Newcastle is thought to be the first place in Britain to brew beer. Legends aside, it is known that Newcastles first commercial brewery, John Barras & Company of Gateshead, was established here in 1770. Then, in 1890, after the Gateshead Brewery was bought by the North Eastern Railway Company, John Barras & Company purchased the Tyne Brewery and linked up with several small breweries in North Shields, Gateshead and Sunderland to form The Newcastle Breweries Ltd.
In 1913, the Blue Star was adopted as the Companys trademark. Newcastle Brown Ale was first brewed in 1927 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, by Jim Porter after three years of developing this special brew. Almost immediately after its release, Newcastle Brown won the gold medals at the International Brewers Exhibition in London in 1928.
The success of the 1928 Brewers Exhibition had to be recognized. Originally, Newcastle Browns clear, flint, glass bottle had borne an oval label. Another loop was added at the top of the label to carry triumphant detailsand the famous Figure 8 labelnow known throughout the world was born. The Blue Star emblem was also added.
Our Brown Ale quickly established itself as the favorite brew in Englands North East, and by 1937 was widely distributed in bottles and in cans to meet the demand. Between the 1930s and 1960s, Brown Ale continued to surge in popularity and became a symbol of the hardy working class tradition of the shipbuilding, mining and steel industries that characterize Newcastle even today.
Brown Ale sales were still climbing at the start of the Second World War. Wartime controls meant a shortage of staff, fewer raw materials and government restrictions. Although Blue Star utility beers were introduced, Newcastle Brown Ale hardly changed during this era, and when victory celebrations were held, the Broon flowed on Tyneside.
A new bottling factory was opened at Tyne Brewery. Machinery improved and bottling lines soon began to rattle off Newcastle Brown Ale with a tin crown cap instead of the old screw top version. In 1960, Newcastle Breweries joined together with Scottish Brewers to form Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, expanding Newcastle Brown Ales access to several new markets and exporting.
The 1980s saw Newcastle redesign its bottle label and adopt the slogan "The One and Only," an affectionate moniker for the original which was popularized in 1928 by the Newcastle Journal.
Newcastle Browns growing worldwide popularity even spurred an Australian brewer to launch a hostile bid for the company in 1988, but Scottish & Newcastle was not about to take this sitting upside down. This attempted seizure, in turn, fostered an intense backlash in Newcastle, with locals passionately rallying behind our "Keep Us on Top!" campaign. As a sign of solidarity, the Newcastle Brown label was inverted until the takeover was quashed.
By the 1990s, Newcastle Brown Ale had become the best-selling bottled beer in the UK, as well as the top-selling bottled beer in Europe. Which, of course, begs the question: can America be far behind?