Published on March 4th, 2020 | by Alastair Gilmour0
A little bit of better
It’s unusual for a beer in Britain to have a day dedicated to itself. In fact, it’s probably unique. That’s what makes National Bass Day so special – Saturday April 11 is the time for celebrating one of the nation’s great ales.
The Bass Brewery was founded in 1777 by William Bass in Burton-upon-Trent in Staffordshire. Its main brand was Bass Pale Ale, once the highest-selling beer in the UK brewed by the world’s biggest brewery. The company’s distinctive red triangle became the UK’s first registered trademark, so the provenance of Draught Bass is in no doubt.
Burton beers were very distinctive because of the waters used to brew them. High levels of sulphur gave its beers a distinctive aroma – “Burton Snatch” if you were being polite; “Farty” if you weren’t.
However, throughout the last four decades, a combination of lack of promotion and changes to the brewing process led Draught Bass to fall into a steep decline, both in terms of sales and quality.
National Bass Day is being organised by Burton-born beer aficionado Ian Thurman, aka The Wicking Man.
Ian says: “Go in to a pub, any pub. The chances are there will be a Bass mirror on the wall. Many thousands of them across the country pay homage to one of the world’s finest cask ales. Yet, there are now fewer than 500 pubs in Britain selling Bass on a regular basis. The unintended consequences of government legislation has left Draught Bass languishing in the brand basement of AB InBev. That it has survived at all is a miracle.
“It is now time to celebrate Bass’s survival and to look forward. It’ll soon be its 250th anniversary, let’s start practicing.”
Ian Thurman’s cudgel has also been taken up by John Brearley who owns the Railway Hotel in Birtley, Tyne & Wear (plus The Swan & Railway in Wigan, Lancashire, an 1898-vintage pub he has restored to its former glory). Hugh Price, who is synonymous with the Tynemouth Lodge in North Shields, is another Draught Bass devotee, having spent virtually a lifetime extoling its virtues.
John Brearley says: “I’m passionate about proving that there is still a call for very traditional British pubs that have retained genuine heritage features. We serve Bass at the Railway Hotel and much to my surprise I discovered that a previous owner had introduced Bass in the mid-1980s and it quickly became one of his top sellers – indeed The Swan & Railway was apparently one of the top selling outlets for it in Lancashire. Bass is flying out there – not yet Hughie Price’s volumes at the Tynemouth Lodge, I suspect – but were chasing him.
“We are shortly having the sign on the gable end overlooking the main London to Glasgow main line repainted and will include a Bass logo.”
There’s no doubt that Draught Bass, like Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, is quite a difficult beer to keep and serve properly and that’s part of the problem when everyone is used to “fast food”. Bass needs expert cellaring, it needs time and care and attention. However in the right hands it’s a subtle gem that sells very well and gains a loyal following.
If you care about beer and pubs you can make a difference by supporting National Bass Day 2020. It’ll be worth your efforts.
*National Bass Day, Saturday April 11 2020. See Twitter feed twitter.com/nat_bass_day
For background, visit https://thewickingman.wordpress.com/2020/01/08/national-bass-day-2020/