Monday, December 10, 2012

Bass IPA (Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Well, here it is, the new face of Bass. As described previously, the grand old Bass brewery was taken over by A-B InBev in the year 2000, and its products are now being produced at the Anheuser-Busch plant at Baldwinsville, New York. The label would clearly like us to believe that this beer is made in the traditional English style, despite its remove from the distinctive calcium-rich Burton waters and the even more distinctive Burton Union system in which it was traditionally fermented.

So what might a person expect a "traditional" Bass IPA to taste like, if they were to permit themselves to be persuaded by the marketing? I can do no better than to reproduce this quote from Martyn Cornell's excellent Zythophile blog:

North American IPAs – excellent though many of them are – use hop types completely unknown to 18th and 19th century British brewers, and major on floral, citrussy flavours and aromas in their IPAs, which are designed to be drunk comparatively young. Early British IPAs were designed to be drunk aged anything up to nine months or more, and while they were certainly bitter, they would have lost most of any hop aroma that they originally had. In addition it is becoming increasingly clear that early British IPAs would have showed at least some Brettanomyces character, from their long ageing in cask. Apart from both containing lots of hops, and being similar colours (except for the black ones) modern North American IPAs and early British IPAs could not be much more different.

Okay, so what is this one really like? In my pint glass, it shows a medium amber color -- strangely thin, though. Doesn't seem dense enough. The pour produces half an inch of clumpy, off-white foam.

There is a rather subdued, delicate, flowery, cotton candy aroma. Quite nice actually, and I will give points for foiling the expectation set up by the aroma of American IPAs.

At first sip, the beer does have some of that trademark Bass malt flavor, sweet and dense, but it drops of very quickly into a finishing bitterness that has very little nuance -- no citrus, no sap, no flowers, grass or herbs. In this sense, too, it does stand out from an American-style IPA. The body is of medium weight -- not as flimsy as the thinnish appearance might lead you to expect. Just a bit of grain flavor lingers after the bitterness lets up.

There is actually a fair amount of flavor here, but not much complexity. When tasting it blind, my wife said "tastes like a fairly well-made American beer." That's about right. It does stand apart from the predominant contemporary West Coast IPA style, but whether it is because of an authentic English character, I'm not so sure. There is certainly no Brettanomyces character (because there is no cask aging), nor any sulphurous “Burton snatch.”

Overall I would rate aroma this beer's best quality. That aspect of it really is rather nice.

From the bottle's label:

[front] Brewed in the tradition of William Bass Brewers Limited, Burton-on-Trent, England. This fine India pale ale has been brewed in the great British tradition using traditional English Fuggle hops.
[back] ICONOGRAPHY. From the makers of the original pale ale comes Bass India Pale Ale. Make with all malt and a blend of imported and domestic hops, including the traditional English Fuggle. Bass IPA is then dry-hopped in aging tanks for a remarkable aroma. Perfect for anytime you want to enjoy an intensely satisfying beer.

Featured beer:
Bass IPA

No comments:

Post a Comment