Bass Brewery

Bass Brewery
Bass Brewery
Industry Alcoholic beverage
Founded 1777
Founder(s) William Bass
Headquarters Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire (brewery); Luton, Bedfordshire (Bass brand), England
Products Beer
Production output 365,000 hectolitres (2011) [1]
Owner(s) Molson Coors Brewing Company (brewery); Anheuser-Busch InBev (Bass brand)

The Bass Brewery (play /ˈbæs/) was founded as a brewery in 1777 by William Bass in Burton upon Trent, England.[2] The main brand was Bass Pale Ale, which was once the highest selling beer in the UK.[3] The company became one of the main breweries in the UK, and Bass Pale Ale was exported throughout the British Empire, the distinctive red triangle becoming the UK's first registered trademark.[4]

The company took control of a number of other large breweries in the early 20th century, and in the 1960s merged with Charrington United Breweries to become the largest UK brewing company, Bass Charrington.[2] The brewing operations of the company were bought by Interbrew (now Anheuser-Busch InBev) in 2000, while the retail side (hotel and pub holdings) were renamed Six Continents plc. The UK government's Competition Commission were concerned about the monopoly implications arising from the deal, and instructed Interbrew to dispose of the brewery and certain brands (the Carling and Worthington brands) to Coors (now Molson Coors Brewing Company), but allowed Interbrew to retain the rights to the Bass Pale Ale brand.[5] In 2010, it was widely reported that AB-InBev are attempting to sell the rights to the Bass brand in the UK for around £10-15 million.[3]

Draught Bass (4.4% ABV) has been brewed under contract in Burton by Marston's for AB-InBev since 2005.[6][7] Bottled and keg versions (5.1% ABV) are brewed at AB-InBev's own brewery in Samlesbury for export.[8] Bass Ale is a top ten premium canned ale in the UK, with 16,080 hectolitres sold in 2010.[9]



The Bass & Co Brewery was established by William Bass in 1777 and was one of the first breweries in Burton upon Trent. Prior to establishing his brewery, Bass transported ale for another brewer by the name of Benjamin Printon; Bass sold this carrier business to the Pickford family, using the funds to establish his own brewery.[10]

Early in the company's history, Bass was exporting bottled beer around the world with the Baltic trade being supplied through the port of Hull. Growing demand led to the building of a second brewery in Burton upon Trent in 1799 by Michael Bass, the founder's son, who entered into partnership with John Ratcliff. The water produced from boreholes in the locality became popular with brewers, with 30 different breweries operating in the mid-19th century. Michael's son, another Michael, succeeded on the death of his father in 1827, renewed the Ratcliff partnership and brought in John Gretton, and created the company of 'Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton' as it traded in the 19th century.

The opening of the railway through Burton in 1839 led to Burton becoming pre-eminent as a brewing town. In the mid-1870s, Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton accounted for one third of Burton's output, and the strong export market meant that Bass could boast that their product was available "in every country in the globe".[11][12] The company became a public limited company in 1888, following the death of Michael in 1884, who was succeeded by his son, another Michael, later Lord Burton.[13]

Both Michael Bass and Lord Burton were considerable philanthropists with extensive charitable donations to the towns of Burton and Derby. Early in the 20th century, in a declining market, many Burton breweries closed down. The numbers fell from twenty in 1900 to eight in 1928. Bass took over the breweries of Walkers in 1923, Worthington and Thomas Salt in 1927 and James Eadie in 1933.

Bass was one of the original FT 30 companies on the London Stock Exchange when the listing was established in 1935.[14] Over the next half-century, Bass maintained its dominance in the UK market by the acquisition of other brewers such as Birmingham-based Mitchells & Butlers (1961), London brewer Charringtons (1967), Sheffield brewer William Stones Ltd (1968) and Grimsby-based Hewitt Brothers Limited (1969) (with the overall company being known as Bass, Mitchells and Butlers or Bass Charrington at various times).

