Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Meet the Master Brewer Tour @ Tennent's Wellpark Bewery

Recently, I was kindly invited to a guided tour with the chance to meet the Master Brewer at the home of Tennent's Lager, Wellpark Brewery on Glasgow's Duke Street.
As someone who grew up in the west of Scotland, I thought that I was well aware of the big red T and what it stands for but the tour opened my eyes to what really goes on behind the walls of the 18 acre site.
The tour started with a short video that tells the history of beer brewing in Glasgow from the early 1100’s when monks were building Glasgow Cathedral, into the centuries when the Tennent family grew the business, through to the modern era and a time where the now familiar Tennent's Lager is on sale in 70% of the pubs in Scotland and exported to over 100 countries across the globe.
The video made reference to some of the brilliant marketing campaigns that Tennent's have run over the years including the hugely popular ‘Lager Lovelies’ who were emblazoned across the side of lager can from the late 1960’s until 1993 when it was deemed inappropriate in these modern times. Oddly enough, I have very clear memories of Fiona from the late 70’s – very weird as I was only 6 years old at the time!
With the safety talk out of the way (the tour does cover a large part of the working site), myself and the other attendees donned our high visibility vests and regulation hair nets before following our tour guide Michael out into the vast expanse that is Wellpark Brewery.
As we made our way past an old Tennent's delivery truck in the yard, Michael talked us through some of the important numbers from Wellpark including a 47 mile pipe network that brings water directly from Loch Katrine to the brewery, 300000 pints of unpasteurised pints of Tennent's lager sent to the T In The Park music festival, 1.75 million pints of lager in the storing tanks waiting to be put into bottles, cans or kegs, and a mind blowing 9 million pints of ale brewed every week!
We worked our way through into the inner sanctum of the brewery but not before Michael pointed out the impressive artwork by Glasgow street artist Smug that adorn a number of the storage tanks and walls around the yard. If you're ever driving along Duke Street, look out for some of the former Glasgow School of Art students work on the outside walls of the Tennent's building.
Once inside, our first stop was the brew room where the magic happens, before working our way down to the huge bottling and canning plant where the end product is packed up before being distributed all over the world to the Tennent's faithful.
One of the things that surprised me most whilst on the tour was when we were told that the brewery also produces lager and beer for some of the UK’s major supermarket chains. I know that the supermarkets need to get beer made somewhere, I just hadn't thought about where that might be. Another little surprise was finding out that the brewery also produces one of the best selling big brand lagers too but I'll not give too much away but if you want to know more, then you'll need to get along for your own tour!

From here, we left the industrial setting of the bottling plant and continued on to the Tennent's Training Academy which is situated towards the back of the huge Wellpark site. I had always thought that the academy was nothing more than a simple cook school for wannabe home chefs but The Tennent's Training Academy is so much more.
Yes, the academy does run a range of varied cookery courses and themed events where resident chefs put the course attendees through their paces but the Academy also delivers a huge amount of training, as well as offering support to staff within the growing hospitality industry. Hotels, restaurants and bars can send their staff along for training to qualification level ensuring that their staff are at the top of their game when it comes to serving their own customers.
We didn't get to see much of the presentation kitchen as there was a Curry Cookery class on at the time of tour and the students were just about to sit down to eat the fantastic smelling food that they had just prepared.
Our tour was coming to an end and we worked our way back to the main building where Keith Lugton The Master Brewer was waiting to continue our indoctrination of all things Tennent's.
Keith has been employed by Tennent's since 1977 and is now heavily involved in the research and development of new products as well as being a true ambassador of the brand. Aware that we had spent the last hour walking around the site, Keith was the perfect host as he offered us some welcome light refreshments. We tried not one, not two, but 13 different beers that are produced within the site, including a few beers that are brewed specifically for the export market. (More’s the pity as the strong 9% ABV Tennent’s Extra and Tennent's Scotch Ale were both popular with almost all of the tour guests)
I haven't drank Tennent's Lager (or any it’s siblings) for quite some time so was not expecting much from this section of the evening. Perhaps the craft beer snob in me has turned me away from my heritage? However as Keith talked us through each of the beers, explaining the processes used to make the beers and helping us identify the different notes and flavours that each beer holds, I have to admit that maybe I should remember that there are some pretty good locally produced beers that shouldn't be overlooked.
Our night was almost over but not before a huge selection of tasty nibbles and bites were served up to go with the free flowing beer, including miniature Scotch pies……. well it wouldn't be right to have a pint and no pie, would it?
The Meet the Master Brewer Tour is something that Tennent’s hope to run on a more regular basis, in fact we were the guinea pigs for the tour but based on what we experienced on the night, I hope to be back as a paying customer on the tour and also as a student at The Tennent's Training Academy.
The standard tour is informative and fun whilst giving a great back story to Tennent's and the role that the company and its products hold in our history. So if you happen to have a spare few hours on an afternoon, why not get yourself along to Wellpark and do a little learning? Don't worry, you can grab a cold pint of Tennent's when your done… After all, learning can be thirsty work!

 Written by Gerry Haughian Written by Gerry Haughian

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