Craft Beer Tasting: Newcastle Werewolf

Again, I am opening each of these articles of late with an apology for their sparseness. Even my calendar has been in disarray. I am in a certificate program in Web Design, for which the final class has turned out to be on programming databases in Ruby on Rails. And it's quite hard to get my head around. I am working hard to pass this one, so I don't repeat the "D's" I got back in college: in FORTAN and Pascal.

But I have some breweries I've visited that I want to talk about, and a large backlog of beers sent for my review. One of those is a seasonal, appropriate for the month of October. And it's not an Oktoberfest.

Newcastle Werewolf is the fourth of this UK brewer's seasonals that I have sampled, courtesy of Newcastle's PR people. This is made, like Newcastle's Winter IPA, in Heineken's Caledonian brewery in Edinburgh, Scotland (The original Newcastle Brown Ale is made at Heineken's John Smiths brewery in Tadcaster, England).

The label describes Werewolf as having "at first mellow overtones of sweet berry fruit, a bite of bitterness suddenly cuts through, long, deep and lingering. Brewed with Rye Malt, it is naturally "blood red" in colour."  It's broadly classified as an Extra Special Bitter, carried 4.5% alcohol by volume and a relatively mild 23 International Bitterness Units, from English Fuggles and Golding hops.

My tasting: I tend to overuse the term "earthy" when describing English ales, but this one easily fits the description easily. The smell when poured into the glass brings up that rye spice, a little bit of phenol (medicinal smell), or perhaps just some extra malt going around. The beer's body has the reddish amber color of many harvest ales. The taste pretty much delivers as advertised, making it hard to come up with more ways to describe it. Rich and malty, again, "loamy," with a bit of peat and nut brown malt. The English hop profile makes it pretty comfy instead of overly bitter. And the rye offers a nice spicy character, although it may be contributing to some of that phenol in the finish as well. Still, it goes down nicely and is worth seeking out as a fall brew. Might be comparable to this year’s version of Goose Island's Harvest Ale, which seems to have taken a turn toward the English Bitter style.

If you look closely at the photo, you'll see the fake claw marks on the label. My bottle also had what looked like claw marks scratches in the glass, or perhaps it was a small flaw in the glass molding process.

Follow me on Twitter, Google+ or my Facebook fan page. For even more tappings and events, check my Google Calendar. My previous calendar at went dormant because the site webmaster got a brewing job at Solemn Oath in Naperville. Good luck!

Also, this Wednesday, check out my Musical Cheese radio show. Listen in at 9:00 p.m. on WIIT, 88.9 FM, from the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology. If you live more than a mile away from State and 31st, check the live stream at

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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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