27 May 2010

A World Without Bass

Just finished my brew day, post to follow later tonight or tomorrow, and figured I'd check out the latest beer news on my Google Reader. The Brookston Beer Bulletin runs a press release:

The Times of London is reporting that Anheuser-Busch InBev is looking for buyers to sell off some of its most iconic British beer brands, including Bass, Boddington’s and Flowers. In the article, Buyer Sought for Beer That Britain Forgot, it appears the asking price for Bass is £10-15 million ($15-21 million in dollars), though that apparently “excludes both the trademark and international rights.”

But it doesn’t look good, overall. From the Times article:

Despite its fame and longevity, Bass is now a minuscule part of the world’s biggest brewer, with volumes equating to a tiny fraction of the amount sold in its heyday in the 1980s. The brand, now brewed under contract by Marston’s, a rival brewer, which owns Pedigree ale, has suffered from a combination of lack of marketing investment and falling consumer demand as its multinational owner has focused increasingly on its global lager brands.

This leads me to think that Bass (and, if you read the full article, Boddington's) are on the verge of going under due to lack of sales. What would a world without Bass look like? It's not that I'm their biggest fan (I gave them a 3.65 back in '05, but they probably deserve a revisit since I was still new to the beer reviewing game back then), but they do have the oldest trademark in the world that's still in use, and they have a devoted if not exactly vocal fanbase. My thought is that maybe selling every brand in the world to massive multinational conglomerations may not exactly be the best strategy in the world if you want to keep consumer choice open, but that's not exactly a new insight in the world of beer geekery.

I can't tell you how many times a week I have to explain the purchase of major brands (like McEwan's, or Whitbread) by major conglomerates to customers wondering why their favorite beers aren't available in the States anymore. Will Bass and Bodington's be the next Mackeson? I hope not, if you hope in one hand and shit in the other....

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