NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE (DRAUGHT KEG)

This could possibly be the most mundane, ordinary, middling, boring beer that will ever be posted on Aleheads.  Back when The Brotherhood was formed, when blood was exchanged, when vows were written, we Aleheads agreed that no review shall be written on typical, everyday beers.  We figured most of our readers had downed a pint of Guinness, had suckled the teat of a Budweiser long-neck, and had even tossed a lemon into their wife’s Blue Moon (We know it was for your wife, no need to embarrass yourself).  I don’t need to tell you that Coors Light gets a zero hop rating.  If you need a review of medicore beers, I’m sure there’s a website for you somewhere.  So, why am I reviewing Newcastle?  Well, check out that cool keg!

Newcastle Brown Ale doesn’t need much of an introduction.  Look in most any package store and you’re sure to find 6 and 12 packs of clear, highly skunkable bottles.  If you’re lucky enough to find the 12 or 16 oz cans, you’ve got a better package, but still nothing to write home about.  The draught version is the only place where the true Brown Ale really shines through.  Unlike Samuel Smith’s offerings, Newcastle bottles do absolutely nothing to preserve the buttery, creamy flavor that lends so much to this humble British style.  A bottle of Newcastle is a waste of anyone’s time, but then again, I’ve put down hundreds of bottles in my day so I’m not criticizing.  And that my friends is why there was no hesitation when I saw the 5 liter mini-keg of Newcastle Brown Ale sitting on a fluorescent-lit shelf. See, I knew I’d be travelling far North over the holiday weekend and sweating my ass off in 95 degree heat.  I wanted something light, something familiar, and honestly just something that I could drink pint after pint while sitting in a camp chair.  Scorned in the past, it’s time to give Newcastle another try in its “Sort of” natural state.

Brief history on mini-kegs.  They’ve been around for a long time and the Germans perfected the package with companies like Bitburger, Spaten, and Lowenbrau flooding the market with their offerings.  Homebrewers have grabbed these empty cans for years and now you can even buy a small tap system that works with little CO2 canisters to force the beer out and keep it fresh.  The problem I always had with these kegs is all the different paraphernalia and taps that never seemed to be consistent between packagers.  Eventually the industry worked out some kinks and put self-tapping cans on the market, but these always seemed to leak all over my fridge and just acted like a giant can with a pop-top.  Flat beer within a couple of days was pretty standard.  Alas, Heineken saves the day and comes out with their own contraption titled DraughtKeg.  Allegedly stays fresh for 30 days, comes with its own tap, stands upright in the fridge – Problem solved.  Unfortunately, Heineken did a silly thing and filled the DraughtKeg with Heineken.  What were they thinking?  Due to a fun little partnership, dictatorship, ownership, or whatever you want to call the Newcastle/Heineken relationship, finally there’s something else filling the DraughtKeg that should be a bit more palatable.

Poured from said DraughtKeg that was chilled for the recommended 10 hours, my Newcastle hit the glass with plenty of pressure and left a good 4 inch head behind.  It took a couple of pours to get the system right, but regardless, this looked like a draught that you’d see in any bar.  No skunky nose, no metallic smell, just fresh goodness coming up from the glass.  That buttery deliciousness that’s present in the best English Browns comes through perfectly and adds a great deal to the smoothness of this brew.  Slightly bitter in the finish, the only knock on this beer is a slight sourness at the end (Also, it’s not overly complex).  The mouthfeel reaps the most benefit from the DraughtKeg since the carbonation is absolutely perfect.  Due to extreme heat and several other beers on hand, the 5 liter keg lasted throughout the entire week.  After 7 days in the fridge, tapped, the last beer had just as much carbonation as the first and showed no signs of degradation.  Drinkability is fairly high, but the creaminess gets old after a couple in a row.

For comparison’s sake, I’d give the original Newcastle Brown Ale in glass bottles a 1 hop rating.  I like that beer and drink it on occasion, but it’s not that great and I think few would argue that it’s anything beyond ordinary.  For the DraughtKeg version, I’ll bump this up to 2.5 hops.  That’s a huge increase and clearly the mini-keg lets the true beer shine through.  When you consider that the 5 liter keg is $20, that equates to roughly $40/case or about 50% higher than a case of Newcastle bottles.  Still, if you have kids and can’t make it out to the bar as often as you’d like you might as well have one of these guys on hand.  Draught beer at home is a special thing indeed.

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14 comments

  1. I don’t like Newcastle in bottles either, but 1 Hop seems a tad harsh. It’s certainly not good, but it’s not “awful”. I’d say 2 Hops for the bottle…2.5 for draft.

    One issue for me is that I used to think of Newcastle as somewhat akin to Guinness, Bass, and Sierra. An ubiquitous, but enjoyable draft offering when options were limited. But as the years have rolled on, the beer has become more closely tied to brews like Heineken, Stella, and Pilsner Urquell for me. A fairly lousy beer masquerading as a “high-end” brew by dint of not being BudMillerCoors.

