Being a student in Durham, Newcastle Brown Ale was everywhere you went. It was there staring at you in every pub fridge. I even have a bottle myself when I’m feeling nostalgic.
I used to drink it at Uni during student union events. There were three bars in the union, only one of which (Kingsgate) was open daily (being a collegiate university, more emphasis was placed on the college bars), and only that bar had handpulls. The other two bars, opened for events only, only had Caffreys and John Smiths – two equally awful ales, that I’ve never liked (Nay, not even when I was a lager drinker all those years ago) so I used to have a few bottles of Newcy.
It’s got a mild nutty taste to it if not served freezing cold, and it certainly beats the socks off Bass or Worthingtons, but it’s not what I’d call a killer brown ale.
To be honest I was rather surprised to find such a killer brown ale in Marks and Spencer. Having been feeling rather groggy all day I headed to the M&S for some comfort food, in the form of pizza, and spotted their regional range of beers. The empty shelves told me that they’d sold out of 80", but they had some India Pale Ale and the canny named ‘Tyne Bridge Ale’.
I’ve never put much faith in own-brand supermarket beer, which is why I was pleasantly surprised with the Tyne Bridge Ale, being a rather tasty brown ale, with a flavour that manages to be rather mellow but tasty at the same time.
The label cryptically proclaims it’s sourced from a brewery founded in 1919, set up to supply Northern Working mens clubs, which five seconds on Google will tell you is probably the Federation Brewery, which is a cooperative to this day, and who also produce the rather tasty Angel Ale (named after the Angel of the North) which I once bought on a GNER train of all places.
Tyne Bridge Ale is certainly a credit to M&S’s range, and the India Pale Ale wasn’t bad either. It’s just a shame that their positioning of this rather nice brown ale in their Ealing store was not in the alcohol section as you may expect, but rather down the other side of the building, near the fridges stocking ready meals…