Wednesday, 26 May 2010

AB InBev to offload Bass

The Times has reported that the famous Bass brand, along with the Boddington and Flowers brands, are likely to be sold off by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the biggest brewing conglomerate in the world, which apparently wants to concentrate on its international brands, such as Budweiser, Stella Artois and Becks. The Times describes Bass as "the beer that Britain forgot". I don't believe this is true.

Real ale drinkers remember Bass with fondness from its glory days when it was one of the best-selling cask beers in the country, and was one of the few stronger beers available when most bitters were just session beers of around 3.5%. I remember going to the White Star in Liverpool (around the corner from the Cavern Club) just to drink the Bass. This pub had an enormous, beautiful, old Bass mirror in the back room, completely covering the rear wall, which was accidentally smashed recently by a drunk. Bass was available in Southport in the Rabbit in Manchester Road, and an old family friend who lived in Formby used to come to the Rabbit just for the Bass. 

I was a student near Warrington, a town awash with mediocre Greenall Whitley beer, and my mates and I sometimes used to catch the train to the first pub we could find that sold Boddingtons. Although of ordinary strength, it was very drinkable with its straw colour, very rare in those days, and good flavour.

Like many old beer brands, Bass isn't a patch on what it used to be. I read in a CAMRA publication about 20 years ago that with Bass, you used to expect the Rolls Royce of beer but it had become just another Ford Cortina ~ the decline in Bass has clearly been a drawn out process. The current owner has allowed the brand to wither on the vine by neglecting quality and failing to promote it properly. Boddingtons, once a well-loved Manchester beer, has similarly been allowed to slump, and far from catching trains to drink it, I wouldn't cross the road for it now. Britons didn't forget about these beers; they simply stopped drinking products that had become shadows of their former selves. Both beers are brewed under contract nowadays, Bass by Marstons of Burton and Boddingtons by Hydes of Manchester.

If you've got around £15 million to spare, you can buy the brands for the UK market, but AB InBev will keep international rights and the famous Bass red triangle trade mark, which was the first trade mark ever registered in the UK. It's difficult to see what might attract someone to buy these brands, which have no longer have much credibility with real ale drinkers, and have long lost their former mass appeal.

The picture is "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" by Edouard Manet. A bottle of Bass can be seen in the bottom right hand corner, and less obviously in the bottom left. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.
The slogan on the pub ashtray is definitely from a former era, as is the ashtray itself.


  1. Nice post Nev. I believe we have supped Bass together in the White Star. Shame about the mirror.

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  3. I shall try again, this time without a dreadful spelling mistake.. Years ago I used to live in Halsall and used to drive to The Rabbit for a pint of Bass. My friends would tell me how many other pubs I had passed getting there, but it didn't matter as in those days it really was a beer worth drinking. I remember Ian McMillan once saying that he thought the Bass in the White Star was better than it was in the brewery! Enough said...

  4. Yes, TM we have supped there, and I'm sure the Grapes around the corner too. Also the Vernon nearby on Dale Street, where on one occasion with you and Graham I got annoyed because they shut the bar early without warning and I missed getting my final pint in!

  5. A great post Nev, particularly regarding Boddingtons. I used to drink it in the Theatre Pub on Fishergate in Preston in the late 70s and it was a lovely pale colour and tasted like no other commercially available ale at the time. I agree with you, I wouldn't even cross the road to drink it now.


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