Last year when I was visiting Chicago my dear friend Mr. Brown showed up at my house with something I don’t think I had never seen before. Newcastle it seems, brewer of famous “one and only” Newcastle Brown Ale, had introduced a seasonal Summer Ale and Mr. Brown had graciously brought over a twelve pack for us to consume.
It wasn’t bad. It didn’t really leave too much of a lasting impression on me, i.e. when it came up in conversation a few nights later I believe I said something to the effect of, “Yeah, it kinda just tastes like Newcastle, but a little bit different”. And that’s okay. Newcastle Brown Ale, first introduced to the likes of Brown and I on the inner sleeve of Pigface’s 1994 album Notes From The Underground, became a fast favorite to a bunch of guys who weren’t twenty-one and had to rely on, ah, special methods of procuring alcohol*. As years went on and our tastes became more refined Newcastle became known as a beer that could cure stomach aches (cuz it did) and something for when you’re in a bit of a ‘fancy’ mood. I don’t think we had too much understanding of what good beer really was then, but it was in a Pigface album so it had to be imitated, yes?
Anyway, through the years I’ve come to distance myself a bit from the ‘Castle. It’s the clear glass bottles – I just don’t know what they’re thinking at the brewery. I mean, a brown ale that is exposed to the kind of light such a receptical allows… I know, if you buy it in a twelve pack it’s protected (somewhat) by the brown cardboard packaging. And even in a sixer I believe the cardboard covers most of the surface area of the bottles, but still, there is definitely some exposure. How many times have I bought a sixer of Newcastle and it just didn’t quite taste right…
Then, within the last couple of years, the aluminum can underwent something of a resurgence (timed, interestingly enough, with the resurgence of the cassette tape) and I began to find Newcastle popping up around Hollywood in nice, sturdy cans. The taste of Newcastle in a can (when poured) is a beautiful thing and I began to feel a little bit of a resurgence of my own interest in the indeed truly unique Newcastle taste.
A little over a week ago I went into my new favorite liquor store and while I was cobbling together a mixture of delicious Black IPA’s and other assorted merriment from their build-your-own-six-pack-isle I overheard someone talking about Newcastle Werewolf.
I was intrigued.
I went home that day with a twelver of the new ale. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the thrill of a new Newcastle – even if the Summer ale didn’t make quite what I’d call a lasting impression – especially one with a tag line such as ‘Blood Red Ale’ didn’t excite me all by itself. Despite the above described on/off relationship with the brewery I have a healthy nostalgic love for them and want them to put out new and interesting brews.
Werewolf is not exactly that, but it is good.
My friend Joe recently described Werewolf as pretty much exactly what you’d think a red ale from Newcastle would taste like – i.e. like the Summer Ale, Werewolf is not that drastically different from the classic Brown Ale. However, there is something to be said for subtlety. Werewolf has a good, classic red ale flavor and does not suffer from that borderline vinegar-ish taste that other reds occasionally do. It’s not a huge stretch from their other beers but there is enough of a flavor tilt to make it at least worth giving a try.
Linked below is an article I recently found researching Newcastle that discusses their new “Seasonal Brew Program” – I’m especially interested here to see their forthcoming IPA – perhaps with each new product they will strike out a bit and experiment, maybe refine ways to keep the hallmark Newcastle foundation and deviate the flavor a bit more than they have thus far. Either way, any Newcastle is, in my book (especially when NOT in a clear bottle, as Werewolf is not) a good thing for us beer drinkers.
* Usually either a friend or girlfriend’s older sibling or, for a period, a handwritten speeding ticket that we used hairspray and an eraser to alter, so that a certain notoriously Spicoli-esque liquor store clerk in nearby suburb Bridgeview got to know me for a few weeks as a, ahem, twenty-one year old, to the point that after about the third time I went in and bought there the guy stopped actively carding me and began making small talk based on my Corrosion of Conformity t-shirts or some other such nonsense. Folks, I did NOT look 21. I was lucky to even look 18. Just saying…