I recently tried one of Newcastle's new beers, Werewolf. Since then they have come out with the Winter IPA, and Founder's Ale. The Winter IPA sounded interesting to me, so I picked up a six pack. IPAs frequently seem to be relegated to late summer or fall (during the hop harvest when fresh hopped beers seem popular) but for my mood, something strong and bitter always seems more appropriate for winter. Newcastle's is not very strong, and it's not terribly bitter either. So much for that approach, I guess. As an IPA it left a little to be desired. It wasn't a bad beer, but when I hear something evocative like "IPA", certain perceptions pop into my head. When those expectations are underwhelmed, I can't help but let it color my opinion of the beer. This is one area where I feel beer-naming is important. If they had called it a pale ale, or something nondescript, it may have seemed impressive by comparison. Instead, it fell short. It's relatively clean, with just a touch of hop bitterness and flavor. It may be a good entry for drinkers who aren't versed in American style IPAs.
I was also fortunate enough to be sent a bottle of Newcastle Founder's Ale. It's billed more ambiguously. Listed variously as a pale ale or ESB, I had no real expectations to exceed or fall below. It has a distinct Newcastley flavor: mild, effervescent, and with just a touch of biscuit in the middle. The flavor comes and goes quickly with not much on the finish to remind you what it was like. These beers all tout clean flavors and drinkability which to their credit, they have in spades. As new entries in a market where exciting craft beers dominate, will they make a lasting impact? Both are available in the Twin Cities markets before the rest of the country.