Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bass's Beer Prosecutions

There was a downside to Bass's fame as a Pale Ale brewer: publicans selling other brewers' beer as Bass. They frequently brought in their lawyers to fight against counterfeits.

The cases are below are pretty typical:


In the Chancery Division on May 31st, before Mr. Justice Stirling, Mr. John Cutler moved on behalf of the plaintiffs, Messrs. Bass, Ratcliff, and Gretton, the well-known brewers of bitter beer, against Mr. Butcher, the proprietor of the White Lion Hotel, Chippenham, for an injunction to restrain him, until the trial or further order, from passing off, or attempting to pass off, ale or beer not brewed by the plaintiffs as and for the goods of the plaintiffs.—Mr. Cutler said that in consequence of complaints made as to the quality of bitter ale bought or asked for at the house in question, the plaintiffs had sent some person to the White Lion, who ordered Bass's pale ale, and were supplied with pale ale, which they took away, and which was afterwards analysed and turned out to be not the plaintiffs' ale. He, therefore, now moved for an injunction, but he was instructed that the defendant appeared by counsel, and consented to treat this hearing as the trial of the action, to submit to a perpetual injunction and pay the costs, in which case Messrs. Bass waived their claim for an account of profit and damages. The learned Counsel said that his clients had received a letter from the defendant's solicitors, saying that the writers had just heard from their client, who consented to submit to a perpetual injunction with costs, and that he would instruct counsel accordingly on the motion, which could be treated as the trial of the action, but as yet counsel for defendant had not appeared.—The Judge said if Mr. Cutler found that counsel had been so instructed to that effect he need not mention it again, and the order would go, treating the hearing of the motion as the trial of the action; but, in case of difficulty, it might be mentioned later in the day.

Bass V. White.—Mr. Bousfield, Q.C. (with him Mr. John Cutler), said that he had a similar application to that which his friend Mr. Cutler had just made.—Mr. Young asked that the motion might stand over for affidavits.—Mr. Bousfield said that in that case he must ask his friend to give an undertaking ; but this Mr. Young declined to give, as he knew as yet nothing about the case.—Mr. Bousfield : Then he must move ex parte; but this Mr. Young submitted he could not do after giving notice of motion.—Mr. Bousfield said he felt sure that his friend would not say that it was right to sell Allsopp's beer for Bass's.—The Judge asked to see the affidavits, which were accordingly handed up.—Mr. Bousfield said that Messrs. Bass and Co. had reason to believe that there had been a practice of supplying other beer when Bass's beer was ordered, and they instructed agents to test the, matter on their behalf, and the affidavits gave in detail the different occasions on which one or other of these gentlemen ordered Bass's beer and were served with Allsopp's. They went to the defendant's house and asked for Bass's beer—generally as "a small Bass," and they observed that a bottle of Allsopp's beer was taken from another place, the bottle being attempted to be held so that the label should not be seen, and that was supplied as Bass's beer.—The Judge said it appeared from the first affidavit that the act occurred on May 18th, and they evidently had not thought it worth while to apply ex parte, The motion must stand over till next week.

Bass V. Keys.—Mr. Bousfield said this case stood on a similar basis to the last.—Mr. Warmington, Q.C., said that it did not stand on a similar basis. He complained of the way in which it had been treated. They had applied to Mr. Justice Kekewich for special leave on May 24th, but had not supplied his client with affidavits until the 29th.—This case was also directed to stand over.

Mr. Bousfield said he had still another motion, in an action of "Bass v. Riddle," which, under the circumstances, he would agree to stand over for a week."
"Food & sanitation, Volume 4", 1894, page 179.

I'm sure plenty of this still goes on today. Unscrupulous publicans flogging cheap beer under a different name. I wonder if Heineken ever take anyone to court?


Arctic Alchemy said...

Wondering what analysis could determine the difference between Bass Ale and Allsopp's Ale at the time (1890's), given that both were brewed with Burton water and probably similar malts and styles of Bitter or Pale Ale?

Interestingly, there are several youtube video's out there containing "blind taste-testing”, whereas the subject swears by their brand loyalty (usually a macro-swill lite lager) and are fooled 95 percent of the time, by another brand of the same style. I suspect this due to the fact that taste isn't really all that important to the consumer of such a style, and without the usual identifiers and marketing stimulus (physically snapping open a can, or seeing their beer tapped from the beach-ball tap marker) it is difficult for them to identify a swill that barely resembles something of unique taste, especially when served at 36 degrees) Heineken notwithstanding. I wonder too, how this blind taste testing would play out to for the brand loyal “Ale” drinker, I suspect much different results.

