A new beer from Newcastle? That's a novelty. Everybody knows and loves Newcastle Brown Ale, after all. It was one of the first beers that this beer geek enjoyed as he slowly stepped away from the dreaded mass market lagers so many years ago. But Newcastle was always, well, Newcastle. If you asked for a Newcastle, you got a brown ale. Now you'll have a decision to make, and while more beer options are always a welcome thing, it just seems a bit unusual in this case. Hey, they do call Newkie Brown "The One and Only" after all.
To be fair, Newcastle Brown Ale, made by Newcastle brewers which eventually merged into Scottish and Newcastle in 1960 and was subsequently purchased by Heineken in 2007, has long had sister brands. So maybe a new beer from Newcastle should not seem so odd after all. Regardless, it's here, and it's called Newcastle Summer Ale.
Newcastle Summer Ale debuted in the summer of 2009 on draft in select American test markets. Apparently, said tests were a success, and for 2010 it's available in bottles and being rolled out to more areas. I snagged a newly-stocked six-pack of gleaming brown glass bottles for $7.99, and quickly whisked them home for sampling.
Newcastle claims that Newcastle Summer Ale is all about the hops in a refreshing, lighter bodied ale. If you look at the neck label, you'll even see the term "Hops and Glory" proudly emblazoned for all to see. With that in mind, I went into the beer with great expectations.
Only to have them dashed on the rocks when I popped open the bottle......
Newcastle Summer Ale pours to a light golden blonde color with a moderate spritzy head formation and a lightly grassy hop nose. The palate is rather light-bodied with a bit of biscuity, crisp pale malt flavor up front. I get some buttery diacetyl in here, too. A hint of grassy hops show up just shortly after the malt hits, and they slowly intensify into the finish. They end a bit herbal and even, surprisingly, a little bitter. I guess that makes the beer drinkable, and even a tad pilsner like, but a bit more buttery than I'd like.
My problem is that I think the beer is a bit too light and out of balance. Sure, there are some hops here, but not enough more to be screaming "Hops and Glory!" about. A little more malt and a little more hops and you might have a decent ale for hot weather imbibing. But for me, I'd stick with an honest to goodness pilsner the likes of Konig-Pilsner, Pilsner Urquell or Jever Pils instead. Newcastle Summer Ale tries to be like them, but just doesn't succeed.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.