5AROMA 10/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 10/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 20/20
I’ve been a huge fan of Newcastle Brown Ale for almost a decade now, but I’ve never sat down and truly pontificated as to why I like it so much until tonight. Drinking it at home isn’t quite as good as it is on tap, but even under such “handicapped” conditions I still found this to be one of the best beers I’ve ever had. It’s sweet, tasty, extremely smooth and surprisingly light in body for such a dark beer. That’s what I call a winning combination, don’t you?
Before I get into this review I must recommend all first-time drinkers try Newcastle on tap rather than out of the bottle at home. Newcastle is bottled in clear bottles which tends to lead to the slightest skunky smell and taste due to the beer being penetrated by light (why exactly this happens is for the scholars to explain). Drinking it straight from the keg means you’re getting a much fresher beer, although perhaps only we beer snobs have such sensitive palates to actually taste and/or smell the difference.
Furthermore, if you drink it at a bar or restaurant be sure to drink it in a room-temperature pint glass, not a frosted mug. A respectable establishment should already serve the beer cool (50 degrees), not ice cold. Although I guess that’s half the fun of being a Newcastle fan – the challenge to drink it under ideal conditions.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
Out of the bottle Newcastle pours extremely smooth, almost a little too smooth, actually. To form any kind of head you must pour it a little abrasive to create some kickback. It forms a thin, soapy, off-white head which doesn’t linger for very long. Upon the initial pour this beer appears to be well-carbonated, but it quickly settles down and becomes almost completely tepid.
Newcastle has a very unique color where it’s difficult to discern if it’s truly a brown or red beer. Either way, it’s beautiful thanks to its clear complexion.
The aroma is surprisingly mild. Caramel and other sweet malts are noticeable but they are a little subtle in their scent. Brown ales are not heavily seasoned like many dark beers, so first-time drinkers tend to find the beer weak-smelling when it’s actually at the proper potency.
I’ve always maintained that a beer’s taste is the heart of its quality which is probably why Newcastle Brown Ale is such a favorite of mine. This beer has a fantastic taste of caramel, brown sugar and is overall very sweet. There isn’t much of a hop bite to the beer, although there is just the slightest amount present to keep the beer from tasting like a porter or a marzen.
Newcastle is actually so sweet it could easily be mistaken for soda, but without the blatantly artificial sweeteners present. With the proliferation of high fructose corn syrup and aspartame, it seems that beer might be the last refuge for those who like an authentic, organic sweetness and Newcastle is a great place to find it.
It’s rare to find a beer that’s as pleasing to your palate and genuinely delicious without being gimmicky. In fact, its flavor is actually quite mild compared to other heavily-spiced beers, or maybe it just seems that way because it’s so easy to drink.
A beer’s taste and its finish are partially related, but there is no hard-and-fast rule correlating the two. But in the case of Newcastle, I don’t think it would as great a beer as it is had its finish been anything less than silky smooth.
In fact, “smooth” is a bit of an understatement, because it implies the slightest amount of friction. Newcastle goes down like water, probably due to its well-balanced flavor and low amount of carbonation. It’s a beer that can and should be drunk by the gulp, not the sip. It’s almost a test of will power not to chug it a pint at a time.
For such a dark beer, Newcastle is surprisingly light in body. It has rather low potency of 4.7% ABV, which helps to explain why it’s so easy to drink. Additionally, the beer only has 150 calories (although I’m not able to confirm this), which is competitive with many mainstream lagers. Newcastle’s drinkability makes it an ideal beer to accompany a meal since it is easy on your constitution. Of course, its delicious taste makes it an alternative to dessert as well.
I’ve tried so many beers of so many styles from around the world but few have left an impact on me as Newcastle Brown Ale. It’s just so tasty and so easy to drink I can’t find a flaw with it (other than the clear bottles).