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When is an IPA not an IPA? When it’s Newcastle

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The label may say IPA, but the taste says … something else.

Ask anyone; I'm a huge fan of IPAs. I love the front-loading of hops; whenever any beer company tries an IPA, I'm usually first in line. It's just a singularly fantastic taste that seems so natural to the beer-drinking experience. So when I discovered that Newcastle had come up with its own IPA, naturally I was intrigued -- although a little skeptical. After all, their other recently released beer, Werewolf, was, for me, a disappointment.

To be specific, Newcastle calls this a "winter IPA" -- whatever that means. When I hear the term "winter beer," I think heavy, alcohol-laden, spiced up ... comfort beer, as I like to call it, something to keep you warm. But no, it doesn't make me think of an IPA.

To put it mildly, this is one confusing beer. To begin with, it's about as far from an IPA as a lager is from a stout. Upon pouring it into a pint glass, I immediately became aware of fruity notes, along with a bit of caramel. There wasn't a hoppy note to be found. I gave it a chance, continuing to sniff for about 30 seconds before taking the first sip. Nope. Nothing.

It's certainly pleasant in appearance -- light caramel color, with a thin head and healthy carbonation. Aesthetically, it's inviting.

Not so much in the taste department, however -- much like Werewolf, there's a bitterness here that lingers, and an initial flavor that quickly dissipates. But the flavor is nothing like a traditional IPA. For my taste buds, it was more in the area of a lambic, or even a cider, only one that had gone flat.

Bottom line, I feel like this beer has been mis-marketed. If I knew going in that this is more of a malty, fruity sort of ale, I might have had a different reaction. As it stands, I'm sure fans of Werewolf will find much to enjoy here. I really didn't.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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