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.

67 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.

    • Jeff says:

      Newcastle was my ‘go to’ beer for the last 10 years. No more.

      If I wanted an IPA, I’d buy one. The new recipe tastes like a dozen other craft beers.

      Good luck standing out with that recipe…

    • Jay says:

      The new Newcastle is horrible!!! Bitter and hoppy- tastes like an IPA. Very sad. I have not found anything to replace it that is available here and have been forced to GIVE UP DRINKING!!!

    • Eddie says:

      They ruin it it sucks. Have drank it all my life it tastes like crap hoppy IPA. Ruined a good beer you’ll never get a dime of my money

    • Dewey says:

      Newcastle Brown Ale has been my favorite beer for years. When Heineken took over, the taste changed slightly but it was still smooth and enjoyable. Now that Lagunitas has taken over, it’s not Newcastle. It’s now a below average IPA. Just awful! I will now have to find a new favorite beer.

    • Ronnie says:

      I have be meaning to do this, so sad! They took a great beer and turned it into crap.
      This was my favorite go to Beer, I used to brag about it. There is an old saying; they traded sugar for shit.

    • What’s a wonderful refreshing if served cold beer, has been ruined and now is liking to a Scottish ale which if I wanted a Scottish ale I would buy one. Heineken when you were Brewing New Castle it was always skunky as hell just like your beer the s*** in the green bottle now you have moved it to a company who has no idea what a Newcie Brown fan wants. Congratulations you ruined a great beer

    • Bo says:

      I am not happy with the change! They have ruined my go -for decades. The new formula puts it in the lower middle of the pack for my choice of beers. This is a disaster of a formula change. This is almost a 100 yr old brand and it’s been ruined for a fad of IPA like beers. I would sooner see it discontinued than to die the death that Heineken and Lagunitas have brought to it.
      Bring back the original formula. Hop heads already have more than enough options. you didn’t have to ruin Newcastle.

    • Joseph Fick says:

      I want the sweet caramel and easy drinking old version. I don’t want an IPA or hoppy beer. They give me headaches. Newky Brown was it for me. Now I’m onto Guinness. What a sad story. Certainly, some stupid younger idiots didn’t take the time to ask us loyal fans what we want. I’ll buy the brand back when it fails. Dumb asses. BTW…my wife drinks NB. Are you listening jackasses.

    • Krash says:

      Why why why!? They have ruined this beer for me. It was at the top of my list for favorite beers. What are we going to do now?

  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 brew..it tastes like a cheap Mexican brown..not what I expect from Newcastle..I guess I will not buy Newcastle anymore..THANKS

    • Krash says:

      It’s a typical ale now. I hate it.

  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 .

    • Dave J says:

      Ruined the Newcastle taste I loved. Will not buy any more. I agree with 99.99999% (must be a Lagunitas marketing guy as the one positive review) of replies here.
      BRING BACK THE ORIGINAL RECIPE!

  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! https://cheersonline.com/2019/02/13/lagunitas-now-brews-newcastle-brown-ale-hows-it-taste/ 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.

  17. Kurt says:

    I hope all this negative feedback is getting to Heineken, the brand owner. The new taste has resulted in overwhelming negative impact and I’m here to add to that sentiment. I’ve been a dedicated New Castle beer drinker for 20 years. I try a lot of new beers, local craft beers and always migrate back to my favorite New Castle as my home go to beer. Now I’m lost. The new brew is too hoppy and tastes like 100 other hoppy beers out there. The unique Old English Brown Ale taste of New Castle is ruined. I’m an executive and understand consumer feedback. If the execs at Heineken are smart, they’ll bring the old recipe back or their market share is gone.

  18. Jason says:

    This new taste…. Might as well just go buy some cheaper US beer now, as it taste like the rest of our US beers… Bitter piss now

    Bring back the old recipe, PLEASE!!!

    • Ken Delliber Sr says:

      It was one of my favorite ales not anymore I bought my last twelve pack it’s ok but it’s not new Castle.If I wanted domestic ale I would have bought it!

  19. Leslie says:

    I have been drinking the “old “ Newcastle since the 70’s and it was unquestionably my favorite beer. But boy, this new recipe is AWFUL! Boy, I truly hope they listen to the fans and go back to the original formula or I will sadly miss an old favorite

  20. JD says:

    Wow. It is in comprehensible whatever rocket scientists / marketing guru’s thought this was a good idea. The king is dead. Newcastle was the quintessential brown ale of the world. It was rich in flavor and distinct in it bottling and label. You guy’s f’ed up every aspect of this poser substitute. 20 years. Tried and true. No more. Never again. You replaced Sean Connery with Roger Moore! Whoever is in charge should kill themselves or better yet be fired. Dumb ass ill conceived poor execution unnecessary attempt at what? Re-inventing the wheel. Why? It was perfect! Kiltlifter here I come.

  21. Tim Sisk says:

    What a complete disaster. I’ve been drinking the one and only for years and now they decide to appease the the younger crowd with an ipa that should not have the name Newcastle next to it . Is there anyone out there who can tell me what’s the closest substitute?

  22. Dwayne L Barnett says:

    I haven’t bought newcastle since they changed it.

    I miss the old recipe!

