BOOK REVIEW: The Story of Bass

Since writing 50 Years of CAMRA, I have become a little obsessed with the story of Bass and the cult status draught Bass has achieved. Some people are absolutely obsessed by it. Sparkler on, sparkler off, flat from the cask. The debates rage on. One person I interviewed for my book called it ‘brown glop for old men.’ That’s probably a little unfair, but hilarious.

Laura Hadland ready the Story of Bass book by Harry White

Had I been more organised, I would have had this review of Harry White’s book on ‘the rise and demise of a brewing great’ ready for National Bass Day earlier this month, but there you go. It is great to have all the information on the history of the Bass brewery in one place at last. The book is rich with sources taken from the National Brewery Centre in the main, although admittedly not always perfectly rendered. The author is also the chairman of the National Brewery Heritage Trust and worked for Bass from the mid-1970s, so I think you can safely say he’s done his research.

The History of the Bass Brewery

Due to the amount of illustrations and source material shown in the book, it’s a relatively quick read. The style is relatively brisk and factual, no florid prose here. A simple stating of the facts, as they occurred. This can make it edge to the dry when reading. It’s very much a history book. That’s not really a bad thing at all. I have no doubt I will be dipping back into it time and again as a reference. It begins with William Bass setting up a brewery business in 1777. It ends with the intricate details of the various mergers and acquisitions that saw the sell-off of the brewery in 2005. The ultimate fate of the amassed six brewery sites is also laid out. It is truly a story of great highs and supremely depressing lows.

There is the odd grammatical error here and there, but nothing that would throw you off. Indeed I find the notion of the author conducting a ‘straw pole’ (sic) amongst his former colleagues about what the most classic Bass beers were rather charming. And quite frankly, you just can’t get the proofreaders these days, budgets are tight enough. That said, this is a well-written narrative. It keeps tight to the subject, which becomes extremely hard to follow particularly once Bass Charrington is formed. There is clearly a vast amount of research behind these 96 pages. Highly recommended to anyone who is a fan of Bass or of brewing history, it’s certainly one for your shelves.

Pick it up from Amberley Publishing.

This book was gifted for the purposes of review. My opinions are, I regret to inform you, entirely my own.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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