“The beer that had to unprotect itself”

Protected geographical designation laws, which prevent the sale in some countries of articles like Champagne or Gouda cheese unless produced in the indicated locality, are sometimes defended as advancing consumers’ interest in fraud prevention or accuracy in labeling; it is also suspected that they can serve to curtail competition and protect incumbents even when no genuinely distinctive local contributions are at issue of soil, technique, etc. In 2000, Newcastle Breweries and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, obtained a designation on Newcastle Brown Ale, a popular product dating back to 1927, to prevent it from being sold unless manufactured in the city. That didn’t work out so well when the brewery moved to nearby Gateshead four years later. Dan Lewis, Now I Know:

EU regulators took notice and weren’t as forgiving as the brewers would have hoped. The owners of the Newcastle Brown Ale brand had two obvious choices: move back across the Tyne or change the name of the product. Neither was a good option, so the brewery decided to do something new: they applied to have the registration canceled. And as seen in this pdf, they were successful. In August 2007, the EU revoked Newcastle Brown Ale’s PGI status, allowing it to be made across the river — or anywhere else.

Today, Newcastle Brown Ale is made in neither Newcastle nor Gateshead. Heineken, which bought the Newcastle’s brewers in 2008, has since relocated operations to Amsterdam.


  • I wonder why they even bothered in the first place? The generic name for the style is just “brown ale” (and I’m sure they would sue me for trademark infringement if I tried to sell a beer called “Sean P’s Newcastle Brown Ale”), so this isn’t like the Champagne situation. Does PGI status come with EU subsidies?

  • As a frequent consumer of Newcastle Brown Ale (and HERESY! – I’ll pour a Guinness on top as a variation on a Black and Tan), I’m glad it still exists, but its not been the same since the move. Different water, not as good.

    and their “Blonde”? I wouldn’t use it to feed a mulch pile, much less consume the stuff.

    Still, glad they didn’t have to change the name over a change in address.