Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale is a brown ale, originally produced in Newcastle upon Tyne, but now brewed by Heineken at the John Smiths Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire and also for export at the Zoeterwoude Brewery in the Netherlands. Launched in 1927 by Colonel Jim Porter after three years of development, the 1960 merger of Newcastle Breweries with Scottish Brewers afforded the beer national distribution and sales peaked in the United Kingdom during the early 1970s.[2] The brand underwent a resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s with student unions selling the brand.[2] By the late 1990s, the beer was the most widely distributed alcoholic product in the UK. By the 2000s, the majority of sales were in the United States, although it still sells 100 million bottles annually in the UK.[3][4] Brewing moved in 2005 from Newcastle to Dunston, Tyne and Wear, in 2010 to Tadcaster, and in 2017 to the Heineken Brewery in Zoeterwoude, the Netherlands. As of March 2019, the brand is brewed by Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California and Chicago, Illinois.

Newcastle Brown Ale
Newcastle Brown Ale poured in pint glass
TypeBrown ale
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Introduced1927 (1927)
Alcohol by volume4.7%

Newcastle Brown Ale is perceived in the UK as a working-man's beer, with a long association with heavy industry, the traditional economic staple of the North East of England.[1] In export markets, it is seen as a trendy, premium import and is predominantly drunk by the young.[1] It was one of the first beers to be distributed in a clear glass bottle and it is most readily associated with this form of dispense in the UK.


Tyne Brewery, Newcastle

Newcastle Brown Ale was originally created by Lieutenant Colonel James ('Jim') Herbert Porter (b. 1892, Burton upon Trent), a third-generation brewer at Newcastle Breweries, in 1927. Porter had served in the North Staffordshire Regiment in the First World War, earning his DSO with Bar before moving to Newcastle. Porter had refined the recipe for Newcastle Brown Ale alongside chemist Archie Jones over a period of three years.[5] When Porter actually completed the beer, he believed it to be a failure, as he had actually been attempting to recreate Bass ale.[6] The original beer had an original gravity of 1060º and was 6.25 ABV,[7] and it sold at a premium price of 9 shillings for a dozen pint bottles.[5]

Newcastle Brown Ale went into production at Tyne Brewery in 1927, with Newcastle Breweries having occupied the site since 1890, with brewing on the site dating back to 1868.[8]

The blue star logo was introduced to the Newcastle Brown Ale bottle in 1928, the year after the beer was launched. The five points of the star represent the five founding breweries of Newcastle.

After the merger of Scottish Brewers with Newcastle Breweries in 1960, Newcastle Brown Ale became a flagship brand of Scottish & Newcastle alongside McEwan's Export and Younger's Tartan Special.

By 1997, Scottish and Newcastle claimed that it was the most widely distributed alcoholic product in both pubs and off licences in the country.[9]

Move to Federation Brewery, Gateshead

Despite investing £16.6 million in a new bottling plant at the Tyne Brewery in 1999,[10] Scottish and Newcastle announced its closure on 22 April 2004, in order to consolidate the brewing of beer and ale in the Federation Brewery site in Dunston, Gateshead, which was to pass to them with their £7.2m purchase of the Federation Brewery.[11] The purchase and consolidation at Dunston created the new brewing company, Newcastle Federation Breweries.[8]

The last production run of Brown Ale in Newcastle came off the Tyne Brewery line in May 2005.[8] Pre-production trial brews were conducted at Dunston to ensure no change occurred in its taste after the move.[8]

The Tyne Brewery site was bought by a consortium of Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council, and the regional development agency One NorthEast, as part of the wider Newcastle Science City project.[12] Demolition of the former brewery began on 8 March 2007.[13] The triggering of the controlled demolition of the former Barrack Road bottling plant opposite St James' Park was ceremonially performed by Sir Bobby Robson on 22 June 2008.[14]

Move to John Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster

Bottling of Newcastle Brown Ale moved to the John Smith's Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, in 2007.[15]

Heineken bought Scottish and Newcastle in a joint deal with Carlsberg in 2008.[16]

