Archive for June 20th, 2008

Beer Review: Bass Premium Ale

20 June, 2008

THIS is one I’ve been intrigued by for some time. From Bass, makers from childhood favourite Shandy Bass, is a pack of four cans from Tesco. They cost a meagre £3.31 pence, yet aim high with the name Bass Premium Ale.

Bass Premium Ale 4-pack

The cans are unmistakeably Bass. The square distinctive red triangle logo makes sure of that. And, being almost completely black, it looks different.

Bass Premium Ale can

Down at the bottom of the can, there’s a signature. Presumably from the original William Bass. The words “guaranteed quality”. And the “since” year of 1777. That makes this a very long established name indeed.

Most of the front faces of the can are taken by a huge roundel.

Bass Premium Ale logo

The unmistakable red “Bass” triangle takes pride of place in the centre. After that, your eye is drawn to the “Premium Ale” under it. And that surprises me. I never associated Bass with premium anything. Let alone ale.

Around the top of the roundel, we get a dose of the heritage. The words “William Bass & Co Brewed Since 1777″ are a reassuring sight. Not seeing a business that ends with ‘ltd’ or ‘plc’ is always a welcome.

All the small-print is neatly and readably in one column down one ‘side’ of the can.

Bass Premium Ale barcode side of can

Unusually for a can, they even find room for a little description. Bass Premium Ale, it turns out, has been “specially conditioned” and “canned to deliver the distinctive taste of draught bass”. Not knowing what makes the conditioning special, all we can do it hope that it’s not empty marketing.

Next, we even receive some advice. They recommend that you pour this quickly for a good head. Is it me, or is that the opposite to what you’re normally taught? I’ve always thought “pour slowly to avoid a mountain of froth”. What have you always done when it comes to pouring?

Unusually, they’re not fussed at what temperature you care to serve it. Has anyone ever seen “Serve chilled or at room temperature” on any other drink? I admire their laid-back approach.

Then they raise expectations for this value priced ale immeasurably. “Expect Perfection”. For £3.31 pence, I don’t. But I admire the self-confidence of this ale. If it manages to be anywhere near that, it’s going to be extremely good value.

Deeper into the small-print, and there’s some bad news about the origins of this brew. It’s not from William Bass & Co. At least not anymore. That’s because this is from the international brewing giant, InBev UK. And from their Luton address too. There’s even a Luton postal address and consumer helpline. I can’t say it’s a surprise though.

Also in the small print is the news that it contains malted barley. And the Drink Aware message and website.

Fortunately, the most prominent bits of this side of the can, are also the most important. This 500 millilitre can has an alcoholic volume of 4.4%. Both of which translate into 2.2 UK units of alcohol. Definitely nothing special. But not bad for the price.

With that out of the way, it’s time to answer the big questions. How does it taste? Is it any good? Is it the best value if you’re stuck for cash? And is it perfection?

Bass Premium Ale poured into a glass

When it came to pouring, I forgot the advice to pour quickly until half-way through. I sped up, and did get a head. But sadly not enough. Within a few moments, I was left with a small patch of bubbles on the surface. Not good.

The colour was a surprise. A sort of amber brown shade. And one that reminds me of Shandy Bass. Any coincidence?

A good premium ale must have an interesting smell. Bass Premium Ale doesn’t. It barely has a smell at all. There is a weak smell of malted barley. But the weak character reminds me more of cheap lagers. Another bad sign.

A trend that continues when I take my first few gulps. The taste and flavour are purely bitter. Nothing else is noticeable. And the character of that bitterness ‘sharp’, unpleasant and lingering. It reminds me a little of Tesco Best Bitter, but mostly of cheap lagers. Definitely not of ale.

It can’t all be bad. What do I like about Bass Premium Ale? Well, it’s stronger than others on the market for the same price. It’s very light. And you could call it refreshing if you served it so cool that it dulls the taste. It’s also not gassy.

But this is faint praise. It’s light because it’s watery. Besides the awful, cheap, indistinctive taste, there’s nothing. Like so many cheap beers, it’s like drinking cold tea.

I wanted to like this one. I wanted to say that it’s cheap, yet good value. But it isn’t. The taste and flavour is unpalatable. And the quality is cheapness throughout. If this really is an ale, then it’s the cheap, horrible lager of the ale world. What were they thinking with the slogan “expect perfection”? Who is going to drink the remaining three cans from the pack?

Rating: 1.4

Have you tried Bass Premium Ale? What did you think of it?
Share your opinions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions with the world here please.


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