Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale
Newcastle Brown Ale
Manufacturer Heineken
Introduced 1927
Alcohol by volume 4.7%
Style English brown ale

Newcastle Brown Ale is a beer produced by Heineken International. It was introduced in 1927 by Newcastle Breweries. In 2005, brewing was moved out of Newcastle upon Tyne for the first time, to Dunston on the other side of the River Tyne, and in 2010 moved entirely to Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. In the United Kingdom, sales peaked in the early 1970s, and again with a "cult status" revival in student unions in 1990, but exports of the beer to the USA have been a continued success story.[1][2][3]



Tyne Brewery, Newcastle

Newcastle Brown Ale was originally created by Lt. Col. James ('Jim') Herbert Porter (b. 1892, Burton upon Trent), a third generation brewer, in 1925. Col. Porter had served in the North Staffordshire Regiment in World War I earning his DSO with Bar before moving to Newcastle. He refined the recipe for Newcastle Brown Ale over a period of three years to create the flavour that is distinct to the beer today. When first exhibited, Newcastle Brown Ale swept the board at the prestigious 1928 International Brewery Awards. The gold medals from these awards are still featured on the label. Thirty years later Col. Jim Porter became managing director of Newcastle Breweries, Ltd, and was awarded a CBE. He died in Newcastle in 1973. His father was John Herbert Porter, who together his grandfather, James ran James Porter & Son, the brewery in Burton upon Trent that bought Robinson & Sons brewery in Burton in 1889.

Newcastle Brown Ale went into production at Tyne Brewery in 1928, with Newcastle Breweries having occupied the site since 1890, with brewing on the site dating back to 1868.[4] The production launch of Newcastle Brown was said to have been an overnight success, with claims that the day after it went on sale, the Police requested the strength be reduced, because the cells were already full.[4]

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. One of these, John Barras, is now commemorated in the pub chain of the same name.

Newcastle Brown Ale became a brand of Scottish & Newcastle after the merger of Scottish Brewers with Newcastle Breweries in 1960.

Move to Federation Brewery, Gateshead

Scottish and Newcastle announced closure of the Tyne Brewery 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 S&N with their £7.2m purchase of the Federation Brewery.[5] This purchase and consolidation at Dunston created the new brewing company, Newcastle Federation Breweries.[4]

The last production run of Brown Ale came off the Tyne Brewery line in May 2005.[4] Pre-production trial brews were conducted at Dunston to ensure there was no change in its distinctive taste after the move.[4]

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.[6] Demolition of the former brewery began on 8 March 2007.[7] 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 23 June 2008.[8]

Move to John Smiths Brewery, Tadcaster

Bottling of Newcastle Brown Ale moved to the John Smith's Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, in 2007.[9]

Heineken bought Scottish & Newcastle in a joint deal with Carlsberg in 2008.[10]

On 13 October 2009 it was announced by Scottish & Newcastle that it planned to close the Dunston brewery in 2010, moving production of Brown Ale to the John Smiths Brewery in Tadcaster also.[11] 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 Newcaslte Brown Ale had never been higher.[11] The plan to close the brewery by the end of May 2010 was confirmed on 21 April 2010.[12][2]

Distribution and export

A glass of Brown Ale in a "Wellington" glass

The beer was largely unavailable in South East England and the Midlands until a successful promotional campaign in the late 1980s, but is now one of the country's leading bottled ales.[13] The beer has been available in keg in these areas since late 2003 (although it was available in keg in the Newcastle area before that) and can also be purchased in cans.

At the time of moving brewing to Dunston in 2005, Newcastle Brown was being exported to 41 countries.[4] At times, over half of the brewery's output is directed overseas to the U.S.[14] In 2010, more than 640,000 hectolitres of the beer were sold in the United States, more than double the 2001 total.[15] In the United States the beer is available in bottles and in keg, and on tap in some bars around the country. Newcastle Brown is also distributed in cans in the U.S., but is very rare. In Quebec, Canada, 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 by Scottish & Newcastle in the UK but is now imported directly from the UK by The Beer and Cider Company. 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.[16]

Newcastle Brown Ale was nicknamed "Dog" by people living in and around the areas of the North East of England. This stems from the locals saying, "Going to walk the dog." This was the excuse used to grab a pint at the local pub. The beer is often called 'Brown' or ' Broon' in the North East of England, although 'Newkie Brown' is sometimes used in the South.


