Friday, 2 August 2013

The 'Brine'.

The whole trauma from burning my hat has meant that I’ve had to put off;

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for a little while longer. I need to build up for it. But be warned; I will be up for the challenge, soon.

This beer review is a trip to the far north and far back in time – to good old Newcastle Brown Ale. My excuse for reviewing such a common beer is that the brewery now recommends drinking it cool (the beer, not me). It even has a guide on the back of the label which turns blue when the temperature is ‘right’. That’s definitely aimed at the middle-aged man (me) who happens to be the owner of a toolbox and a manual.

Beer life in the 1970’s was pretty sad. No shelves groaning with foreign beers. No choice. The big 6 greedy, tory-financing brewers ran a cosy national monopoly and the regional beers didn’t travel because they couldn’t join the club.

All british beer was rubbish, which is why we fell in love with lager the moment it arrived from the continent; ice cold and inviting us to join the party. Aaaagh.

The two exceptions were in bottles and aimed at exiles far from home; Guinness for the Irish and  Newcastle Brown for Geordies, both groups desperate for nostalgia in a bottle. They were the only quality beers available everywhere.

It was a Geordie friend who got me into the Brown.  He used to take the caps off with his teeth.  I wouldn’t recommend it myself.


A quick language lesson for tourists, new to Britain.


‘Brown’ = Newcastle Brown Ale.

The pronunciation of ‘Brown’ varies depending on where you are from.

1) In Newcastle, it’s pronounced ‘New-cassel’ with a strong emphasis on ‘cassel’, please;

‘Brown’ is pronounced ‘Broon’.

Repeat after me; ‘New-cassel Broon’.

2) In ‘cockney’ London;

‘Brown’ is pronounced ‘Brahn’.

3) In the upper class, home counties of England, one would ask ones Butler to serve one some ‘Brine’.

Say after me; ‘New caar-suI Brine’

I hope that’s helpful when you are staying at an aristocratic country house weekend or at Buckingham palace.


It was always my drink of choice in wild places and on camping holidays – available everywhere, good quality and yet you could drink it warm and it was still fine.

That’s why I’m drinking it today, to see what it’s like cool (the drink, not me).

This beer has its roots in a Newcastle of heavy industry and the gangster movie ‘Get Carter’; ‘In a thin glass’.

It’s a gritty, tough world of industrial workers exploited by corrupt capitalists, slums waiting to be cleared, and dishonest developers offering bribes to venal local politicians to get the contracts to do it.

The great bridges over the Tyne. The factory and the pit. Poor quality high rise flats, designed by dodgy architects and slung up by rip-off builders. The debts are still being paid off today.

Corrupt policemen entertained by their gangster friends, the enforcers.

“You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me it's a full time job. Now behave yourself”.

If they made a movie about the beer;

The soundtrack is by ‘The Animals’.

The football is fanatical.

The beer is Newcastle Brown.

Now, the famous ‘Get Carter’ multi-storey car park has been demolished. The coalmine that produced the waste that was being dumped into the sea in the final scenes – that’s gone too. Even the beach has gone – the local authority cleared the black coal waste off the top few feet and the sea cleared the rest to reveal a clean beach underneath.

And now they want us to drink chilled Newcastle Brown. Crazy world. Crazy, crazy world.

Here it is, you’ll have to trust me that the label on the back has turned blue.


 I’m afraid it left me cold, it’s just marketing.

It’s the same old rich, nutty brown. All the cold does is to reduce the flavour and the aroma. All it has going for it is that it’s chilled, like lager. If I’d wanted someting cold I’d have had a lager instead and enjoyed it more. That’s probably why some marketing guy in a suit decided to try to persuade us to put it in the fridge in the first place.

So, I let the label on the back go white again and let it warm up. Then I got the heavy smell of hops, the strong flavour of the 1927 brew, from before ordinary people had refrigerators.

If I wasn’t so cool, I’d have taken off my football shirt and waved it around over my head.

I managed to calm down and now I’ve just got an inch’s worth left in the bottom of the glass, lukewarm and giving off nostalgia in waves. Not bad. Now where did I put that manual.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)


Counting down to;

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Are you tough enough? I’m not sure I am, at the moment.

Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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