On 13 October 2009, Scottish and Newcastle announced that it planned to close the Dunston brewery in 2010, moving production of Brown Ale to the John Smiths Brewery in Tadcaster.[17] The company cited the general fall in the market for beer, over-capacity in its plants in general, and the fact that the Dunston site was currently operating at just 60% capacity — despite the fact that sales of Newcastle Brown Ale had never been higher — as reasons for the closure.[17] The plan to close the brewery by the end of May 2010 was confirmed on 21 April 2010.[2][18]

In 2015, it was announced that caramel colouring, which has been used since the beer was launched, would be removed from the beer for health reasons.[19] Instead, roasted malt would be used to darken the beer.[19]

Move to Zoeterwoude Brewery, the Netherlands

In 2017, Heineken announced that some production would move from the John Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster, to the Zoeterwoude Brewery in the Netherlands. The company claimed this would allow for shorter order lead times and faster transportation to the U.S. and allow distributors to purchase by the pallet rather than the container.[20] In the last half of 2019 the company started making a different version in America and ceased importing Brown Ale from Europe. As of September 2019, Newcastle Brown Ale is still brewed in Tadcaster, Yorkshire for the UK and some EU markets, and also in Holland for the export market.

Production and distribution

Newcastle Brown Ale is brewed with pale malt and crystal malt.[21] It has a lower hopping rate than traditional English bitters.[21]

The beer is one of the United Kingdom's leading bottled ales and is in the top 20 highest-selling ales overall, selling around 100,000 hL (2,200,000 imp gal; 2,600,000 US gal) annually.[22] At the time of brewing moving to Dunston in 2005, Newcastle Brown was being exported to 41 countries.[8] At times, over half of the brewery's output is directed overseas to the U.S.[23] In 2010, more than 640,000 hL (14,000,000 imp gal; 17,000,000 US gal) the beer were sold in the United States, more than double the 2001 total.[24] In the United States the beer is available in bottles and in keg. Newcastle Brown is also distributed in cans in the U.S., but is very rare.

In Canada and France (Brittany), the beer is available in short and tall bottles and in cans. The beer is also available in British-themed pubs as a draught beer in Australia and New Zealand, brewed in the UK and imported by World Brands Australia Pty Ltd. The UK-brewed bottled, kegs, and cans are widely available in Australian liquor outlets as part of their international range. It is also popular in Canada, available on draught at many British-themed pubs.

Names and phrases

In 2000, the beer was renamed "Newcastle Brown" with the "Ale" being removed from the front label. This change, only in the UK, was due to market research claiming that the term "ale" was outdated and costing the company sales in the youth drinking markets. The older name was reinstated with no fanfare in 2004, when it was realised that the change had made no difference to sales.[25]

In the North East, Newcastle Brown Ale is often given the nickname "Dog", alluding to the British euphemism of seeing a man about a dog.[26] It is also known as Broon, "brown" pronounced in the Geordie dialect. Elsewhere in the UK, it is known as Newkie Brown.[27]


Newcastle Brown Ale is traditionally sold in Britain in 1-imperial-pint (568 ml; 19 US fl oz) and, more recently, 550-millilitre (0.97 imp pt) bottles. Typically, the ale is consumed from a 12-imperial-fluid-ounce (340 ml; 12 US fl oz) Wellington glass. This allows the drinker to regularly top-up the beer and thereby maintain a frothy "head". In the United States, it is sold in 12-US-fluid-ounce (350 ml) servings. In April 2010, Heineken USA introduced the Wellington glass, branded as the "Geordie Schooner," for Newcastle Brown Ale consumers in America. The glass features a nucleated base.[28]

Association with the North East

Like many British breweries, Newcastle Brown is strongly associated with its local area, in this case north east England. While the name provides a lot of this, the sponsorship of Newcastle United and the depiction of the River Tyne in the blue star has helped ensure its association. Its local provenance gave the brand an association with "hardy, working class traditions and values".[2]

Under the European Union Protected Geographical Status laws introduced in 1992, the name Newcastle Brown Ale was granted protected brand status in February 2000.[29] In late 2007 this was removed when brewing of the beer moved wholly away from its place of origin to Tadcaster in Yorkshire. The company was obliged to make a formal application to cancel it.[30]

The closure of S&N's Dunston brewery in May 2010 left Camerons Brewery in Hartlepool as the only remaining significant volume brewery based in the North East of England.[15]


Special editions

When the Australian brewer Elders IXL launched a takeover bid for Scottish and Newcastle, locals of Newcastle began the "Keep Us on Top!" campaign. As a sign of solidarity, the Newcastle Brown label was inverted until the takeover was quashed.

