As mentioned a few times, one activity I enjoy doing is checking out local breweries. Last month, I had the opportunity to attend an exclusive brewery tour at the Laguintas Brewery in Chicago, which now is one of the two new production homes for Heineken-owned Newcastle Brown Ale.

Heineken USA tapped Laguintas Brewing Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Heineken N.V., to reimagine its iconic Newcastle Brown Ale. The beer manufacturers invited members of its key distribution networks as well as select trade media members from around the country to experience Newcastle Brown Ale in a brand-new way, including an updated recipe, new packaging designs and formats, and a revamped marketing strategy.

The tour began in the downstairs lounge where attendees were encouraged to taste the reformulated Newcastle Brown Ale in a draft format. After a warm welcome from brand directors and Lagunitas Brewmaster Jeremy Marshall, attendees were taken on a tour around the 300,000-square-foot facility.

It certainly was a cool experience to not only drink the new beer, but to see firsthand the entire process, from the silos containing the grains, to the fermentation barrels, then to the bottling and packaging processes.

Attendees even were able to taste Newcastle beers straight from the production line.

Fittingly, the tour’s last stop took place in the Lagunitas Taproom, where guests enjoyed lunch and more robust Lagunitas’ beers. After lunch, Heineken and Newcastle brand directors discussed the future plans of the brand and hosted a Q&A session.

Included in the new marketing plan, following the motto of getting Newcastle “back into the black,” is a revamped social media presence for the United States and geo-targeted social posts around Chicago.

Also unveiled was the brand’s new packaging formats — available nationwide in six-,12-, and 24-packs of 12-ounce bottles, as well as 7.75 gallon slim-kegs.