Newcastle Brown Ale, Tyne and Wear
No need to panic, but Newcastle Brown is nowadays not brewed in Newcastle , but over the river in Gateshead . There was no major civil unrest at the change, although all the might of the European Union was unleashed to deal a dreadful blow to the brewers, removing its Protected Geographical Indication status. They must have been quaking in their boots.
The beer, however, remains as it has been since one Colonel J. Porter developed it in the 1920s, launching the product on the world in 1927. It immediately became a hit, at the 1928 International Brewery Awards winning the gold medals still displayed on its label.
At 4.7% ABV a few decades ago it was considered very strong, and was the beer of choice of students seeking more bang for their bursary buck, but that was before brewery marketing men decided strong meant better.
Newcastle Brown is, rather rarely, the product of blending two beers, an amber ale and a strong sweet ale, the latter not sold in its own right but solely destined for blending. The resulting drink has a pleasant reddish hue, and a nicely complex range of flavours: nutty; caramel toffee; plenty of malt. It is a hoppy brew – including Target and Hallertau hops – and though with a bitter edge it tends towards the sweet side, though nowhere near as sweet as the southern style brown ale epitomised by Mann’s version.
We may gripe at the move over the river, but it is good that distinctive local styles of ale like Newcastle Brown survive in a world littered with often bland international lagers and too many bitters without bite. And not a bad commercial decision too: the Americans take as much as the British market; you’ll see it as far away as Sydney too; and it remains one of the bottled beers regularly available in pubs throughout the country.