design real ale

The Big Red Triangle

Bass is better regarded as an icon of graphic design than as a beer.

It’s usually found in pubs that seem stuck in a timewarp and, in our experience at least, is rarely drinkable, from either keg or cask. We’ve found it sour and stale everywhere from grotty pubs with sticky carpets to gaudily wallpapered ‘style bars’ in south London.

A couple of weeks ago, however, we had a pint that was in tip-top condition and were reminded that at its best, Bass is a complex beer which carries some intentional ‘off flavours’ with aplomb. The sulphurous aroma, the hint of cider-apple and a final chalkiness, are not repellent but absolutely harmonious. It is reminiscent of, and better than, recent bottles of Worthington White Shield.

Until it tastes this way more often, however, while we won’t give up on it, it’ll have to remain on our list of beers of last resort.

Simon ‘Reluctant Scooper’ Johnson seems to know where to find Bass in reliably good nick; and those who like to try to find the breaking point of the term craft beer will find Bass a useful bit of ammo.

14 replies on “The Big Red Triangle”

I had my Bass epiphany at the Coopers Arms in Burton just over a year ago, the beer was gorgeous, thought it ok at the Seven Stars in Falmouth as well, but the Coopers was the man.

Depends on which of the three or four beers called Bass you mean. I quite enjoyed the (Marston’s-brewed, cask) Bass they had at my hotel when I was in Brighton a few years back. I wouldn’t have called it complex or White Shield-like, though.

Strangely seem to only come across Bass in airport bars and Revolution… Usually in moderate condition.

Bass was my lunchtime pint yesterday. Nutty, toffee, hoppy in a properly bitter sense. If I don’t fancy the three guests at my local, Bass is my banker beer.

Maybe the issue with Bass was that its ubiquity was twinned with complacency; punters recognising the triangle would buy it regardless and licensees exploited this by keeping rank beer.

It’s sometimes (about once a year) on in my local, and when it is, it’s all I drink. I’ve never had a bad one.

Bass is actually a beer I will often choose ahead of many of the other “usual suspects”. I can’t say I come across it very often, but I had a very good example in the Lichfield Vaults in Hereford last year.

Simon/Pub Diaries — yes, airport bars, hotels (we had our good pint in a hotel bar), nightclubs (with cask beer!); odd places like that. It definitely occupies a funny place in the market. I’m sure a lot of landlords sell it out of nostalgia or because they’re not very into beer but still recognise the name.

Curmudgeon/Matthew — how do you find it tastes? Do you get what we mean when we talk about the complexity and not-quite-off-flavours? Or is your experience more like the Beer Nut’s?

I would tend to agree with you about the complexity and the not-quite-off-flavours. It’s quite a subtle beer, not an in-your-face one.

A pub broadly in your neck of the woods that used to be renowned for its Bass is the Dolphin in the Barbican at Plymouth. Historically it was a very popular beer in the South-West in general.

As it happens, the last pub we tried it in was a few doors up from the Dolphin. (Where it was really off and not at all pleasant.) Any idea *why* it was so popular down here?

I would say it was a result of the relatively high proportion of free trade in the South-West. Bass was one of the very few nationally distributed beers and was seen as something of a premium product that was better than the “local brew”.

I had a pint recently, but it was rank indeed, vinegar all over. Despite the oppressive nature of the pub and scary landlord i did indeed just offer it back (after a friend confirmed it was off), exchanged for a Guinness with no questions asked.

Comments are closed.