Newcastle Werewolf: Don't bother waiting for Halloween
Newcastle Werewolf is supposed to be a limited edition red ale from the Caledonian Brewery. Other than obviously being marketed to be the go to beer at every Halloween party, there’s no reason to consider this a fall beer. Werewolf is not big and heavy, pumpkin flavored, malty, spicy or anything else that tends to define fall beers these days. It certainly is not the ‘formidable beast’ the bottle warns of. In fact, it’s just a bog standard red ale that is probably best in the heat of summer. But why ruin a perfectly good marketing gimmick?
Newcastle beers are no longer brewed in the eponymous city; the brewery is now in Scotland. Close enough, I suppose, for everyone except the Geordies in Newcastle. Those Geordies drink vast amounts of the famous Brown Ale, and I’m guessing the brewery realized the best shot at getting a similar style beer, aimed at a similar demographic, any attention at all was to make it seasonal. Fair enough. Vampires and the like are huge right now. Halloween has become a huge drinking holiday. Make a simple red ale, claim it is blood red, call it Werewolf and watch the sales roll in come October.
If you’re a marketing person, that whole scheme sounds brilliant. A beer person would be skeptical. And, well, I’m not into marketing.
Werewolf isn’t a great stretch away from their Brown Ale. If you drink a lot of that, you’ll certainly recognize this. Yes, it’s red. Well, reddish. It’s not blood red as inferred on the label. More of a deep amber, tinged with red. There are no big fancy aromas or flavors in this beer. You’ll smell some berries and malt if you bother looking. The flavor has that roasted malt undertone that the Brown has, with some of those berries flitting through. While it is no hop monster, there is more than enough here to dry it out and give it a sharp bite, which is further enhanced with loads of carbonation. Despite all that, the taste feels a bit empty in the end. It either needed some sweet malt beneath the hops to carry it, or another, more flavorful hop variety to yank it, definitively, in the other direction.
If you’re just swigging this at a party, though -- and at 5% alcohol it’s not a terrible choice -- it’ll do just fine. Werewolf would also be a good thirst quencher in the summer. It’s not sweet enough to put you off having several of them, and it is fairly light and drinkable. It would go equally well with a big BBQ spread or the bowls of party chips and pretzels.
I don’t think the beer people at Caledonian had enough faith in this offering to let it stand alone as a quality, full time beer -- and, for good reason. It’s not the best red ale out there, but that’s not a fancy or demanding style anyway. Most of them get lost in the mix, and this would, too. But, as a general, mass appeal type beer, Werewolf is better than most. It’s not over the top in any way. It offers no challenging flavors or unique brewing methods to set it apart. It is just a standard red ale that is perfectly serviceable and most people will enjoy it when they just want a non-descript normal beer. I’m told there are people like that, and they will no doubt think they are being very cute when they bring this to your Halloween party. Personally, I’d rebel against the blatant marketing and just go with the good old Brown, but to each their own.