Brewery: Bass / Anheuser-Busch

Origin: Burton-upon-Trent 
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 4.4%

One of the first global superstars of beer - making waves back in the 18th century when it was ubiquitous across the British Empire. Perhaps the original India Pale Ale. Bass is a lesson is brand, ownership and global conglomeration.

Trademarks came into law in 1875, and Bass were first in line to get their red triangle protected, after having profits dented by rivals copying the shape on their labels. Hence the ‘Trademark No.1’ line. It probably comes as no surprise that the first legitimate brand, and global brand at that, was a beer. This stuff was the go-to ale for Brits at home and across the far-flung empire. 

It was a dominance that continued into the 20th century, before being merged into larger companies and was finally swallowed up by American giants Anheuser-Busch in the late 90s. Despite this legacy it’s presence has faded from most drinker’s minds. You’ll rarely find it on cask, and it doesn’t appear to fly off shelves. The graphic design is inoffensive but half-hearted. It’s just there, hoping someone will but it. 

Compare this with Guiness with example, with people lapping up it’s carefully crafted heritage brand - from brewery tours, nostalgic merchandise and it’s popular resuscitated historical brews (see here and here). It makes you think, with the right leadership and passion Bass could rightfully reposition itself as the great-grandaddy of British booze. Instead it appears as more of a forgotton footnote. Shame.

For those wanting a little more meat on the bone check out Pete Brown’s great blog piece here, on a more recent rebrand of Bass. As Pete himself puts it: “a perfect case study in corporate bullshit being sprayed over something the corporation in question neither knows nor cares about.”
A project by Richard Heap
A graphic designer from Stockport, England