In 2005, the last 3,000 bottles produced in Newcastle were given commemorative labels "121 years of brewing history, last bottles produced at Tyne Brewery April 2005." and given to the brewery staff.[8]

In 2006, a special production run of 2.5 million bottles celebrated the career of Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer, who had recently broken the club's scoring record and was about to retire from football. The brewery produced the special editions featuring Newcastle United's black and white stripes and Shearer's portrait, in exchange for a donation to Shearer's testimonial match, and they went on sale from 17 April that year.[31]

In 2007, a special edition was released to celebrate local rock band Maxïmo Park. The label was designed by the band and the beer released to coincide with the band's concert at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena on 15 December. Also in 2007, a special 80th anniversary themed bottle was distributed.

In 2013, Newcastle partnered with Taxi Magic to brew a Black Ale called Newcastle Cabbie as part of an Anti-Drunk Driving campaign.[32]

Other Newcastle brands

Newcastle Exhibition is a draught pasteurised keg beer (4.3% ABV) first introduced in 1929 and commonly found around the Newcastle area.[33]

Newcastle Amber Ale (1032 OG) was a light ale available until the 1980s. It was a diluted version of Exhibition. Amber Ale and a much stronger aged stock beer were formerly blended to create Newcastle Brown Ale.[34] This method was discontinued sometime before the brand was moved to Dunston.

Newcastle Star was a strong bottled beer (7.5% ABV) available from 1999 to 2006.[35]

In 2010, Heineken USA launched Newcastle Summer Ale in bottles. In 2011, Heineken USA launched Newcastle Werewolf (fall ale) and Winter IPA. In 2012, Heineken USA will introduce Newcastle Founders ale (an Extra Special Bitter style) as their spring seasonal.

In 2012, Summer Ale (4.4%) and Founder's Ale (4.8%) were launched in Tesco across the UK.[36]

In winter 2012, Newcastle winter ale (5.2%) and Newcastle nocturnal ale (4.5%) were also launched in Tesco stores across the UK.

  • Newcastle Brown Ale is mentioned in Eric Hutchinson's song "Rock 'N Roll": "Lately it's been a big hassle/Heineken and Newcastle"
  • In the film Celeste and Jesse Forever, Jesse is seen drinking a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale in a bar.
  • In the film version of The Who's Tommy, both Frank (Oliver Reed) and Uncle Ernie (Keith Moon) are seen consuming Newcastle Brown Ale. The latter is seen putting a raw egg yolk into his ale and then drinks it.
  • It is also shown in the film The Devil's Own during the night when the Irish guest arrives in the home of Sergeant Tom O'Meara. At the dinner table, the Sergeant says, "I suppose you have this over there".
  • A Newcastle Brown Ale sign was seen in the movie Sully in a scene where Sully enters an Irish bar.
  • In the 2008 film Taken during a scene when Liam Neeson is hosting a barbecue his friends turn up holding a six pack of Newcastle brown ale.
  • In the 2008 film Pineapple Express starring Seth Rogen, Ed Begley Jr.'s character Robert Anderson, who is the father of Angie played by Amber Heard is seen at the family dinner table drinking a can of Newcastle Brown Ale.
  • In season 3, episode 4 of Power, Tommy takes a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale from the fridge while talking to Holly


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  35. "Newcastle Star – 53 at RateBeer". Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  36. Archived 28 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  • Good Company: The Story of Scottish and Newcastle, Berry Ritchie and Susannah May, James & James (Publishers) Ltd (September 1999), ISBN 0-907383-08-4

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