The 1902 King's Ale 
King's Ale is a strong ale brewed in 1902. Contrary to popular opinion, this had nothing to do with the 1902 coronation. The newly crowned King Edward VII visited the Brewery in February and started the mash, and the beer was then stored in cask to mature. The equivalent of about 400 casks of 36 gallons were brewed. In 1905 a limited quantity was released. It wasn't until 1911 (for the King's coronation), that the first large batch was issued. All brewery issues except the magnum were in very attractive specially designed embossed corked bottles.
In 1911, to coincide with the coronation, the beer was released in cask to independent bottlers who normally bottled other Bass beers. They were not allowed to call it King's Ale. The independent bottlers' version was usually called Royal Ale. This is much more scarce than King's Ale. The one illustrated was bottled by Plowman Barrett, which was a well known independent bottler of the time, who bottled many other beers, including Guinness Stout. You will normally find the name of the bottler on the label, and values can vary depending on the desirability of the bottler, the attractiveness of the label, size of the bottle, etc. Bottle sizes varied from nips upwards.
Bass King's Ale Bass Royal Ale
Click image to enlarge it
In 1929 a small further batch was issued when the Prince of Wales mashed Prince's Ale. These probably had red wax seals with the Bass logo. (Bottles with red wax but no logo are probably earlier issues which have been re-waxed). It wasn't until 1977 that the next, and most recent, large batch was issued. This was done for the 1977 Bicentenary of Bass. The beers were mostly re-bottled, recorked and re-sealed. Labels were reprinted for the occasion. They also had an adhesive label attached to the bottom front of the bottle, stating that this was a 1977 re-issue. These labels are often removed and the bottles passed off as an earlier issue, but the black wax seal is typical of the 1977 issue, and is unlikely to be earlier.
The text of the label stating that the 1977 bottle is a reissue reads;
"With Compliments. To commemorate the bicentenary of the Bass Brewery and the brewing of Jubilee Strong Ale which will be laid down as a further addition to the unique history of brewing at Bass in Burton-on-Trent. JULY 1977."
Several different bottle sizes exist. The most common size is the pint, and these bottles are about 10 inches tall. Much scarcer than the pint is the quart size, which is about 12 inches tall. Larger sizes were also done. There is a magnum size (probably 4 pints), which is just over 14 inches tall, and there are rumours of a jeroboam. All bore the same size label.
 
An interesting variation was issued in July 1977, when the Bass Museum was opened. This was a pint bottle of King's Ale in a wooden presentation box. On the outside of the box it was stated that the item was presented to mark the opening of the Museum. Only a very limited number was done.
 
Fortunately it is not too difficult to tell the difference between different issues. The 1905 and 1911 issues were all lead sealed, with red wax beneath the lead capsule. I understand that the 1929 release had a red wax seal, but I have not been able to verify that. The seals for the 1977 re-issue vary. The basic standard seal was in black wax, with a black triangle design in relief. However, some of the quarts, and a few pints were issued with a foil capsule and no wax seal. The Bass Museum, in the 1980s and early 1990s, offered a service to reseal Bass Corkers which had poor seals. These were either redone with black wax, or in some cases with a black metal (lead?) capsule. These are all very easy to distinguish from the earlier issues with lead seals. Be careful with any wax sealed bottles as the wax is very brittle, and can easily come off with careless handling.
 

 King's Ale values 
To be worth the values stated all must be in good condition, and full. Values fluctuate considerably.
Year of issue
Pint
Quart
Magnum
Before 1977
£50.00 to £80.00
£70.00 to £100.00
£150.00 to £200.00
1977 onwards
£40.00 to £60.00
£50.00 to £80.00
n/a
Royal Ale (various bottlers)
100.00 to 250.00
Bass Museum opening
80.00 to 120.00

King's Ale label

Back to Bass Corkers page Back to main web site page