The Halftime Pint: Newcastle Founder’s Ale

One of the greater things about watching football in America is that most matches, especially those of the EPL, are early in the morning American time, giving people an excuse to daydrink. This is part of our series discussing exactly what to drink when you’re at the pub, presented by our resident homebrewer, Keith.

The Beer: Newcastle Founder’s Ale, Newcastle Brown Ale, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, UK (Now owned by Heikenken and brewed at John Smith’s Brewery

The Pub: The Queen Vic, in Northeast DC

What You Need to Know:  The English “Bitter” category is a place where breweries put their regional and personal style forward.  It’s a generally low-alcohol and low-hop style, usually is cask conditioned (meaning carbonation is not forced from a carbon dioxide or nitrogen canister, but occurs naturally in a cask). It’s what you’ll find in the lower handles at any pub in England (i.e. not the loudly, proudly announced “COLD” beers).  Bitters can range from 3.5 to 5.5 percent alcohol, making them ideal for either an accompaniment to a mid-week lunch, or for a daylong session.

Bitters are also generally codified as you climb up the percentages. An “Extra Special Bitter,” or ESB, generally comes out at 5.5, is generally a little hoppier, more full-bodied and darker in color.  

Newcastle Brown Ale, now owned by Heineken, is a famous representation of the Northern Brown Ale that we know so well.  The beer was first introduced in 1927 by Newcastle Brewing Company’s Lieutenant Colonel Jim Porter, himself a third-generation brewer.  Oddly enough, “Nukey Brown,” as it’s occasionally known, was the result of something that homebrewers might be familiar with: a failed clone attempt.  Seems that Col. Porter was trying to make Bass Pale Ale, went a little heavy on the more roasted malts, and inadvertently created the Northern Brown, which is thinner and paler, but stronger, than the previously reviewed Mild Ale.  The Tyne Brewery, where Newcastle originated, closed in 2004, with production shifted to Federation Brewery in Dunston, Gateshead, and Newcastle Brewing as a whole was acquired by Heineken and Carlsberg in 2008.  Production was once again shifted completely in 2010 to the John Smith Brewery in Tadcaster; in that same year, Heineken began producing seasonal ales under the Newcastle banner, with Founder’s Ale the most recent of said releases.

So, About This Beer: Malt and alcohol, with a touch of wet straw, feature heavily in the aroma. Beer pours a pale copper with a fluffy off white head. Mouthfeel is thin, with a fair amount of carbonation. Heavy malt and toffee flavors fade out to hop bitterness, with a little touch of flowery esters from the yeast.

The Verdict: In the end, this is a pretty standard ESB.  I’ve had better representations of the style from both America and England, but Newcastle’s new Dutch overlords were wise in deciding to “diversify their bonds.”  That said, I’d still recommend going with the Brown Ale if you have a choice, or waiting until your pub has the Newcastle Summer Ale in. It’s good, but I’ve definitely had better.

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