> New York Hudson Valley Eats & Treats!: Newcastle Brown Ale Mini Keg

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Newcastle Brown Ale Mini Keg

Draught mini keg of Newcastle Brown Ale
The Newcastle Brown Ale Mini Keg.  Draught beer at home!
As you must have already figured out, I am a beer drinker.  While I generally enjoy craft beers am not really a fan of mass-market products, I do enjoy a Newcastle Brown Ale when out at the bar on occasion.  I would purchase it for easy drinking at home, except there is one critical issue with the packaging - Newcastle Brown Ale comes in clear bottles.  

Now, you may ask yourself, what is the problem with this?  The clear glass bottle showcases the beautiful color of the brown ale!  The issue is one of "skunking", which is a potential problem with any beer, but really rears it's ugly head when it comes to Newcastle.

Without getting into the chemistry of skunking (although it IS interesting), I will merely explain the phenomenon.  A key part of beer is the hops.  Hops adds both aroma and a bitter taste to the beer, which counteracts and balances the sweet malt.  Without hops, a beer is sweet and lacks depth.  The downside to hops is that they are very sensitive to ultraviolet light (aren't most of us?) and when exposed to UV, they form compounds that have a "skunky" smell and taste.

Now, most beer comes in brown bottle, which does an excellent job of filtering out UV and light in general - so the issue of "skunking" of the beer doesn't really come into play.  But clear bottles filter out hardly any of the light, which means that your beer is being pelted with UV constantly, and by the time you get it nice and cold and to your lips - well, you guessed it.  The beer has been skunked.  This is unacceptable, and indeed, the reason why I simply won't buy Newcastle unless it's from a keg at the bar.
Newcastle Brown Ale
Newcastle Brown Ale goes down easy.
Enter the Mini-Keg.  These little devices are like small pressurized versions of their larger cousins that you see in the bar.  Being made from steel and aluminum, they are entirely opaque, so skunking is a non issue.  Also, these kegs are pressurized from within, so there's no pumping of air into them which would introduce contaminants and cause the beer to spoil in a matter of days.  These Mini Kegs are purported to keep the beer fresh for up to 30 days, and I believe them.  I know that I had a Heineken Mini Keg (that I meant to write about.. oops!) that kept for about a week before it was gone, with no noticeable change in the flavor of the beer.  I doubt one would ever really get the chance to test that 30 day limit, as beer tend to get drank sooner than later.

Writing this article right now, I almost feel like having a nice cold Newcastle!  But I have to work..

Anyhow, the keg can holds 5 Liters of beer.  It says this is 20 or so 8oz beers - but who in the world drinks an 8oz beer?  You either drink 12oz out of the bottle as it comes, or if you're at the bar, you have yourself a nice 16oz pint!  Not sure where they would get the 8oz measurement from - maybe it just sounds good.  Comparing it to a 12pack of bottles from the store, the Mini-Keg is a bit more expensive, even when you consider the cost of the deposit on the bottles.

The mini keg of Newcastle is tasty!
I could go for a Newcastle right now..
That being said, if I were getting Newcastle for a party or for private consumption, there's no question, I'd get the mini-keg 10 times out of 10.  It's not much more expensive (retail is $18.99) and the fact is, the beer is far more palatable - the difference between the Newcastle from the Mini Keg and the stuff you buy in bottles is like night and day.

Note that this would not necessarily be the case with beer that comes in dark brown bottles - but as you may (or may not) have noticed, the beer that comes in dark brown bottles doesn't come in Mini-kegs :)  At least not yet.

The Newcastle Minikeg is Beertender compatible
Newcastle is also Beertender
compatible, if you have that
apparatus set up at home :)
So okay, how does Newcastle Brown Ale TASTE?  Well, there's some maltiness, some sweetness... it tastes darker and more robust than you might expect it to based on the color.  Decent mouthfeel, not thick but more medium than anything.  Not much in the way of hops taste and aroma.  All in all - not much going on with it.  At the same time, it goes down very easily - which is probably while it's so popular.  And it isn't just without flavor altogether like so many of the American beers - it's just not that impressive.  Not much TO it really.

Anyway, if you're having a party or just want to enjoy some goes-down-easy drinking, you can do a lot worse than picking up a Newcastle mini-keg.  It's tasty enough, smooth, and the draught mini keg (that's pronounced "draft" btw) is easy to set up and use.  I was a little concerned that it wouldn't work and I'd be stuck with 5 liters of beer that I couldn't access, but no, it's very easy to set up and get going.

Go get yourself a Newcastle Brown Ale mini-keg - and for goodness' sake, don't forget to invite me over to drink it with you!
Newcastle ale goes down smooth
Not a bad English beer, Newcastle.  Goes down smooth.
Cheers!, L'Chaim!, and Sláinte!


  1. Replies
    1. No, he meant ultra violent light. It's like regular ultra violet light, except it had an alcoholic father.

  2. Living in England, there are so many great ales... Newcastle isn't the best! Have a look around. ;)

  3. I tried it and thought it tasted extremely metallic coming out of that keg. So much so that I couldn't even finish it. I will stick with the bottles and take my chances.

    1. youre an idiot. have you even drank at a bar? everything comes out of a metal keg

    2. Hubby and I just bought one of these, and it also has a really off-putting metallic flavor. I would guess that there's something going on with the packaging process, how it's been handled and stored, or something of that nature. I can't drink this stuff at all, but I otherwise enjoy decent beers, and beer at bars. It's unfortunate, this metallic taste. Also, *you're.

  4. This whole skunking phenomenon..isn't it a process? You're saying you won't buy Newcastle from a store because in the brief time that it goes from the store to your car and into your fridge (what, minute and a half tops) it's going to get 'skunked?'

  5. Also, dear author, Newcastle uses tetra-hop extract, which is completely resistant to photochemical reactions, thus eliminating your 'skunking' issue.

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  11. If you think newcastle doesn't get skunky then you do not drink newcastle very often. I drink newcastle 90% of the time and you have a 50/50 chance of getting a skunked batch buying a 6-pack of bottles. I buy the twelve pack because the bottles are wrapped in cardboard and not exposed to much light. I have yet to get a skunky batch in the twelve packs. I did try the draught keg and it had much more depth of flavor with a nice buttery toffee-like finish. I too did notice a metallic taste if you drink it right away, but not if you let it sit and settle for 5 or 10 minutes. I'm not really sure why that is, but newcastle tastes better when it is not refrigerator cold anyhow.

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