Lagunitas Now Brews Newcastle Brown Ale — How’s it Taste?

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Fans of Newcastle Brown Ale will notice a new flavor.

That’s because production has moved from the Netherlands to the U.S., where Chicago’s Lagunitas Brewery will now make the beer under a new recipe. Both brands are owned by Heineken, which made the switch as part of the U.S. relaunch of Newcastle Brown Ale.

So how’s it taste?

Heineken recently showed off the new flavor during a Lagunitas tour for distributors, retailers and media. We attended to sample the new recipe (and check out the Willy Wonka-does-beer experience that is Lagunitas).

Newcastle Brown Ale definitely tastes different. For starters, it’s less sweet.

Drinkers familiar with Lagunitas will likely think one word for this brewery: hoppy. It’s well known for bitter beers. So we wondered whether Newcastle Brown Ale might become much more bitter. After all, the new recipe includes classic Lagunitas hops: Centennial and Chinook.

But the end result is not extremely bitter. It’s perfectly balanced: roasted-malt caramel flavor with a subtle bitter backbone, more so than the old recipe. Lagunitas did add 8-10 more IBUs, but they blend in rather than stick out.

Newcastle Brown Ale has gotten a new flavor — and a new look.

Newcastle Brown Ale is also now an all-malt beer, made with Lagunitas house malt. Some fans may decry that this U.K. classic has become completely Americanized. To the contrary, Lagunitas Master Brewer Jeremy Marshal pointed out that the Chicago brewery uses a British-style house yeast.

He did not want to deviate far from what has worked for Newcastle Brown Ale. “We’re known for our super-hoppy beers, our barrel-aged specialties and other crazy brews, so the temptation was there,” Marshal said. “But this is not a beer you want to get that cute with. We said, ‘Let’s keep the soul intact’.”

The ABV remains the same (4.7%), as does the color.

Newcastle Brown Ale’s packaging received a modernized update. U.S. sales of the brand have slipped in recent years, prompting this rejiggering, and now it’s only available in 12-oz. bottles in packs of 6, 12 and 24, and 7.75-gallon slim steel kegs. When sales improve, the brand may consider extensions.

Bottles of the new flavor ship in March. Supporting marketing includes social media engagements, plus new POS and on-premise materials. The target demo is consumers who want accessible craft beer, rather than crazier styles.

Now a word on the Lagunitas Brewery tour. You enter through a long, black-lit, psychedelic hallway while Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” plays on loop. Lagunitas has a pro-cannabis stance, and the eclectic, trippy décor does not disappoint. Nor does the beer-geek part, including a 500-barrel German-made brew system that looks like the massive gleaming engines of the Starship Enterprise.

The 500-barrel German-made brew system at Lagunitas.

The 300,000-square-foot brewery once contained sound stages for movies (which are still filmed next door), including the Dark Knight scene where Joker burns a mountain of money.

Which is all to say: if you’re a beer nut, make the pilgrimage to Lagunitas.

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Cheers magazine. Reach him at or on Twitter @kswartzz or Instagram @cheers_magazine. Read his recent piece 8 American Whiskey Trends in 2019.

24 Replies to “Lagunitas Now Brews Newcastle Brown Ale — How’s it Taste?”

  1. […] Go to Source Author: Kyle Swartz {authorlink} […]

    • Lawrence Paloor says:

      They ruined my life long favorite beer. Sales may have been declining but
      I predict a total decimation of an iconic brand. I am sad.

    • Daryl Theriault says:

      Drinking Brown Ale for 26 years. I will not be drinking it anymore. More corvettes about getting new customers and forgetting about the ones that have supported you for years. See ya! Good luck

    • Jack Warfel says:

      They ruined it, it tastes watered down. I will never buy it again.

    • Joseph Hamel says:

      How can you call this stuff Newcastle. This is not Newcastle. I have been drinking the real Newcastle for 25 years. If you are going to label it Newcastle. It needs to be made as it was intended. If you are not going to make real Newcastle. Please remove the name from your product. This is false advertising.

  2. Bryan says:

    I tried Lagunitas Newcastle for the first and last time tonight. It’s a stringent, caustic, and minimally drinkable. Reimagined? More like ruined.

  3. Cameron Miller says:

    I just got a sixer of the new Newcastle and I’m actually impressed. It’s quite tasty and I’m glad that it is in brown bottles and not clear. It is expensive but it is a worthy effort for the name.

    • Josh says:

      They TOTALLY ruined Newcastle for me by brewing it in the US..I can’t stand the new tastes like a cheap Mexican brown..not what I expect from Newcastle..I guess I will not buy Newcastle anymore..THANKS

  4. Mike G. says:

    Won’t ever drink it again. The original had long been one of my favorites, but the new stuff tastes the Chicago sewer water.

