Though we're still in the dead of summer, it's a very special time of year for beer lovers: fall seasonal releases. Even though most of the country is still in heatwave hell, beer companies release their limited edition fall selections in mid-August, each brew ripe with toasted malts and the flavors of pumpkin and spices.
Newcastle Breweries, known for its nutty, English brown ale with the iconic blue star adorning the label, takes a crack at seasonal beers this year by teaming up with Edinburgh's Caledonian Brewery. The collaboration is perfect for the season associated with ghoulies, ghosties and revealing costumes; Werewolf, with a loping lycanthrope and claw marks on its furry-looking label, is touted as a "formidable beast" of a brew.
The description says the ale is "blood red" in color, but I'd call it more of a copper hue. Due to the use of rye malt, Werewolf has slightly sweet aromas of caramel and roasted malts. It stays true to some of the typical nutty brown ale notes of original Newcastle upon first sip, but with added notes of sweet malts, subtle fruit and biscuit flavors on the midpalate. Much as a werewolf transforms into a dark creature of the night, Newcastle's howler takes on a bitter quality that follows through the finish.
I wouldn't describe Werewolf as "frighteningly good," but it's very drinkable — I could easily sip on two or more of these — and, as it's not a heavy beer, Werewolf would be perfectly suited to the warm Indian Summer ahead of us.
Since I can't just write a simple beer review, I was inspired to pair it. No, not with food, but with a film. A werewolf film. (What else would you expect?) The obvious movie pairings are John Landis' classic An American Werewolf in London or — my all-time favorite werewolf flick — Dog Soldiers. But those films are a bit too serious for this beer, and I'd pair them only with something dark and heavy from Cigar City Brewing or Stone, perhaps.
Werewolf is a bit nutty and deserves a nutty film pairing. Thus, I perused my Netflix queue and found Mystery Science Theater 3000's riff on Werewolf — a 1996 straight-to-VHS "horror" flick starring Joe Estevez (brother to Martin Sheen) and some other guy dubbed a "Rent-a-Center Andy Garcia."
Werewolf begins in the Arizona desert as a team of archaeologists unearths a human skeleton with a canine-like skull. The Native Americans in the group say it's a "Skinwalker," get the heebie jeebies and run off. The archaeologists decide to take the skull in to study it, but it turns out, if someone is scratched with it they turn into a hairy mess that we're supposed to believe is a werewolf. This is the fate of half of the onscreen "talent," and hairy beasts end up running amok. In short: bad makeup, even worse acting and a seemingly narcoleptic boom operator who keeps dipping the mic into the frame. Thankfully, MST3K's on-screen critics Mike, Crow and Tom Servo inject plenty of random quips and skits to make it entertaining — including a hilarious parody of Inside the Actors Studio.
And luckily, beer and movie turned out to be a winning pairing, especially since Werewolf the beer doesn't sting when it spurts out your nostrils while you're laughing so hard at Werewolf the movie. (I definitely would not recommend drinking a double IPA while watching this.)
Keep an eye out for Werewolf in stores and local pubs very soon, its run ending with the release of the Newcastle Winter Ale. MST3K: Werewolf is available for instant streaming through Netflix.