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Classic Beer of the Month November 2018: Draught Bass

Draught Bass, 4.4%

When I started drinking cask ale in the 1970s, the national brands that existed were generally disparaged. But there was an exception – Draught Bass.

Draught BassDraught Bass was highly thought of by early CAMRA campaigners, even described, if my memory serves me, as ‘the Rolls Royce of beers’.

Sadly, the years have not been kind to this prince of ales. Bass, of course, no longer exists as a brewing company. It was bought by Interbrew (now AB InBev) in 2000 but then the historic Bass brewery in Burton-upon-Trent was sold to Molson Coors and production of the beer was shifted across town to Marston’s.

If it had to go anywhere, this was the obvious choice – a brewery that can tap into the Burton water supply and that is also known for its own historic pale ale, Pedigree.

The fact that AB InBev has kept the beer alive – albeit in a different place – is at least good news. Less good is the fact that today it is notably difficult to find in many parts of the country.

Support Needed

Much like Boddingtons, its ill-fated cask predecessor in the AB InBev stable, Draught Bass has been starved of promotion and support. While the company spends zillions on promoting Budweiser, Bud Lite, Stella and the like, little attention is paid to this once great beer. It’s not even listed on the AB InBev website.

And it’s not as if the beer is not worthy of support. Firstly, it has a remarkable heritage that would help enormously in any advertising campaign. Most breweries can only dream of having a beer with such a tradition and such a good name.

Secondly, it has a dedicated core of fans that seek it out and in certain parts of the country it remains a way of life – in the Bristol and Bath area, for instance, where regulars, for some reason, like to drink it as flat as a pancake.

The third reason is that it’s still a very fine beer.

I managed to seek it out on a recent trip to Liverpool and really enjoyed its brilliant balance of ripe, sweet malt and smooth English hops, the way in which it demonstrated the best qualities of both while adding a little plum-like fruit, and the fact that it lingered long and dry on the palate after drinking, with a leafy, almost aniseed-like hop finish urging you to go for another.

Come on, AB InBev. Do the decent thing and big up Bass again. For most of us, it may be the only Rolls-Royce experience we’ll ever enjoy.

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