The sheer dogged resilience of some some beers is staggering. Gold Label (formerly Whitbread Gold Label, before that Tennant's* Gold Label) is a prime example, normally to be found skulking in the corner of the Sainsbury's beer aisle, propping up another haggard old-timer Mackeson Stout, both forced shamefully into garish modern dress for the benefit of a target audience that cares little for them, or anything much else, I imagine. Thomas was kind enough to acquire this can for me: the fact that it comes in four-packs has always put me off, even though it sells for buttons.
So what have we got? 7.5% ABV -- "Strong as a double scotch, less than half the price" ran the strapline: an all-time classic of superliminal advertising -- it's a wholesome dark gold colour. The head doesn't hang around and the body is barely troubled by bubbles. It smells like a fairly typical pale bock: nettles and sugar, though there's also an edge of sherry in there hinting at something more dangerous. And yet it's surprisingly innocuous on tasting. There are no really strong flavours, no tramp-juice sickliness or overdone booze heat. Rather it's smooth, lightly sugary like candyfloss, and with some subtle mango and apple flavours in the background. No, I'm not taking the piss. The alcohol does get more pronounced as it warms, unsurprisingly, and some nasty marker pen and acetone begins to creep in.
Overall, not the disaster I was expecting. I can see how it survived the darker days of 20th century British brewing, offering something with a bit more personality than insipid canned lager or insipid canned bitter. Today it's deserving of some retro cred, I think.
*of Sheffield. Not be confused with Tennent's, of Glasgow. Thanks to Ron and NBW for the comments.