#mycraftbeerepiphany Newcastle Brown Ale

Some might not consider Newcastle Brown Ale to be craft beer, but it’s what did it for me. On my 21st birthday, my mom went to Colorado Springs to celebrate since I was in the Army and couldn’t make it home. I chose to go out to Red Hot & Blue for dinner, and that particular place was a brewpub. I ordered a beer as I explored my newfound legality, but whatever I ordered was simply too much for my palate. Heavy, dark, and hoppy is all I remember. A convert that night I was not.

Years later I found myself in a hole-in-the-wall pub in another area in Colorado Springs with a friend who was brought up in England.  He ordered me a Newcastle Brown Ale (Nukey) and I think I drank it from the bottle.  It wasn’t overbearing, and it didn’t smell like vomit.  It was served at a temperature somewhere in the 60s Fahrenheit, and it was so surprising that it wasn’t rancid.  I was hooked.

I still drink industrial beer every once in a while (on a hot day), but less and less often every year.  I just learned the other day that hop extract is in use more often now at the big breweries than real hops.  A beer made with hop extract, corn, and rice isn’t a beer at all, so I really should find a craft alternative to AB-InBev and MillerCoors, like the no-adjunct Bomb Lager (Helles) from Bomb Beer Company.

Bomb Lager Review

Today at the package store I discovered a stack of boxed six-packs that simply said “Bomb Lager,” and under the logo was CRAFT BEER. I’m only guessing that’s what caught my eye. The six-pack of 12-oz cans was $5.99 which, for craft beer, is rare. The guy at the checkout counter asked if I’d had it before, and I replied in the negative. “It’s not much different from Budweiser,” he said. Since there was no description at all on the box, I was purchasing on faith that this was actually craft beer and not some spinoff LLC from one of the oversized breweries. It’s not.

Bomb Beer Company is located in Manhattan and they contract with breweries across the country for production (Terrapin Brewery in Athens, GA started off the same way). Their Website is well done and they seem to be fairly responsive on Twitter, though the brewery is not well-known. They began distributing in Georgia in late February this year.

Their website says it’s a “traditional Bavarian Helles…” and that’s what we expect. I popped the first can this evening to find a well-carbonated, light-in-color Munich original, only somewhat comparable to a Coors or Budweiser (the lagers, not the lights). For those of you who don’t know, Coors and Anheuser (and Yuengling, Schaefer, and the lot) came to the U.S. from Germany and the area. The Helles is also from Germany and was created to compete with Pilsner from Czechoslovakia. What I expected was a light, fresh, clear lager that was perfect for the warm spring afternoon. I was not disappointed.

The Helles style was invented by Spaten, and this is a great specimen – light on the nose. There is a slight bitterness up-front but the finish is dry and balanced. In my opinion, this is better and has more mouthfeel than the traditional mass-produced American lager. After that, though, there’s not much left to say. It’s great to see a beer with the same drinkability as their hugely-mass-produced counterparts from a small craft brewer in the Northeast. I know that consistency between batches is a difficult achievement, and a beer this light is quite fragile and susceptible to many alterations. Bomb has done a great job producing this. I’m having another as I write, and the finish draws me to another sip every time.

I don’t review with numbers; the whole independent review is too subjective to quantify it. I like this beer and the style is spot on. I wouldn’t change a thing. The fact that it’s canned says that they’re looking to ship very far from the Northeast United States, and they should – or at least contract with more distant breweries for a further reach. At the end of a warm spring or summer day, I’d much rather have this than the stuff sold in 30-packs. It’s an inexpensive lager that is still worthy of a glass, and I’ll leave it at that while I have another.