Newcastle Brown Ale & Rachel The Brew master
Rachel Sutherland is a female Brewmaster for Newcastle Brown Ale. This is pretty unique for a brewery as Beer is such a man’s world.
How long have you worked with the brewery?
I have been the UK Sensory Coordinator for a little over three years, but have worked for the business for nine years.
What is your background?
I graduated with a degree in Cell & Molecular Biology in 2001, but knew I wanted to work in the brewing industry. I decided to register for Master’s in Brewing & Distilling at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh; which, at the time, was the only university in the UK where one could study brewing. Having successfully completed this second degree I joined Scottish & Newcastle, the largest brewer in the UK at the time. I have held many positions in the business over the years and worked in a number of locations including Fountain brewery, John Smiths Brewery and the UK Technical centre.
In 2004 I found my niche in sensory science. It incorporates my love of continual improvement, innovation and quality whilst utilising my brewing knowledge.In 2008 Scottish & Newcastle was acquired by Heineken and I became the UK Sensory Coordinator.
All good Beers have a story, what’s the story behind yours?
After three years of perfecting his recipe, Col. Jim Porter released Newcastle Brown Ale in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1927. Just one year later, Newcastle Brown Ale won gold at the prestigious International Brewers’ Exhibition in London, 1928. The gold medals from these awards are still featured on the label.
Shortly thereafter, Newcastle Brown Ale became firmly ensconced as the favored beer of Northeast England, becoming a symbol of the hardy working class of the region. Newcastle Brown Ale’s iconic status and good fortune continued in the UK through the 1960s. In the 1980s the brand surged once again, fueled by popularity among college students of legal drinking age.
Newcastle Brown Ale is a golden-brown ale with a rich, full-bodied flavor and refreshing, slightly sweet finish that delivers a sublimely smooth taste experience. It is a dark beer unlike any other: an unparalleled combination of character and drinkability.
Can you tell us the history behind the Brewery?
Newcastle Brown Ale went into production at Tyne Brewery in 1927, with Newcastle Breweries having occupied the site since 1890, with brewing on the site dating back to 1868. The production launch of Newcastle Brown was said to have been an overnight success, with claims that the day after it went on sale, the Police requested the strength be reduced, because the cells were already full.
An aging brewing facility and logistics meant that in 2007 production of Newcastle Brown was relocated to a new home at the John Smiths Brewery in North East Yorkshire. The brewery was established in 1758 and is a home of prestigious Yorkshire bitters. The brew masters have the requisite skills to ensure that production of Newcastle Brown Ale remains unchanged from its time at Tyne Brewery.
What gives Newcastle Brown Ale its unique taste?
Newcastle Brown Ale is a true one and only. It is brewed with a unique blend of a pale malt and darker caramel malt to give its smooth, characteristic flavour and colour. It is brewed with fewer hops than a traditional bitter for a less bitter taste making Newcastle Brown Ale the dark beer that is easy to drink.
Is it brewed like the regular British ales?
The basic brewing and fermentation of Newcastle Brown Ale is similar to that of any British ale. Col. Porter spent three years developing the method so we see no sense in changing it now! The main difference comes with the packaging. Newcastle Brown Ale is, and always has been, packaged in clear flint glass bottles.
Any secrets/myths we should know about Newcastle Brown Ale?
The blue star logo on the label and crown of the bottle was introduced to the Newcastle Brown Ale bottle in 1928, the year after the beer was launched. The five points of the star represent the five founding breweries of Newcastle.
Newcastle Brown Ale is nicknamed “The Dog” by people living in and around the areas of the North East of England. This stems from the locals saying, "Going to walk the dog." This was the excuse used to call in for a pint at the local pub and catch up with the gossip! The beer is often called Brown or “Broon” in the North East of England; in the south of the UK it is often called “Newkie Brown”. Traditionally, the beer is packaged in an iconic bottle from which it is poured by the consumer into a half-pint glass and topped up during the drinking experience.
Any tips for people out there still searching for their right beer/ale?
Beers are so wonderfully diverse in flavour there’s sure to be one out there for everyone. A great way to find your perfect beer or ale is to think of what foods you like to eat. If you like spicy foods maybe try a Pilsner lager; fans of rich meaty, dishes often like the similar flavours in porters and oatmeal stouts. If you have a sweeter tooth some Belgian fruit beers provide a spectacular match with dark chocolate and other desserts.
The great thing about beer; is that it is relatively low in alcohol, is extremely social and is a fantastic paring for food. The old myth that it has to be drunk in pints and is bloating is a thing of the past. Some of the most well know restaurants in London have beer, as well as wine menus, to match a perfect beer to every course.
Why are British ales so tasty?
Britain is the home of real ale! The style is very different from the lager beers that swept the world. Part of the difference lies in the yeast. Top-fermenting strains are used in ale fermentations, whereas lagers are produced using bottom-fermenting strains. Many of the beer styles that are now finding new markets around the world were developed in the UK such as brown ales, porters, stouts, old ales, milds and bitter.
The UK has a tradition of brewing top fermented beers since prehistoric times, and until the late 1970’s sales of ale in the UK outstripped their lager competitors two to one. A change in tastes and a decline in ale breweries signalled the demise of real ales in the UK. That is, until now. The last two years have seen a resurgence in real ale brewing and sales are growing.
There are now over 700 breweries in the UK producing traditional real ales and innovative products in that style that are appealing to a new generation of consumers who appreciate the bolder flavours and history behind brands like Newcastle Brown Ale.