China to get a taste of Tennent’s lagers, including a gluten-free brew

Four beers from Scotland’s biggest brewery, though not its bestselling Tennent’s Lager, to join crowded Chinese market, where it could give Stella Artois some competition, one expert says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 June, 2016, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 June, 2016, 4:01pm

Chinese drinkers will soon get a taste of Scottish lager, with the announcement of plans to import beers produced by Glasgow brewer Tennent’s – maker of “Scotland’s favourite pint”, Tennent’s Lager.

The Tennent’s name may be new to China, but in Britain it has a chequered past. Whether fairly or not, it is strongly linked to a stereotype of Glaswegians as hard-drinking brawlers with impenetrable accents. That image is particularly associated with Tennent’s Super, which has a 9 per cent alcohol content. Perhaps fortunately, that beer is not being exported to China. When C&C Group bought Tennent’s in 2009, the deal excluded Tennent’s Super.

C&C Group will be exporting four beers to China: Tennent’s 1885 Lager (gluten free), Tennent’s Stout, Tennent’s Whisky Oak Aged Beer and Tennent’s Scotch Ale, which also has a 9 per cent alcohol content.

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“Tennent’s beers are perfectly OK lagers – in fact when the current owners acquired the company they deliberately didn’t buy the very strongest ‘tramp juice’ one, as they didn’t want to be associated with that image,” says Martyn Cornell, an award-winning author and blogger on beer.

“They wouldn’t wow the beer snobs, but they’re as good as almost anything you’ll find on the Chinese market right now, and better than many.”

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Beijing-based writer Jim Boyce, who has been following the Chinese bar scene for more than a decade, says: “It’ll be interesting to see how this brand is positioned in China. It might be seen as an alternative to Stella [Artois] and the likes for those bars looking to differentiate themselves.”

Tennent’s beers will be distributed in China by Vandergeeten, whose portfolio includes English beer Boddingtons and Belgium’s Hoegaarden and Leffe.

Chinese are forecast to drink almost 60 litres of beer per head in 2016, according to Research and Markets.

“There are so many brands in the China market now and more piling in all the time. Goose Island from the United States held some launch events this month, which was pretty exciting for craft beer fans,” Boyce says. More locally made craft beers are also turning up on the market.

“There’s a pretty cool craft beer project called Shangrila Beers in Yunnan, near the town of Shangri-La, brewing several beers and starting to pop up on major alcohol sales platforms. I enjoyed their TPA [Tibetan Pale Ale],” Boyce says.