The letters stand for India Pale Ale, a 19th century descendant of 17th century pale ales. "Pale" because the brewing process left them lighter in color and taste than many comparable beers of the day.
Right now, the venerable Heineken International is distributing a limited-edition Newcastle Winter IPA, a cousin of the darker and luscious Newcastle Brown Ale. Both are made by the Caledonian Brewing Company in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Winter IPA replaces the fall release of the limited-edition Newcastle Werewolf. Just the name alone makes us sorry we missed it, plus this description: "Naturally blood red in color... Sweet berry overtones and a sudden bite of bitterness."
We didn't know what to expect from the Winter IPA, so we enlisted a few beer-lovers and popped some tops at an informal tasting. Among their comments:
"The creamy head is a match for the silken body."
"Sweet, with a lot of caramel and toffee."
"Malty, with a clean finish."
"Not a truly great IPA, but it will do just fine in front of the fireplace."
Newcastle Winter IPA is available in area stores into January. Six packs will be distributed in a few days. Meanwhile, we priced a 12-pack at the BevMo store in Folsom. It's $16.49, on sale for 11.99 through Wednesday.
More information: www.newcastlebrown.com.