The Geordie Schooner

Newcastle Brown Ale is traditionally sold in Britain by the pint (20 fl oz, 568 ml) and more recently in 550 ml (19.4 fl oz, 0.97 pint) bottles. Typically the ale is consumed from a 12 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 also sold in standard 12 fl oz (355 ml) bottles. In April 2010, Heineken USA introduced the Wellington glass, branded as the "Geordie Schooner," for Newcastle Brown Ale consumers in America. The pint glass features a nucleated base.[17]

Association with the North East

Like many British breweries, Newcastle Brown is strongly associated with its local area, in this case being the North East. While the name provides a lot of this, the sponsorship of Newcastle United, the depiction of the River Tyne in the blue star and mentioning in programmes such as Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads have 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[9] Although there are several micro-breweries producing bottled beer for retail that remain in the Tyne Valley, the biggest of which are Wylam Brewery,[20] Allendale Brewery,[21] High House Farm Brewery,[22] Hadrian & Border Brewery,[23] and Mordue Brewery.[24] Hadrian & Border Brewery based within Newcastle City limits produces a bottled Tyneside Brown Ale.

The song is mentioned in the popular blues rock song "Thirty Days in the Hole", by British group Humble Pie.


Special editions

Newcastle Brown’s growing worldwide popularity even spurred an Australian brewer{who}} to launch a hostile bid for the company in 1988. This attempted seizure, in turn, fostered an intense backlash in Newcastle, with locals passionately rallying behind our "Keep Us on Top!" campaign. As a sign of solidarity, the Newcastle Brown label was inverted until the takeover was quashed.[citation needed]

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.[4]

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.[25]

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..

Other Newcastle brands

Newcastle Exhibition is a draught pasteurised keg beer (4.3% ABV) commonly found around the Newcastle area.[26]

Newcastle Amber Ale at around 1030-1036 OG was available until the 1980s. A mixture of the Amber Ale with a much stronger beer was formerly used to brew Newcastle Brown Ale. This method was discontinued when the brand was moved to Dunston.

Newcastle Star was a strong bottled beer (7.5% ABV) discontinued in 2006.[27]

In 2010, Heineken USA launched Newcastle Summer Ale in bottles.

In 2011, Heineken USA launched Newcastle Werewolf (fall ale) and Winter IPA.


  1. ^ Hawkes, Steve (13 October 2009). "Newkie Broon leaves Toon". The Sun (London). 
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Kerr, Rachel (2005-05-27). "Last orders for landmark brewery". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  5. ^ "S&N to close Newcastle brewery". BBC News. 2004-04-22. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  6. ^ "Science plans for Brown Ale site". BBC News. 2005-11-08. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  7. ^ "Time called on historic landmark". BBC News. 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  8. ^ "Sir Bobby blasts Brown Ale plant". BBC News. 2008-06-23. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  9. ^ a b BBC Television News, 13 October 2008
  10. ^ Bill Condie (2009-02-18). "Foster's UK dive leaves Heineken with a hangover". Mail Online (London). Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  11. ^ a b "Closure plan for Brown Ale plant". BBC News. 2009-10-13. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  12. ^ "Closure deadline for Brown Ale plant in Gateshead". BBC News. 2100-04-21. Retrieved 2100-04-23. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Scottish And Newcastle: Newcastle Brown Ale". Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  15. ^ Euromonitor 2011
  16. ^ Gibson, Neil (13 December 2004). "Ale's well again for Newcastle Brown". The Journal ( Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  17. ^ Forbes. 
  18. ^ "Newcastle toasts brown ale success". BBC News. 2000-02-25. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  19. ^ "Commission Regulation (EC) No 952/2007 of 9 August 2007 cancelling a registration of a name in the Register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications (Newcastle Brown Ale (PGI))". Official Journal. European Commission. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Shearer brown ale bottle honour". BBC News. 2006-04-17. Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  26. ^
  27. ^


  • Good Company: The Story of Scottish and Newcastle, Berry Ritchie and Susannah May, James & James (Publishers) Ltd (Sep 1999), ISBN 0907383084

External links

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