Previewing Newcastle Founders' Ale

Somehow picking a "Big Game 46" beer matchup just doesn't interest me as much as last year's did. Last year we had two towns whose brewers weren't well represented in our area (yet) so I got to be a little daring. This Sunday… meh. Sam Adams Boston Lager vs. Brooklyn Lager. I didn't want to blow my cellared 1997 Sam Triple Bock and my 2002 Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, which are not really findable, to dignify a matchup I had no personal stake in.

Especially because I have a lot beers on the scene now. Like this one.

Newcastle's American reps have sent along some of their upcoming spring seasonal, Newcastle Founders' Ale. If you're keeping score, a brewery that has for years built its rep on its brown beer has extended to offer four seasonals covering the year: this, Winter IPA, Werewolf, and Summer Ale. The seasonals are brewed at Caledonian in Edinburgh, Scotland, but then again, the original Newcastle Brown is now being made in Tadcaster. I've dealt with it.

An info sheet I got with the beer proclaims it to be in the English Bitter style, which is actually not that much bitter compared to most beers we hopheads enjoy. But historically it was more bitter than the beers that came before it, when hops were expensive and heavily taxed. Just like today's Pale Ales don't seem all that pale.

There's also some info about the five-pointed star in the Newcastle logo: it "recognizes the five founding breweries of Newcastle, and this beer further celebrates the legend of our original hard-working Geordie brewers and patrons," according to Newcastle brand director Charles van Ed. I also note selection of what appears to be 1920's typefaces on the label, but that's me.

The beer itself: Pours a nice amber to orange beer into my English style pint glass, bubbly, under a thick head. The smell brings in fruity esters right off the start. As with many Northern England or Scots made brews, I imagined I catch a little peat in the nose as well. The taste starts with a slightly thin mouthfeel from light carbonation. Not near a pub draught, but a nice approximation. Its light malt sweetness has been tempered by hops, though I don’t catch any specific hop impression except for maybe a tinge of earthiness. The fact sheet says it uses Styrian Goldings hops, which, despite the Germanic name are actually derived from English Fuggles. Pardon me for the esoterica. But with a low rate of fizziness and a medium 4.8% alcohol by volume, it can be looked as a nice session beer.

I am told that Founders' Ale should be going "wide" this month. So far it has turned up in bottles an on tap in a few locations around the US. The Chicago area should see it soon.

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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