It is priced at £0.88 pence for a pack of four 440 millilitre cans. At 22 pence per can, this is by far the cheapest drink I have yet tested. It is also the price that caused a storm in November 2007 when Asda and Sainsbury’s joined Tesco in selling lager at this “cheaper than water” price. Compared to the typical £0.30 to £0.50 pence retail price for a bottle of water, this value lager is undeniably cheaper. But is it any better?
Before doctors, the media and Jacqui Smith rush to condemn me as socially-irresponsible and deserving of an ASBO, here is my theory. At only 2% alcohol, there is little chance of the drinker becoming in any way sozzled. For that to happen, one would either need to consume seven hundred cans, or have all the bulk of Keira Knightly. Where this drink could find its niche is as a substitute for water. Think about it. Thirsty but can’t afford a bottle of water? Buy a can of value lager at half the price. Can’t afford to send water to a remote African refugee camp? Send them a crate of value lager. It could become as essential as the Red Cross in relief efforts. But, for that to work, this value lager must not be revolting. Let’s see how it does…
The can omits to mention the origins of the brewery. So to does it fail to mention the head brewer or the centuries of tradition. We do get a list of the ingredients. A symbol indicating 0.9 units of alcohol. And something they really splashed out on: a monochrome photo of drink in a glass.
Once poured into a glass, we can see how different it is to even the unglamorous illustration.
The head is barely discernable. After a couple of minutes, the head escaped the drink entirely. The colour is a near enough the colour that one would expect of lager. The smell too, is a vaguely correct approximation. If you sniff hard enough, you can make out a hint of malted barley and hops.
As far as taste is concerned, it does taste roughly like cheap, weak lager should. It is mildly bitter and it has a sour aftertaste. If you can imagine water that is flavoured to taste ever so slightly of lager, you would be close to imaging what this tastes like.
If value lager is to be an effective substitute for water in the world’s disaster zones, then it must be equally drinkable. And I’m pleased to say, that it is nearly as drinkable as water. But that is of little surprise when the ingredients list tells you that water is in fact the chief ingredient. One blessing is that it is not as gassy as I had feared.
Tesco value lager is not difficult to sum up. It is water that is yellow in colour and tastes a little of barley. Need we fear the devastating social consequences of pricing cans of this lager alongside King Size Snickers or Pot Noodle? Not if my experience is anything to go by. Will it solve the world’s drinking water shortages the next time an earthquake hits a dust bowl ruled by a dictator? Only if that dictator has low standards.
Rating: Something between 0 and 1.
Have you tried Tesco Value Lager? Or similarly priced lager from any other the other retailers? If so, leave your thoughts about it in the usual place.
1st Update: April 2011
That was unexpected. A big thank you everyone for linking to this old post, reading it and commenting! You’ve made this old ‘review’ one of the surprise hits of the blog. As a reward, here’s a quick update. Back when I posted the review, the four-pack was 88 pence. In October 2010, it was up to 92 pence. By April 2011, it was demonstrating the effects of tax increases and inflation by scraping the Pound mark at 99 pence. That means that by the time you read this, you’ll be buying your four-pack of Tesco Value Lager from Harrods. Nevertheless, while Tesco Value Lager remains value, here are photos of the ‘new look’ can.