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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