By: Benjamin Welton
Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prays by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright
- Curt Siodmak, The Wolf Man (1941)
In European folklore, suspected werewolves could be uncovered by a few ingenious tests. If the suspected person had a unibrow, then more than likely they were a lycanthrope. Ditto if they had hairy palms or a voracious appetite for raw meat. Extreme libido was another indication that an individual might go howling after the full moon. In short, medieval werewolves weren’t far off from your average college student of today, and if nothing else, the two creatures would probably agree on one thing – beer.
Brewed by the same folks who are responsible for the ubiquitous Newcastle Brown Ale, the Newcastle Werewolf bills itself as a “Blood Red Ale.” This limited edition ale is just the proper bit of mischief for Halloween – a time of the year when the market is flooded with horror-themed brews, some good (here’s to you, Great Lakes Brewery) and some terrifying. The Newcastle Werewolf not only comes from the general geography that inspired the opening scenes in An American Werewolf in London, but its sharp bite is sure to please the beast in some of us.
First Impression: Despite the cover’s two-legged canine, the thing that first caught my inspecting eye was the tagline of “Blood Red Ale.” At this time of year, red-tinged beers are best, although my natural aversion to Killian’s almost made me put this beer back on the shelf. The “Newcastle” label helps this beer out, and so too do the “Limited Release” phrase and the label’s random selection of gold medals and laurels. Who knew wearing a full-length fur bodysuit a couple times every month would be so rewarded.
Pour: When it comes to this point, the Newcastle Werewolf is a study in contrasts. When the cap is removed and the beer first slides into the glass, the Newcastle Werewolf offers up an interesting aroma of caramel malt, rye bread, and assorted berries. This very natural nose tinkle unfortunately tells one nothing about the taste of this beer, which is noticeably dry and a little boorish.
Taste: Even compared to other British ales, which are universally loved around the world because of their no-frills, traditionalist view of what real beer should taste like, the Newcastle Werewolf is an arid desert of moderate palette pleasures. This is not an entry-level ale, nor is it for the journeyman boozer. Still, because I like the tough, gamey stuff, the Newcastle Werewolf wasn’t a personal silver bullet, and in fact this beer succeeds in at least one aspect – its strong character never lets one forget that they are indeed imbibing alcohol. With a heavy and weighted flavor that sits rather than washes over the tongue, the Newcastle Werewolf is a somewhat welcomed challenger to this season’s asinine army of pumpkin ales.