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Revisiting an old chum … with claws

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Newcastle Werewolf—a hip spin on an old thing.

I fondly remember my first taste of Newcastle Brown Ale. I was in Santa Barbara in the mid-’90s to see a screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, hosted by ex-Python member John Cleese. My buddies and I had some time to kill before the show and went to a bar for a few drinks, and we thought an English ale would be appropriate for the occasion.

By the third or fourth Newcastle, I was hooked. It was smoother than any dark ale I’d ever tasted, and went down easily. Oh, and it made Holy Grail 10 times funnier to boot. Newcastle soon became one of my go-to drinks, and those I introduced it to were always grateful to make its acquaintance.

I’m not sure when I stopped drinking Newcastle, but it was probably right around the time I discovered my first microbrewed India Pale Ale. I eschewed quite a few favorite beers after that first taste of IPA—it’s like eating diner hamburgers your whole life and then sinking your teeth into your first filet mignon. My taste buds just couldn’t go back to the same old.

My relationship with Newcastle was briefly renewed at this year’s F*ck Yeah Music Festival in Los Angeles, where the beer tents offered Newcastle Summer Ale. Despite high hopes, I wasn’t a big fan, finding the beer to be a bit bitter and lacking body and a pleasant aftertaste.

Now comes Newcastle Werewolf, a “blood red ale” that benefits from some truly inspired packaging—one label on the neck reads “Escaped from Britain,” and the main label has been partly clawed away, as if by … well, you know.

A label on the back describes this as being brewed with rye malt and having “a bite of bitterness.” Can’t argue there. Much like Newcastle’s Summer Ale, I found this beer to be far too bitter for my taste on the front end, and that bitterness quickly falls away into a bland aftertaste. In fact, despite several sips, I could not detect any sort of aftertaste. The flavor just sort of … disappears, as a werewolf does when the sun rises.

In the end, it’s been nice revisiting with an old friend. But I think I’m going to stick with my IPAs … for now.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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