    • Topper says:

      Most rediculous marketing strategy ever. Take a beloved product and change the taste. Newcastle has become New Coke. Shame…

  23. Rob says:

    Newcastle has been my favorite beer for around 25 years. I felt duped when I bought the new Newcastle as I though only the packaging had changed. When I tasted it I thought I had a bad batch. It is completely unfathomable that a company would change the recipe for a product that has been around for 90 years and sells over 100,000,000 bottles annually. I will never buy it or anything Heineken/Lagunitas again! IDIOTS!

  24. Adrian Mora says:

    How can lagunitas even call this Newcastle? They took a good classic beer and turned it into a crappy IPA.

  25. todd masters says:

    This beer is crap! where is my Newcastle?!?

  26. Kevin Childers says:

    Ditto all the previous comments. This tastes roasty and chocalatey to my taste with a definite american hops finish. This is not the soft smooth nectar we all loved, not even close. Guess I’ll have to put “drink a Newcastle in Newcastle” on the bucket list.

  27. Don WVU says:

    Taste like Chicago Piss water ! I have went four states to buy up the last of the imported new castle , R.I.P. Our local distributors never have to refill that slot ,the new style sits and gets stale .

  28. Daryl Hall says:

    They ruined it. Made me so mad that I won’t buy anything Heineken again. Is there a petition to sign?

  29. Sam G says:

    I agree, this was my favorite beer. I always had it available in the fridge. They have ruined it. I’m sooooo pissed. I now have to find an alternating ve.

  30. Errol says:

    Just terrible. I tried the new Newcastle and was so disappointed. Just what we needed; another IPA. The old Tadcaster brew was very reliable, smooth, nutty, subtle sweet, not bitter. Just delicious.

    Sales dropped NOT necessarily because consumers were CHOOSING local brands over Newcastle, but because local pubs/bars were pressured to push local craft brands. Many bars in my hood (New Orleans) stopped selling Newcastle a couple years ago..

    BRING IT BACK DAMMIT!

  31. richard tate says:

    swill tastes like hops with a little tap water

  32. PAtrick says:

    Im with all the other comments
    This new stuff is piss why did you
    Mess with a pure great taste and then call it newcastle. Its shit
    Why did you even tjink this was a
    Good idear never ever again
    Sell out piss water

  33. Tim says:

    +1 on the terrible new recipe. I tried it with food, alone, after a couple other beers…no luck. It’s just not good. This was my favorite and now undrinkable.

  34. Tom Wycoff says:

    When I bought this 12 pack, I noted that the box, bottles, and label had changed. I still had 3 of the traditional Newcastles in my fridge. I drank one of the new ones, and thought that something was wrong. I went back and opened one of the old Newcastles, and drank the two of them side by side. Convinced me something was wrong. Went online, and found out about the recipe change with Lagunitas. This will not work for anybody. Not me, not Lagunitas, not Heineken, or any real Newcastle drinker.

  35. Bob Kay says:

    Dreadful . . . simply dreadful! And to think I trusted the brand so much that and bought two six packs today. Came home anticipating chilling it down nicely and having my first sip. My first sip turned into my last sip of this swill. I repeat; dreadful, simply dreadful. If it were the last beer on earth I wouldn’t give it a second look! Talk about destroying a wonderful, delicious beer. That’s all they’ve managed to do.

  36. Larry says:

    I too loved the taste of the original Newcastle and now it’s awful. I will not buy anymore of the new Newcastle I hope that someday someone will bring back the original

  37. Mary King says:

    Very saddened by the change!
    Tastes terrible, will not be buying
    ever again.

  38. Buckshot Roberts says:

    New recipe equals: straight garbage.

  39. Mike Lippincott says:

    I hate it. I stopped buying it. Every once in a while I see the old stuff and buy a six pack but I can’t drink the new. It was my “go to” for years. Now I have to find another. I hope Heineken realizes that they never should have changed it.

  40. Daryl Hall says:

    My favorite beer ruined. Marketing might have been a problem but not the beer itself. Very sad to see this happen and the company still seems clueless. Once they left Newcastle it was just a matter of time. Btw, they should take the medals off the labels. The new beer has never won anything but disgust from former loyal beer drinkers. Goodbye old friend.

  41. James Lazar says:

    Sadly, I remember the same thing happened to Bass Ale. Like the Newcastle I just bought and want to pour down the drain because it sucks, the same thing happened a few years back when I bought a 12 pack of Bass. I was shocked to see it was brewed in the USA, and tastes like crap. What are these people thinking?

  42. Yantad says:

    I absolutely agree with all the comments. This was the only beer I could share with my wife. Not too bitter, not too sweet. Heineken also ruined the packaging. Transparent white, nice shaped bottle, with very elegant label was magical. Anytime I looked at this beer I could not resist buying it. It is all gone in new US version. Shame on Heineken for destroying excellent, unique beer.

  43. Jay Lee says:

    I’ve never commented on sites before, but I was compelled to say something about this “new recipe” Newcastle. First of all, I was a faithful “old recipe” Newcastle drinker for years. As above, this new recipe missed the mark completely! I’ve now switched to Guinness extra stout! Every now and then I come across an old recipe Newcastle, I buy it with an ear to ear grin on my face!
    Good luck & see ya!

  44. Pissed off Newcastle Drinker says:

    Nevermind they changed the recipe they changed an icon. This is the worst change they could have done. It taste worst than sewer water. Lol I work at a wastewater treatment plant. I will never buy another unless they bring back the old recipe.

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