Scotland #3: Tennent’s Lager

Tennent's Lager: pint, sign, keg font.

Tennent’s has been producing lager since the 1880s and Scotland became a lager drinking nation long before England.

We knew we want­ed to drink at least one pint of Tennent’s on our trip to Scot­land but didn’t expect to like it quite as much as we did.

Despite the ubiq­ui­ty of Tennent’s brand­ing around Glas­gow – big red Ts jut out from pub fas­cias all over the place –it actu­al­ly took us a lit­tle while to find the oppor­tu­ni­ty: either the pubs we found our­selves in had some­thing else we want­ed to try, or they had no Tennent’s tap at all, replac­ing it with some­thing more upmar­ket from brew­eries such as Innis & Gunn or Williams Bros.

We had our first taste at The Pot Still in cen­tral Glas­gow, served in tall, brand­ed glass­ware with a whip of shav­ing-cream foam, and bub­bling furi­ous­ly.

What were our expec­ta­tions? Low, if we’re hon­est. We’d noticed a cou­ple of oth­er fussy bug­gers express­ing affec­tion for it but won­dered how much that might be down to con­trari­ness or sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty.

But we liked it.

Now, we choose our words care­ful­ly: liked, not loved. It’s good, not great. We enjoyed it but it didn’t make our toes curl with delight.

Isn’t that enough, though? To be able to go into almost any pub and order a pint of 4% lager for a rea­son­able price and enjoy drink­ing it?

We asked our Twit­ter fol­low­ers what they thought and their col­lec­tive judge­ment, though it falls on the wrong side of the mid­dle line to ours, feels fair:

Espe­cial­ly com­pared to Foster’s:

Tast­ing notes feel redun­dant as it’s hard­ly a deep or com­plex beer, but we’ll try: it’s more sweet than bit­ter but in a whole­some way that sug­gests grain, not sug­ar; the high car­bon­a­tion stops it feel­ing sticky; and there’s some­times a wisp of lemon zest about it.

After our ini­tial encounter, we found our­selves order­ing it even when there were oth­er options. After a long day walk­ing in the sun, it was per­fect – gets to your thirst, fast. In a ques­tion­able pub which looked like it need­ed hos­ing down, it was a safe option, and tast­ed just as good. It cer­tain­ly suit­ed watch­ing Scot­land v. Eng­land on a big screen in a pub in Fort William. In Spoons, it beat Carlsberg’s relaunched ‘Dan­ish Pil­sner’ hands down, though the lat­ter was just fine.

Of course this pos­i­tive reac­tion is part­ly down to us tak­ing plea­sure in drink­ing a local prod­uct on hol­i­day but, look, you know us by now – these days, we don’t force our­selves to drink things that aren’t actu­al­ly giv­ing us plea­sure.

And Tennent’s Lager did.

6 thoughts on “Scotland #3: Tennent’s Lager”

  1. »After a long day walk­ing in the sun
    If any­one needs addi­tion­al proof as to how delud­ed this is 🙂

  2. Tennent’s – if you’re Eng­lish – is the lager you ‘dis­cov­er’ one hot day, a cou­ple of years into your drink­ing career, when you’re look­ing for some­thing to drink away from your usu­al haunts. You think it’s the best thing ever, but don’t see it again until two years lat­er, when you grab it with a yell and dis­cov­er it’s… OK. It’s fine. In style terms it’s a bit dif­fer­ent from Heineken, say, and in qual­i­ty terms it’s… fine.

    (But it is OK, which is more than you could say of Foster’s.)

    (As dis­tinct from Red Stripe, which you dis­cov­er one hot day (etc) & drink reg­u­lar­ly for sev­er­al years, before try­ing it again ten years lat­er and… etc.)

  3. Back in the days of Bass own­er­ship there was absolute­ly no dis­cernible dif­fer­ence between Car­ling and Ten­nents although I sup­pose the taste has prob­a­bly diverged since, but a mate of mine who loves the stuff occa­sion­al­ly gets a pint of Car­ling sub­sti­tut­ed for Ten­nents in a round and he nev­er com­plains until the gig­gling starts!

  4. Most of my Tennent’s drink­ing was done on the sly, cans swiped from a par­ty and drunk in a friend’s gar­den, usu­al­ly hud­dled in the lee of a gar­den wall, shel­ter­ing from the inevitable Hebridean wind and rain (only in lat­er years did I dis­cov­er that rain was sup­posed to be a ver­ti­cal not hor­i­zon­tal thing). Show­ing my vin­tage, but the cans had lassies in their skimp­ies on them, the Tennent’s Lovelies if I recall cor­rect­ly, which to a teenage boy was as erot­ic as life got. I can’t remem­ber ever hav­ing it on tap, by the time I was legal to drink, I was tak­en into the mythos of Guin­ness and derid­ed lager as chem­i­cal laden crap (jeez, how the hell do we ever grow up?). This time next week, I’ll be home again for a month, so I guess I’ll treat myself to a Tennent’s or two and see what’s going on.

  5. I’m rea­son­ably sure that there were three ver­sions of Tennent’s Lager in my youth. The con­ti­nen­tal-style tie of North­ern Irish pubs meant it was one of the two lagers on the draught mar­ket: when there was no Harp tap there was Tennent’s, brewed at the Bass brew­ery in Belfast. Tennent’s was too bit­ter for my lik­ing, which I realise now prob­a­bly meant it was a bet­ter beer. When I moved to Scot­land we got Tennent’s from Well Park, and I recall this as an immense­ly supe­ri­or prod­uct, with­out the jagged bit­ter­ness. But then there was an odd sub­stance sold as Tennent’s in the Repub­lic. It must have come from Belfast too because Bass would have come from there with it, but it was vis­i­bly dark­er, almost amber, and tast­ed thick and more malt-heavy, like a bock.

  6. Hav­ing drank oodles and oodles of Tennent’s in my youth, I hadn’t had a pint of it in years, hav­ing moved to Guin­ness and then get­ting in to craft/real ale (as many of us have).

    I had a pint of it last year at the brew­ery after the tour (and a good tour it is), and was very pleas­ant­ly sur­prised. Very refresh­ing, and bet­ter than pret­ty much any oth­er mass mar­ket lager I remem­ber drink­ing in recent years.

    Miles ahead of Car­ling, and your Fos­ters, Kro­nen­bourgs etc etc.

    Car­ling is hor­ren­dous. I feel like I should state once more how bad Car­ling is. It’s very, very bad.

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