By the end of the 20th century, following decades of closures and consolidation, Bass was left with one of the two large breweries remaining in the town. It also had substantial holdings in hotels, now owned by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). The Mitchells and Butlers name lives on as the company that retained the licensed retail outlet business when it was separated from the Six Continents plc company (the successor to Bass plc) in 2003.

Bass Charrington Timeline

Separation of brewery and beer

Bottles of Bass beer for sale at a liquor store in Iizaka, Fukushima, Japan.

Bass plc's brewing business was bought by the Belgian brewer Interbrew (now InBev) in June 2000, when the remaining hotel and pub holdings were renamed Six Continents plc.[15]

After the Competition Commission had considered the potential monopoly concerns[16] arising from the deal, Interbrew disposed of Bass Brewers Limited (including the Carling and Worthington brands) to Coors (now Molson Coors Brewing Company), but retained the rights to Bass beer production.

The beer was produced under licence by Coors, which retained the Bass brewing capacity. Bass Brewers Limited was renamed Coors Brewers Limited. The production licence came to an end in 2005, and the licence to brew draught Bass has been taken up by Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries PLC, who started production at the Marston's Brewery, also in Burton. Bottled and keg Bass, the types exported to the USA with a higher abv, are no longer brewed in Burton and are now imported by Anheuser-Busch from the Baldwinsville, NY brewery.

Next to the brewery, the Bass Museum of Brewing, renamed the Coors Visitor Centre & The Museum of Brewing, was Burton upon Trent's largest tourist attraction until closed by Coors in June 2008. A steering group was established to investigate re-opening the museum[17][18] and the museum relaunched in May 2010 as the National Brewery Centre.[19]


Bottles of Bass alongside the champagne in Edouard Manet's 1882 Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Bass was a pioneer in international brand marketing. The Bass Red Triangle was the first trademark to be registered under the UK's Trade Mark Registration Act 1875, as trade mark number 1.[20] The 1875 Act came into effect on 1 January 1876 and that New Year's Eve, a Bass employee waited overnight outside the registrar's office, in order to be the first in the queue to register a trademark the next morning. In fact, Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton Limited received the first two registrations, the first being the Bass Red Triangle for their pale ale, and the second the Bass Red Diamond for their strong ale.[21] The trademarks are now owned by Brandbrew SA, an Interbrew subsidiary based in Luxembourg.[22]

Bottles of Bass with the Red Triangle logo have occasionally appeared in art and literature. Bottles of Bass Pale Ale bearing the triangle can be seen in Edouard Manet's 1882 painting Bar at the Folies-Bergère.[23] Bottles of Bass can also be seen in over 40 paintings by Picasso, mostly at the height of his Cubist period around 1914.[24][25][26] In the "Oxen of the Sun" episode of James Joyce's Ulysses, Bloom remarks upon the Bass logo.[27]


Versions of Bass

Draught Bass

This is the 4.4% ABV cask conditioned and canned version of Bass, and is the Bass generally found in the UK. It is a top ten cask ale, although most commonly found close to its Burton upon Trent and Derbyshire heartlands.[29] It is also available in 500ml cans.[30] It is described as "a classic ale with a malty, fruity, nutty aroma and a complex, satisfying flavour".[31] It is brewed by Marston's in Burton upon Trent in Yorkshire squares, uses English hops, and is dry hopped.[32] It has previously been a 4% and 4.3% ABV beer.[33] Sales in 2010 were less than a third of those in 2004.[34]

Bass Ale

This is the exported version of Bass, usually brewed to around 5% ABV.

UK keg ales

  • Bass Extra Smooth - A 3.6% ABV pasteurised keg version of Bass, brewed to the same recipe, and most popular in the South West of England.[35]
  • Bass Mild XXXX - A 3.1% ABV keg mild.[36]
  • Bass Best Scotch - A 3.4% ABV keg beer in the North East of England Scotch ale style.[37] It was formerly brewed to 3.8% following its launch in 1986.

