Newcastle is thought to be one of the first places in Britain to brew beer, so it’s appropriate that one of its ales has become something of an institution. Indeed, Newcastle Brown Ale has become as synonymous with the city as Guinness has with Dublin, and when we think of Newcastle, a bottle of this special brew is one of the first things to come to mind.
Newcastle Brown Ale is a dark brown ale, which has been brewed in the city since 1927 by Newcastle Breweries. Although the company closed their Tyne brewery in 2005, they ensured that production remained relatively local by moving to nearby Dunston, in Gateshead.
Colonel J. Porter created Newcastle Brown Ale in 1925, although he continued to fine-tune the recipe for a further three years. By 1928, his experimentations had given his beer the distinctive flavour that we know today and, as a result, the ale swept the board at the 1928 International Brewery Awards. Newcastle Brown Ale picked up a number of prestigious gold medals at this festival and images of these awards still adorn the beer’s distinctive label today.
In 1928, a year after the beer’s launch, its label got another important addition. The infamous blue star was added, with five points to represent the five founding breweries in Newcastle. The slogan ‘The One and Only’ was added in the 1980s, as an affectionate nod to a vintage advert for the ale. There have also been a number of other changes to the label over the years; in 2000, the 'Ale' was dropped from its name and the beverage was referred to as merely 'Newcastle Brown' in a bid to attract younger drinkers. However, the 'Ale' was rightfully reinstated in 2004, when it was discovered that the change of name had no positive impact on sales. In 2006, a special edition Newcastle Brown Ale label was produced in the city's football stripes to commemorate the retirement of Newcastle United’s Alan Shearer. Similarly, the ale was temporarily renamed 'Maximo Brown Ale' in 2007 to honour Maximo Park, a Newcastle-based Indie band.
Although it was largely unavailable in the Midlands and South East until the late 1980s, a successful advertising campaign has since transformed it into one of the country's best-selling bottled ales. The success of ‘Newkie Brown’ certainly doesn't stop there; it is now available in bottles and occasionally on draught throughout the US and it can also be purchased in a variety of British pubs in Australia and New Zealand. The question is, what’s next for Newcastle’s favourite tipple? As more and more countries adopt it as their 'one and only,' it certainly looks set to go from strength to strength.