Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bass Pale Ale

A lot of beers for me are flavor-of-the-month type deals. I'll buy a six-pack or two of a certain beer, swear it's just about the best thing I ever tasted, and then inexplicably never buy it again. And then there are beers I used to drink all the time that - for no particular reason – I've completely abandoned. I can't tell you the last time I had a Beck's – and at one time that was my beer. But some beers will always be with me, and Bass is the prime example. Bass was, is, and always shall be in my beer top ten. I can't recall ever not liking it. It seems I emerged from the womb drinking Bass. And even if I didn't, my ancestors probably downed so many pints of the stuff that an affinity for it was embedded in my DNA.

Of all the world's classic beers, Bass is far and away the one I drink the most. In any given year, I'll drink twice as much Bass as Guinness. I like Bass a little more than Smithwick's and considerably more than Heineken or Stella. Bass isn't just an English pale ale – it's THE English pale ale. A few EPAs have come along to surpass it over the centuries, but Bass still defines the style. Based around the notoriously hard water found in the English town Burton upon Trent, English Pale Ale traditionally achieves a distinctive type of hop bitterness to go with its malty, easy-drinking profile. Such is the case with Bass. Drink a Bass, and you know you're drinking a Bass. Like most EPAs, it boasts a flavor that is equal parts grainy, fruity, buttery, and hoppy. While far from an extraordinary brew, it never fails to satisfy. The hop bitterness, so crucial to this style of ale, is mild enough to attract the average Joe but strong enough to give beer geeks the full flavor they're craving. It's a smooth, balanced beer that quenches the thirst and goes great with all those English and Irish dishes I so dearly love. I do tend to drink my Bass on draught as opposed to buying it in bottles (with imports, you can never be too sure about freshness). But come next month I'll surely pick up a six-pack so I can make black-and-tans at home. Seriously: if you're making black-and-tans without Bass, it's not really a black-and-tan!

You can get a Bass draught at any decent Irish pub, and sometimes even establishments with horrible beer selections surprise me by offering Bass. I had three pints the other night at the Firehouse Tavern in Parkville, Maryland. A perfectly normal meal transformed into a night of hilarity upon the arrival of a classic rock cover band - whose entourage may or may not have included a large dog, a possible tranny, and a number of hairstyles I had not seen since 1986. Fun was had by all. But it would not have been quite the same had I been drinking Bud.

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