Shandy Bass

In the UK there is also a carbonated soft drink called Shandy Bass, introduced in 1972. It is a shandy made with Bass beer, which is mixed such that it contains 0.5% ABV. It is made by Britvic.[38] Its greatest popularity is in Northern England.[36]

Bass overseas


Bass was introduced in Ireland in the 1960s by Cork based brewers Beamish and Crawford. The beer proved popular until the 1980s, when sales began to decline. The Bass slogan in Ireland, "Ah that's Bass!", became part of everyday language in Ireland[dubious ] to describe relief from thirst. Many metal signs bearing the slogan are still visible on many pubs across Ireland. It enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in the early 1990s under Tennents Ireland but once again fell away possibly due to a lack of any concerted advertising campaign. Attempts to revive the beer under InBev also failed.

Bass sold in Ireland differs from the version on sale in Britain in that it consists of a fizzier sweeter ale than the common version enjoyed in England. It is still sold in many bars in Dublin and in pint bottles in Ireland's South East region.

United States

Substantial amounts of Draught Bass have been exported to America since at least 1966.[39] In 2001, 665,000 hectolitres of Bass was sold in the United States.[40] However Bass seems to have suffered under the custodianship of InBev and later Anheuser-Busch InBev as it is undergoing heavy decline in American consumption, with 242,000 hectolitres sold in the country in 2010.[40] AB InBev have pledged funding to support the Bass brand in America, and Bass will be brewed in the United States for the American market.


In 1860 Bass was the first foreign beer to be sold in Japan.[41]

See also

  • Black & Tan, a British drink popular in the US, is often made with Bass and Guinness Draught.


  1. ^ Alcoholic Drinks: Euromonitor from trade sources/national statistics
  2. ^ a b "Molson Coors (UK)". Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b AB InBev to offload Bass beer at bargain price
  4. ^ Brands: the logos of the global economy – Google Books. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  5. ^ "The British government has ruled that it will allow the Belgian brewing conglomerate, interbrew, to keep Bass Brewers if it disposes of the Carling beer business as it had undertaken. (Business Briefs).". Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  6. ^ "Bass Brewers". Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  7. ^ Burton-Upon-Trent Brewery
  8. ^ "Samlesbury (InBev UK – InBev)". Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  9. ^ PBA Report 2011
  10. ^ "Find Out More About Pickfords From 1630 To 2005, With a Complete History of Pickfords Moving and Storage". 14 February 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  11. ^ A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 9: Burton-upon-Trent (2003)
  12. ^ A Bottle of Guinness Please By David Hughes
  13. ^ Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990
  14. ^ "Financial Times – FT 30 information page". Financial Times. 1 July 1935. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  15. ^ Bass to become Six Continents The Guardian, 27 June 2001
  16. ^ "Food & Drink Weekly – Monday, January 28, 2002". 28 January 2002. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  17. ^ "Power group set up to save museum; ''The Burton Mail''". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  18. ^ Logged in as click here to log out. ""The brewing museum is victory at the barley roots" ''The Guardian'', 23 November 2009". Guardian. UK. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  19. ^ HRH The Princess Royal Opens the National Brewery Centre, Burton Brewery Centre, National Brewery Centre, UK.
  20. ^ "IPO trade mark 1". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  21. ^ "IPO trade mark 2". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  22. ^ "American Beverage Co Ambev – 20-F – For 12/31/04 – EX-4.17". SEC Info. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  23. ^ Kenneth Bendiner, Food in painting: from the Renaissance to the present, page 73. Reaktion Books, 2004, ISBN 1861892136. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  24. ^ Ma Jolie
  25. ^ Verre, violon et bouteille de Bass
  26. ^ "Bouteille de Bass, verre et journal". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  27. ^ "Intertextuality and Joyce's 'Oxen of the Sun' Episode in Ulysses: the Relation between Literary and Computational Evidence", page 85, Wayne McKenna and Alexis Antonia; Revue Informatique et Statistique dans les Sciences humaines XXX, 1 à 4, 1994. C.I.P.L. – Université de Liège
  28. ^ "Derby County – Historical Football Kits". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  29. ^ Alcoholic Drinks: Euromonitor from trade sources/national statistics
  30. ^ Bass Traditional Draught Ale (4x500ml)
  31. ^ One Stop Shop
  32. ^ Enhanced Marston's Bass gets trade launch
  33. ^ Bass plc An assessment, evaluation and recommendations for their strategic approach in entering foreign beer markets Type: Case study Author(s): Demetris Vrontis, Claudio Vignali Source: International Marketing Review Volume: 16 Issue: 4/5 1999
  34. ^ John, Peter. "Wolves & Dudley to Become Uk's Largest Traditional Beer Brewer." Financial Times [London, England] 2 Oct. 2004: 4. Financial Times. Web. 21 Aug. 2011.
  35. ^ Bass goes Extra Smooth
  36. ^ a b One Stop Shop
  37. ^ In Kegs
  38. ^ Britvic
  39. ^ "Bass, Mitchells & Butlers Limited." Financial Times [London, England] 17 Dec. 1966: 5. Financial Times. Web. 21 Aug. 2011.
  40. ^ a b Euromonitor, 2011
  41. ^ "Double Bass." Financial Times [London, England] 3 Nov. 1995: 15. Financial Times. Web. 21 Aug. 2011.