    Probably not fair to Newcastle, but I really just don’t drink it anymore.

  2. I suppose I can live with 2 hops by the Aleheads definition (Click on our ratings page if you’re confused). However, if you’re calling it akin to Heine/Stella/Pilsner Urquell I don’t see how it can be anything more than a 1 hop beer. If you had a Heineken, would you consider punching the brewer in the solar plexus or would you finish the beer, albeit being unhappy about the experience. I think I’d go for the punch in the gut, which brings me right to the 1 hop category. I would not be happy about finishing that filth. Now Newcastle I think I’d be happy about finishing the bottle. At the same time, a punch and/or kick to the nads should be handed out to the packager, shipper, and even the creator of the clear, glass bottle. That’s where my rating comes from.

  3. Mary-Lou Epner · ·

    Do I have to store this keg in the upright position? My fridge is so narrow that I really would like to leave the keg lying on its side. Otherwise, I’m going to have a problem storing it. Your comments and suggestions please.

  4. Hi Mary-Lou, thanks for the inquiry. The inherent problem with 5 liter mini-kegs, whether from Heineken/Newcastle or from most other brewers that use a more basic system, is that they have to be stored and poured vertically. With the Newcastle keg you see here there’s a tap system that snaps into the top which has roughly a 4 inch horizontal tube that does the pouring. Unfortunately the keg has to stand upright in your fridge, even when you’re just storing it. Once tapped any shift to a horizontal position will more than likely cause the tap to pop out and leave you with a sticky mess and a sad face. Lucky for you there is a way to store the keg vertically AND keep that precious space in your fridge for actual food (Or other beer of course). A company called EdgeStar makes a stand-alone mini kegerator that houses and chills, you guessed it, Heineken/Newcastle mini-kegs. Amazon will ship you this beauty for a mere $159 – http://amzn.to/dm2Iim. One would really have to enjoy Heineken and Newcastle to make that purchase, but it’s cool nonetheless.

    Mini-kegs have always frustrated me since my sole reason for buying them is to have draught beer on demand for up to a week at a time. Their best use is to throw the keg in a bucket of ice and finish off the whole 5 liters at a party.

    When I homebrew I often use the Tap-A-Draft system and house my beer in 5 liter kegs that can be laid down horizontally. The only way to achieve this is by keeping the “Tap” bung in place and actually tapping the release bung at the top of the keg. Clearly someone smarter than me worked around the vertical kegging orientation, I just wish the industry would catch on and start making more mini-kegs that would fit in my fridge.

    Thanks again for the comments.
    -Doc

  5. [...] First, let me point out that I’m all for innovation in the brewing industry.  I enjoyed the Newcastle Brown Ale DraughtKeg, I’ve enjoyed several mashups of styles that I never thought possible, and I always [...]

  6. Throwin Up · ·

    Just bought the DraughtKeg wanted to try it. Looks like fun for the fridge.

  7. mark Washabaugh · ·

    I would like to know the alcohol content of new castles 5 litter. Thank you.
    Mark

  8. Hi Mark, we’re looking at 4.7% ABV for the Brown Ale no matter how you slice it.

  9. Bearbigdog · ·

    If I buy a frig and tap kegger, how much U.S. dollars
    will it cost to by a full size keg of New Castle,
    includes CO2? I live in California, U.S.A., and
    have the opportunity to purchase a used keg unit.
    Thanks!

    1. You’ll probably want to check in with you local purveyor to see about pricing and distribution of kegs. The little 5 liter self-contained jobbies are a whole different ballgame than real kegs, which will range from 5 gallon (Cornys, soda barrels) to 15ish gallon half-barrels (What you’ll see stacked in the basement of any bar). CO2 will be in a separate refillable container – Check with your local homebrew shop, welding supply shop, or any place that works on fire extinguishers to fill those up or exchange them.

  10. where can I buy a keg from tried looking everywhere can anyone help please….

  11. i just bought a newcastle mini keg, but the plastic tapper was broken where the tube goes into the keg…what should i do?

  12. Martin Sloan · ·

    What loser thinks Newcastle is a loser beer? Only a dufus thinks Newcastle is a lousy beer. I am wondering what lesions on this idiots brain must be causing his delusional episode. So, well now that I have abused this person I can begin to give a review from someone who has taste. NewCastle has the flavor most people appreciate and krave. Guiness is a puke fest of disgusting ultra bitter bottom of the barrel crap! Someone should try to review beer with taste and drink-ability in mind instead of a High School/College dare. I can eat Grubs right out of a fallen log too but I don’t do it because I want too… I would prefer a medium well steak with a side of maybe A-1, Salsa, and a little horse radish with a baked Potato and chives and salad or most anything else served in a resturaunt of good caliber. But not with guiness or a guiness like beer. Might as well be chewing on the cud the cow was eating in the field.

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