Beer Man is a weekly profile of beers from across the country and around the world. This week: Newcastle Werewolf Caledonian Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland newcastlebrown.com.
I have fond memories of Newcastle ale that go back to when I discovered the Casino Tavern in La Crosse, Wis., at the start of my college years.
This was quite a few years before the U.S. craft beer movement took hold, so imports were the only way to sample different beer styles.
Newcastle Brown Ale was one of the beers at the tavern, along with Weihenstephaner and Schneider weiss beers, Hoegaarden witbier, Old Nick barleywine and many others that made me realize beer had a long, varied tradition and could be sophisticated.
The years passed and the regular Newcastle brown seemed to become thinner and less flavorful. I replaced it with examples from the dozens of smaller breweries producing excellent English ales, such as Young's, Fuller's, Adnams and Samuel Smith.
Newcastle has been on a recent marketing campaign to revitalize the brand, and Werewolf is one result. I was tempted to save its review until closer to Halloween, but when I saw "Limited Edition" on the label, it seemed prudent to get it out sooner.
Werewolf is like its namesake -- it starts out as one thing and ends up being a quite different beast. The main aroma is of sweet caramel malt, but the sweetness does not appear in the taste, and it is a very dry beer, even compared to the most bittered of English ales.
The label states "Blood Red Ale," bringing to mind that it might be an Irish red style, but Werewolf is a brown caramel color and has little in common with Irish reds.
The main malt flavor is unusual -- raw without any bready or caramel characteristics -- more like buttery malt. The rye provides a noticeable sharpness and there is a slight bitterness throughout sampling and in the aftertaste.
I was looking for more of a bready rye flavor and a touch more caramel malt sweetness. If you're a fan of dry, astringent beers, then Werewolf may be up your alley. It is certainly unlike any English ale I've sampled.
Newcastle is a popular import nationwide and stores that carry it will probably carry Werewolf.
Many beers are available only regionally. Check the brewer's website, which often contains information on product availability. Contact Todd Haefer at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous Beer Man columns Click here.