Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Another visit to Tennent’s

This mural is new since the last time I was here
One of the things I was quite pleased about for Beer Week this year was that Tennent’s agreed to participate. Given that their usual marketing efforts go into huge events like T in the Park, I thought it was very nice of them to spend time working with a bunch of nobodies on a very small festival.

For a long time there were no public tours of Wellpark. Now with the separation from the AB InBev empire there seems to be a bit more glasnost. A group of homebrewers, brewers from WEST down the road and sundry beer nerds got to take a special tour led by plant manager Martin, director of product development Keith and innovation specialist Hannah – so the most qualified tour guides we could have.

We start off in the mash house. On a normal tour you get the layman’s explanation of how beer is made. Here we get a bit more detail about the mashing regime and wort separation. The wort copper, like the fermenters, is actually outside the building. Seeing the screens with all manner of measurements from all parts of the system makes it clear that brewing on this scale is mostly engineering and process. The last time I was here we didn’t get to see the kegging hall, but this time we did. It’s probably the most impressive part, with a vast 14-lane filling machine.

Kegging line

These are made for the Italian market and not sold here

In the lab. The kegs on the floor are never, ever used to
take beer to parties.
Then into the lab, housed one of the oldest buildings on the site which has had many functions over the years. In the lab for testing were some bottles and kegs of export beer for the Italian market (Tennent’s is quite big in Italy for some reason I have never really understood). At the back is some gear, fermenting bottles and Cornelius kegs, which looks remarkably similar in scale to our homebrew stuff. Have we stumbled on a secret pilot brewery? No, this is for yeast propagation, says Keith. They grow up six times as much yeast as we homebrewers make beer …

Seek out the lager of Lamot
On a quick tour through the brand new bottling line I spy a crate marked Lamot. It’s amusing that any brewery from the tiniest to the newest, probably has crates from defunct beer brands hanging around somewhere like ghosts. The old bottling line was removed in the 1990s, a very poor decision at the time in my view as it meant the end of them brewing Fowler’s Wee Heavy.

We end up in the private Molendinar Bar for a pint. Colin, one of the brewery guys, knows that I like that sort of thing and opened a bottle of the Italian Scotch Ale. It’s very nice, rich and smooth and woody. Sadly C&C won’t sell it in this country; it’s too strong at 9% and they are keen to be seen promoting responsible drinking. The taint of the Tennent’s Super brand would affect any strong ale in the UK market, so much so that C&C didn’t take on the Tennent’s Super brand with the rest of the business – AB InBev still owns and markets that, although it will always be an uphill battle trying to explain that Tennent’s Super isn’t made or sold by Tennent’s.

The new Tennent’s Original Export lager is on draught. I’d tried the bottled version when it came out and it was OK – lightstruck and under-hopped; it’s not really aimed at me, but competes with Stella and Peroni. The draught version is more pleasant, slightly malty with floral aromas. It’s still a bit sweet, I’d buy it if it had more hops. It’s all malt, says Colin. It also works really well as a chaser to the Scotch Ale.

It’s getting late so we depart. I was impressed with the wind of change evident here, not least evident in them letting a bunch of homebrewers and beer nerds round their brewery. We geeks are not going to be their target market any time soon, but it is very pleasant to see a brewery semi-independent once more, and reaching out to the local community.


  1. Great post Robbie, I'd have definitely been up for this if I'd been through again. I didn't know that fact about Tennent's Super - clearly ABInBev have lesser morals than C&C...

  2. Are Tennents still using 'additional ingredients' to speed up the brewing process? (in lager only) When visits were allowed the Lager vat was more akin to ammonia. No wonder they stopped the tours.
    Bring in some sort of purity law to the UK and end this process.