The Tennent’s lager saga

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At the beginning of last semester, Tennent’s enthusiasts Tom Coombes and Will Abell were confronted with a harsh reality: Tennent’s at the Union had been replaced by Carling. This change sparked an angry response that eventually led to the creation of the Tennent’s Appreciation Society and a petition to “Bring back our Vitamin T.”

Mr Coombes spoke to The Saint about his ordeal, relating the vivid memory of the night it all began.

He said, “On my first night back this year, I’d been drinking a few cans of Tennent’s before hitting the Union, where I was hugely excited at the prospect of a cool, crisp, and fresh draught of Tennent’s. Although I love the T no matter [what], you can’t argue against the fact that it just tastes best out of the tap, so it was with eager excitement and parched throat that I stumbled up to the bar and requested a foaming pint of Britain’s finest lager. [I was] confronted by the horror of a Carling logo, paired with Coors Light (America’s answer to Carling, though that was a question which they needn’t have responded to).”

Mr Coombes said that this swap-out “chilled [him] to [his] core” and lit a fire of indignation so strong that when he returned home he “fired out an article for The Saint and in a moment of blind rage even resorted to that lowest form of seeking a revolution: Change.org.”

The “Bring back our Vitamin T” petition received hundreds of signatures, and Mr Coombes was contacted by both local newspapers and the Tennent’s PR team. After some discussion and a bold bid for backing, Tennent’s helped set up the St Andrews Tennent’s Appreciation Society with the pioneering Mr Coombes as president.

The company gave the society vouchers that students could use to redeem a pint of Tennent’s lager in St Andrews pubs and bars, and, as if this wasn’t enough, also arranged for students at halls of residence to receive a mass delivery of lager crates.

Claire Arnott, head of UK brand activation at Tennent’s, said that the company was touched by the students’ story.

She said, “When we read the articles and petition, we thought sending some beer was the least we could do.”

The University of St Andrews Students’ Association was not so supportive, denying the society official recognition due to legal issues (especially ones relating to Tennent’s delivery of nearly two thousand cans of beer to University halls of residence, which the Association noted are home to many underage students).

The society now has, according to Mr Coombes and Mr Abell, around eighty members. Students have even enjoyed a free trip to a bacchanal evening hosted by Tennent’s at the company’s large Glasgow brewery pub. They were able to meet with PR staff members, who were “keen to do more with us,” according to Mr Abell. “They’re very interested in the campaign and would love to help us out with stuff around town.”

Mr Coombes described the night, saying, “There were fifty places per university to go along to the night, which was held in the Molendinar Bar, a classic pub-style venue with more Tennent’s pumps than you’ve seen in your whole life. Tokens were given out for our free pints of Tennent’s, which [were] obviously hugely popular amongst all of those who went, as were the bacon, sausage, and tattie scone rolls handed out around half-time in the night. One of the nicest touches was having Stay Fresh DJ, who has performed in Sub Club in the past, [DJ the night], though this was the most important gig of his career, I’m sure.”

The event was also a chance for society members to meet fellow Tennent’s aficionados, as it was the first meeting of both the St Andrews’ Tennent’s Appreciation Society and its counterpart at the University of Glasgow.

The University of Glasgow’s Tennent’s Appreciation Society was, Mr Abell believes, founded on less tragic grounds and instead exists to celebrate Tennent’s lager.

“[Their society was] formed with the intention of celebrating one of the finest student drinks about,” Mr Abell said.

It sounds like a very pleasant – and wonderfully unforeseen – evening.

In fact, it must all have come as quite a surprise after a half-hopeful call to arms that sparked such a backing. How do Mr Coombes and Mr Abell feel about all the attention they’re getting from Tennent’s?

Mr Coombes said, “I was surprised that they should have contacted me, but thankfully their brand lends itself to helping something like this out. It’s been nice chatting to both their PR team as well as others within their set-up and [seeing] how pleased they are that there’s been so much support for it.”

Tennent’s is supporting the society in its aim to get Tennent’s back into the Union every step of the way.

“We’re now in a dialogue with them regarding where to take the society from here,” Mr Coombes said. “It’s all very exciting. They are responding very positively to many of our ideas [for upcoming events].”

Recently, the students participated in a chilly photoshoot for Tennent’s. It was a peculiar and fun experience: a Tennent’s photographer took photos of three St Andrews students at key locations around town (the Union, the St Andrews Cathedral, and St Salvator’s Quad) to help with publicity.

“I know that Ollie McCausland and Will Abell, my two fellow models in the photoshoot we had a couple of weeks back, certainly enjoyed the cold morning spent posing with cans of Tennent’s in thin t-shirts, especially when we got to drink the cans afterwards,” Mr Coombes said.

This photoshoot is just one in a chain of amusing goings-on for the founders of the Tennent’s Appreciation Society.

Reflecting on the saga, Mr Coombes said, “I think everyone around me has found the whole thing hugely entertaining. I think they’re all as surprised as me that the article and petition have spiraled into all of this happening, but it’s been a fantastic experience. Personally I think it just shows that opportunities for things like this are out there, and they can come completely out of the blue. This entire episode has been hugely enjoyable, and that this seems to only be the opening chapter in the society is hugely exciting.”

The campaign might have a hint of the tongue-in-cheek about it, but the intention of the adventure does not. Thus far, Mr Abell sees the society as his crowning moment.

He said, “My friends and family think it’s pretty funny to be honest. I like to think my mum is proud of me, as I’ve finally reached my full potential.”

The question on people’s lips now is, of course, will Tennent’s be returning to the Union soon?

The popular lager has yet to be reintroduced, but it seems that Mr Coombes and Mr Abell are in it for the long run. They won’t let themselves get swept away in their humble quest to reinstate Tennent’s as the Union’s lager of choice. Though they continue to drink Tennent’s regardless of the Union not stocking it, Mr Coombes’ belief that “it just tastes best out of the tap” holds strong. Thus, the society’s inspiring mission statement is as follows:

“We won’t rest until Tennent’s is made available to all at low Union prices. With the kind support of […] Tennent’s themselves we hope to one day see this dream become a reality.”

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