Dear reader, the following article will be something of a rant which, to those of you familiar with the subject matter, will be neither new, nor necessary reading. But for those of you among us (and I know you know who you are) who insist on the desecration and defamation of the UK’s oldest lager, born and brewed in Glasgow, keep reading. I do not write this as a lager connoisseur, or even as a lager enthusiast, honestly, but simply as a Scottish gal who’s just heard one too many “piss water” references to the iconic beverage that is Tennent’s lager.
I, like many other children in central belt Scotland, grew up with a familiarity with Tennent’s. One of the earliest and most recurrent memories I have is of that big red “T” hanging off of the face of every local watering hole in my hometown and the other towns clustered around us – along with the subconscious knowledge that wherever there was a “T”, I wasn’t allowed in just yet (and the mounting intrigue which resulted). These big red “T”s were everywhere and steadily began to multiply the further west you travelled, as we often did to see my dad’s family. The authority and significance of the red “T” was on par with that of the McDonald’s golden arches today, promising civilisation and something familiar in an unfamiliar place. I remember the habitual shimmer of the gold and silver cans in the (albeit, weak and very short-lived) sunshine of Scottish summers, year in year out, watching the adults sip them happily as they made the most of our two whole days of sun. I remember observing them as a child and, finally, as a teenager being offered a sip from the can with the red “T”, the sharp bubbles heralding the end of my time as a “wean” and the beginning of tentative adulthood.
Safe to say, Tennent’s was a part of my childhood – and a part which, sometimes, I still cling to. In a world of pink gin, cocktails and various multicoloured syrups, Tennent’s represents something known, something safe, and something to come back to. In my Fresher’s Week of first year, someone offering me a cold can of Tennent’s in the dimly lit kitchen of university halls was one of the few times in that entire first week when I actually felt like I knew what was happening and what to do; no chugging, shotting or mixing required. In the current mania for craft beers, the option of a Tennent’s is a welcome reprieve from trying to navigate the various flavours, colours and “hops” on offer, a way to avoid the hot panic of trying to choose an IPA when you don’t even know what IPA stands for and just ending up picking “that one” because its label looks cool.
Tennent’s truly is the grandpa-friend of alcohols – safe, stable, kind of bitter, too unaware of what the kids are doing these days to even try and keep up, and completely and utterly reliable. Tennent’s doesn’t flirt with new flavours or pick up new logos or try to “expand”. Tennent’s is there, waiting for you, regardless of the situation and willing to forget those mean things you said about it over your Peroni on the last night out. Tennent’s is there for you on the beer garden days, the gloriously warm beach days, the can’t-realistically-afford-anything-else days, those beer pong nights and the there’s-nothing-on the-telly nights. It’s there when you can’t justify spending £5 on a single can of something crafty (in spite of the recent minimum pricing, it’s still one of the more affordable options in supermarkets) and will 9 times out of 10 be the cheapest pint in the pub.
More than that, Tennents is part of Scotland’s history; made from water gathered in the depths of the Trossachs, brewed as of 1885 using Scottish barley from Scottish farmers, in a Glasgow brewery that has been running since the 16th century. It features in every young Scot’s adolescence and is an inviolable part of our culture.
In short; sure, it might be piss-water, but it’s our piss-water and the sooner we all quit slandering it, the happier I’ll be.