Pivní Filosof said...


Pilsner Urquell has pressed criminal charges against Kout na Šumavě because they dare use PU kegs to sell their beer, you know, because that micro brewery wants to make people believe they are drinking PU...

StuartP said...

I spotted 'Betty Stoggs' blind-tasting from an unmarked keg the other day, so it certainly is possible to recognise a beer you know without the usual identifiers.

Maybe Allsopps' and Bass' were distinctive enough.

Gary Gillman said...

I wish Bass Ale, which we get in bottle and keg form, tasted better. It has a characteristic flavour, somewhat dryish in an oaky way and acidic but not hoppy, which isn't to my taste. Given the great heritage of the beer, I am always surprised I don't like it better. Perhaps this is one where you really need to drink it in real ale form.

In contradistinction, I find the imported Pilsner Urquel and Czechvar (Budweiser Budvar) shining examples of really high quality. We get them in the can as recently as two months after packaging, and the freshness combined with the inherent great taste makes for a great beer. The draft Czechvar in particular is really good with a winy and fruity complexity. It is perhaps the best draft lager I've ever had anywhere.


Arctic Alchemy said...

No doubt Bass and Allsopp's had distinct differences, and any 19th century local could probably perform the test with his nose, I was referring to a court of law by analysis, perhaps by a gravity reading after degassing or some photo-light spectrum for color perhaps. Either way, I am certain it still happens today across the globe, just follow the money.

Thomas Barnes said...

@Gary Gilman

"I wish Bass Ale, which we get in bottle and keg form, tasted better. . . . Perhaps this is one where you really need to drink it in real ale form."

Maybe versions available in North America have been badly treated. It wouldn't be the first time.

It's also possible that Bass, or Bass brewed for the U.S. market, really isn't what it once was. Remember, Bass sold the recipe and name to another company. (Pub holdings were a bigger source of revenue, IIRC).

Historically, Bass Pale Ale was often a bottled product, and was widely exported, so it should hold up well in bottled form - if it's treated properly and if it's still being brewed the old-fashioned way.

I'm inclined to disagree with you about imported Czech Pilsners. In my experience, they're in terrible condition by the time they reach the U.S. You must have a much more conscientious distributor.

Gary Gillman said...

Thanks for that, but be assured the beers get here really quickly. I don't bother with glass bottles (Urquel is available here in green glass, and Czechvar ditto I think), but cans only. Urquel uses a 9 month expiry dating system and we generally get the canned beers within 8-12 weeks. Czechvar uses a 12 month dating system (best-by I mean) and we get them in about the same window. At this level of freshness, how different can it be from the packaged Urquel available in various Czech towns? Unless they get it unpasteurised? When I used to travel in Europe (not the former Czech lands admittedly), I was always surprised how the packaged beers were usually sold a few months at least (often longer) after packaging.

I am not referring to draft, but the canned or bottled product. Anyway it comes in fast and I think this is encouraged by the large orders of the Ontario liquor control board, large amounts come in and the board tries to ensure optimal quality.

As for Bass, it has always tasted the same to me (i.e., since the 1970's), which is a flavour again just not to my taste. I am sure the real ale version is better. But I just never could "get" that taste again, so many other English beers seem much better. Perhaps the quality has changed but I must say its taste profile seems the same as it always was. Ditto for Double Diamond.


Thomas Barnes said...

Questions for Ron, or any other Briton reading this:

Are there significant flavor differences between cask and bottled Bass?

Is Bass still distinctive enough that you could tell it by taste from other brands of pale ale?

Did the recipe change significantly when Bass sold its brewing operations?

@Gary Gillman.

First, apologies for not recognizing you as Canadian.

Second, I guess the LCBO isn't quite as evil as I imagined if they can get fresh PU to customers within just a couple of months. I'll have to look for it the next time I'm in Canada. (I'm in Rochester, NY).

I've always wanted to try PU that didn't taste like it was used to drown a skunk trapped in a cardboard box.

Ron Pattinson said...

Thomas, cask Draught Bass was, last time I tried it, far superior to the bottled or keg version.