The Electric Pale Ale Acid Test

Posted by on Jan 5, 2010 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

It’s been snowing almost constantly since I took this photo and I’m fast running out of places to put the snow. Everywhere round here is similarly affected and the skiing at Cairngorm is truly excellent. Don’t allow yourself to be put off by the weather forecast – we took a chance on a half day yesterday and were amply rewarded; the forecast wind and poor visibility didn’t kick in until after the lifts had closed. 

As this is the first post of 2010  I have decided on a beery theme.  Below you will find the results of an Electric Pale Ale Acid Test and an appeal to any more mature readers for their lager taste recollections. This is only my second ale based post – read the first one here.

It is not every day that the pale ale enthusiast is given an opportunity to quaff more than one variety of his chosen beverage on draught in the same pub. I was almost physically excited to find my favourite beer, Caledonian’s Deuchar’s IPA, rubbing shoulders with two of its peers, Cairngorm’s Trade Winds and An Teallach’s Crofters, on the bar of Inverness’s Castle Tavern.  We were part way through the pale ale showdown that inevitably followed this delightful discovery when I horrified my drinking colleagues by revealing that I wasn’t averse to the odd can of Tennents lager.

I surprised myself by mounting a spirited defence of this much maligned brew, quoting the little known fact that Tennents was the first lager beer brewed to be brewed in the UK in 1885 after Hugh Tennent travelled to Germany to learn about their low temperature fermentation techniques. This pedigree surely makes it a cut above other cooking lagers.

Tennents is not by any means the finest lager I have ever drunk but I have a sentimental rather than a taste-based attachment to the stuff. It was the first beer that I ever tasted when my older cousin produced a couple of cans to supplement our new year’s cider allowance over 20 years ago. In those days beer was very much a man’s drink and was packaged accordingly. On the opposite side of the can from the logo lurked a photo of an 1980s lady, all hairspray and synthetic nightwear.

The burds no longer grace the cans, but the flavour of the bevvy itself is still exactly as I remember it close to a quarter of a century ago. I wonder how much the flavour has changed over the beer’s 125 year history? Sadly all those who drank TL is the nineteenth century will be gone by now, but there must be people still alive who can remember how it tasted in the 1920s and 1930s. Are you one of them? If so I’d love to hear your views on the subject.

And the result of the Electric Pale Ale Acid Test? A new favourite beer for me – Cairngorm Brewery’s Trade Winds. It’s nice to see an independently brewed beer from the Highlands outperforming the mighty Deuchar’s.

The Ullapool beer festival page has a good list of Scottish breweries and the ales they produce.


  1. straight from the den
    January 5, 2010

    trade winds is great. i am also partial to tennents though…i like to justify this due to its frequent status as 'lowest carbon footprint' option.
    happy new year!

  2. Gavin Macfie
    January 5, 2010

    I have a book on my shelf entitled 'Brewing beers like those you buy'. It has a Tennents recipe in it. Time for my first foray into home brewing since I was at school!

  3. Colin L
    January 5, 2010

    One of my friends prefers Tennents over others–and even he refers to it as "cooking lager". When I lived in England in the Nineties it was re-marketed as Tennant's "Pilsner", with an inlfated price to match it's fancy name.
    I used to know the QA manager at Tennants brewery in Glasgow and he got quite tearful when he heard that the Lager Lovelies had reached

  4. Dominic
    January 6, 2010

    Not being averse to modest consumption of pale ale myself I recently tried an american one: Goose Island Pale Ale from Chicago. It pains me to say it, but it is bloody excellent…seek it out.
    They also do a ludicrously strong (13%) stout which has been aged in bourbon casks – it had me stottering home afterwards.
    Happy New Year Gavin – looks like your making the most of this weather!

  5. straight from the den
    January 6, 2010

    There is a bar in a trendy part of Rome that has Tennents Super on tap. And lots of Tennents livery (mirrors, signs, towels, glasses etc). On this occasion I decided not to 'when in Rome…' and ordered a pint of Peroni instead.

  6. Gavin Macfie
    January 6, 2010

    Re Super on tap. Back in 1992 I recall there being a pink pub in Kinlochleven which had Special Brew on draught. Seems a bit of a far-fetched story, does anyone else remember it?

  7. Craig W
    January 9, 2010

    Don't know about Special Brew on draught, but there are pubs in Lanarkshire that have Buckfast on optics.

    Trade Winds is great, much better than Deuchars. Deuchars is the Tennents of IPA. You'll probably like Little Creatures if you can find that.

    I'm a big fan of Belgian beers these days. Give me a la Chouffe or Rochefort over almost anything.


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