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 kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz or Instagram @cheers_magazine. Read his recent piece 8 American Whiskey Trends in 2019.

6 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

  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.

  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.

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