Geographies of Newcastle Brown Ale

by Caitlin Douglas

Earlier this year Andy Pike, wrote, in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, about a method to analyse and conceptualise the geographies of brands and branding. Fittingly he used Newcastle Brown Ale (NBA) as the case study: an iconic brand synonymous with Newcastle upon Tyne in North East England although, since 2010, the brewery has been relocated to Tadcaster, North Yorkshire. The brand was launched in the 1920s aiming to create a premium beer: a distinct dark ale that offered consistent quality and taste with high aesthetic appeal that was bottled to encourage distribution beyond Tyneside. Modern bottles still emphasize the beer’s provenance with its label depicting the Newcastle skyline and the Blue Star logo associated with Newcastle Breweries. With the move from Newcastle, however, the authenticity of the beer has been questioned.

Since the early 1990’s sales of NBA in the UK have been decreasing whilst sales in the USA have grown. In the USA, NBA is marketed as a ‘hip’, and ‘ironic’ niche beer ‘imported from England’ and is marketed towards 25 – 34 year old college-educated males. In the USA, NBA has constructed a new geographical association to ‘England’ rather than Tyneside. This has favoured its growth in the USA where shoppers favour traditional ‘English’ ale.

Andy Pike. 2011. Placing brands and branding: a sociospatial biography of Newcastle Brown Ale. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36: 206 – 222.

Newcastle Brown Ale UK Website

Newcastle Brown Ale USA Website

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