of the year), so you can be sure that it would be difficult to run out of beer while this brewery is in business.
With the distinctive red triangle trademark, the first registered trademark in the UK, Bass has been exporting its beer throughout the world since the days of the British Empire. When Bass merged with another brewery in the 1960s, Charringtons, they became the largest brewery in the UK. Since then, the company has been bought by Interbrew, and then divided to avoid too much concentration of brands in the hands of one company. However, it was reported in 2010, that the rights to the name of Bass Pale Ale alone were up for sale for £10-15 million pounds.
The water from bore holes around the river Trent must have been tasty in the nineteenth century, because at that time more than 30 breweries were operating around the locality. By the time the railway arrived in 1839, Burton had established its name as a big brewing town. Bass was so powerful, the company bought up lots of other breweries over the course of a century. By 1935, when the London stock exchange published the FT 30 list, Bass was listed among them.
The canned version with the distinctive red triangle trademark — Photo courtesy of radiobread
The logo itself has become so famous that it's even featured in Manet's Le Bar aux Folies-Bergere painting, in about 40 Picasso paintings during his cubist period and in James Joyce's novel, Ulysses. In the UK, Bass Pale Ale is usually brewed to about 4.4% AVB, but in the export version, it often reaches 5%. Around the Burton-on-Trent area, you can still get Bass in the cask and on tap, but many more people know it in the canned or bottled version which is produced for ease of transport.
Bass used to be popular in the US,, but in recent years its sales have declined. It was also the first foreign beer to be introduced into Japan. The name 'pale ale' refers to the brewing type. It's one of the most popular types of brewing using a warm fermentation. The hops are dried using coke, a product of coal, often produced rather than obtained naturally.
This beer is also known as 'bitter' or 'lager' or 'blonde' in various parts of the world. Most countries now produce a version including IPA, which is Indian Pale Ale, but was also originally developed in England for export to India during the time of the British Empire. British pale ales tend to have a slightly more beery taste than many continental and American lagers which are often brewed for hotter climates and with a lighter taste.