  5. Dan O'Neal says:

    For years Newcastle was my goto, now it will be my soso. I tried the “new Newcastle” a little hoppy for my taste. They should change the name because it in no way resembles the NEWCASTLE we all loved. The bottom line is “I like beer” since I do I buy beer when it is on sale, but if the price is right and the beer is sh** then I move on. The “New Castle” is passable just do not expect Newcastle and it will be ok. RIP Newcastle! Bottom line another customer lost.

  6. Phall says:

    Took the old and the new Newcastles out on the boat last night for a relaxing taste test… You guys missed the boat on this one. I know tastes differ, especially when beer snots are involved but to me it was overhopped and not smooth.

  7. Edward M Connell says:

    Why buy the rights to Newcastle If you were going to change the recipe? It sucks.

  8. Don Conte says:

    Just tried the “NEW” Newcastle. If I wanted a peaty tasting drink I’d stick with scotch. Sorry but this is a step in the wrong direction for one of my favorite beers.

  9. Rick says:

    Obviously Newcastle Brown Ale drinkers were drawn to the brand because of the unique flavor it had. If you want to increase sales do a better marketing job; do not screw with the recipe and change it. i predict this will further decrease sales as more long time Newcastle consumers (myself included) look towards other brands of brown ale. Moose Drool, here I come!

    • Steve says:

      The one and only is gone! RIP , This Newcastle is terrible, I love Lagunitas and different beers , but being a fan of Newcastle, and now this Newcastle just isn’t even close to the original .

  10. richard b. says:

    Obviously Newcastle Brown Ale drinkers were drawn to the brand because of the unique flavor it had. If you want to increase sales do a better marketing job; do not screw with the recipe and change it. i predict this will further decrease sales as more long time Newcastle consumers (myself included) look towards other brands of brown ale. Moose Drool, here I come!

  11. […] crap. Now I only seem to be able to buy Newcastle Brown Ale, brewed by Lagunitas! UK beers are really hard to find now 🙁 #drink #beer […]

  12. Hooligan says:

    Yeah just tasted the new New Castle Brown Ale and I have to say… They have ruined “the one and only” unique taste of New Castle Brown Ale! They should change the label to New Castle Pale Ale! Luckily for me, the New Castle Brown Ale barrel I bought for my BDay in March 2019 was a Heineken New Castle Brown Ale with the original recipe!! Otherwise I would’ve asked for my $ back! The reason why they use the new dark glass is to hide the darker shade color from the new recipe! It’s not that beautiful Brown Ale it was once…

    • Walt says:

      I have been drinking Newcastle heavily for over 20 years along with neighbors, friends and family. We will never drink it again. I’m thinking of brewing my own copycat and opening a brewery.

  13. Damien* says:

    I have to concur with the many folks disappointed with the decimation of a classic. I preferred the version brewed in Newcastle over that brewed in the Netherlands; this is atrocious in comparison to both! If Heineken wishes to continue selling this, they need to append the name: Newcastle Bitters. Don’t get me wrong, if I was looking for a mild bitter beer, this isn’t bad: I might take it over ESB.

    I wasn’t! I want my brown beer back!

    Unfortunately, I bought a 12-pack; fortunately, I have neighbors and family who might suffer this well enough. Kodiak Brown Ale may have won a new long term customer.

  14. Bruno says:

    ruined the lives of Americans this new taste is a big shit, go back to the previous beer

  15. Alex says:

    After being introduced to (now ‘the old’) Newcastle Brown Ale about 3 years ago, it was the only beer that I ever really cared for. Flavorful, somewhat sweet, and easy to drink, without tasting cheap like most big brewery beers or overly hoppy like most contemporary ‘upscale’ beers.. something refreshing to drink after a hot day’s work, not something you choke down in a yuppie bar to mull over the nuances of flavor with your beer-aficionado friends. Well, now its gone, and tastes like every other hoppy wannabe craft brew on the market. Yeah, yeah, they had a slump in their sales over the past few years, but did they really need to throw the baby out with the bathwater and pander to a corner of the market that doesn’t even have any interest in beer from ‘big breweries’ anyway?

    • Damien says:

      You nailed it! I’ve been drinking the Tadcaster (or other) for 25 years and this just breaks my heart.

  16. Brent Beardsley says:

    Been drinking Newcastle for years. Had cases of it for my bachelor party in 1999. Sorry guys, the new one tastes like shit. How could you change the one and only so drastically and still call it Newcastle? Will never buy another bottle.

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