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Michael Thomas Bass, Jr. — Michael Thomas Bass M.P. His bust in Derby Museum which he funded Born 1799 Died 1884 Occupation Brew …   Wikipedia

  • Michael Bass, 1st Baron Burton — As depicted by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, November 1908 Michael Arthur Bass, 1st Baron Burton KCVO (12 November 1837 – 1 February 1909), known as Sir Michael Bass, 1st Baronet, from 1882 to 1886, was a British brewer, Liberal politician… …   Wikipedia

  • Higsons Brewery — Higsons is a Liverpool brewery founded in 1780, closed in the 1990s, and reopened in 2005. The beginning Higsons Brewery was originally formed in 1780 at 64 Dale Street, Liverpool. The company brewed beer at this site until 1914 when it moved to… …   Wikipedia

  • Cervecería Bass — Fundación 1777 Fundador(es) William Bass Industria Bebidas alcoholicas Productos Cerveza …   Wikipedia Español

  • Michael Thomas Bass — Statue à son effigie à la bibliothèque centrale de Derby qu il a fondée Mandats Député de Derby (Deputy Lieutenant) Prédécess …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charrington Brewery — The offices of the Charrington Brewery in Mile End Road Charrington United Breweries Ltd was an English brewery company founded in 1738 which merged with Bass in 1967. Contents 1 History …   Wikipedia

  • Michael Thomas Bass, Sr. — Michael Thomas Bass, Sr. Born 1759 Died 1827 Occupation Brewer Spouse Sarah Hoskins Children Michael Thomas Bass, Jr., Abraham Bass …   Wikipedia

  • Marston's Brewery — Marston s plc Type Public (LSE: MARS) Industry Brewing F …   Wikipedia

  • Staropramen Brewery — (Pivovary Staropramen a.s.) is the second largest brewery in the Czech Republic, situated in the Smíchov district of Prague. It was founded in 1869 and the brand name Staropramen, literally meaning “old spring,” was registered in 1911. It is… …   Wikipedia

  • Salt's Brewery — Thomas Salt and Co. was a brewery that operated in Burton upon Trent for 150 years. The brewery was founded in 1774 by Joseph Clay, a Derby maltster. When Clay died in 1800, his son Joseph took over and also acquired the Leeson brewery. When he… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.