What Can Brown Do For You Today? Battle Brown Ale
The first bottle of each was skunked. (Damn it.) After driving back to TJ's, cursing a blue streak and calmly--calmly, I say--talking to management, I got a replacement of the Mission St., then replaced the Newcastle at the liquor store I purchased it at with slightly more discussion. (It should come as no shock that a small-time liquor store would be less interested in replacing beer than Trader Joe's.)
Both were poured 15 minutes from refrigerator-cold, in an approximation of cask temperature.
The scent was the same; the color was nearly the same. The taste, however, was quite different. There was a strange flatness on the "crest" of the Mission St., a strange disappearance of flavor, whereas the Newcastle tasted "brown" the whole way through the sip. The alcohol was more pronounced in the Mission St. (which is 5.7% ABV to Newcastle's 4.7% ABV), whereas the Newcastle tasted nuttier. Neither had strong hops nor cloying sweetness.
Most people I've talked to who've had both talked about Mission St. being a better value due to its low price. While it is a low price--a bomber (22 fl. oz. / 650 mL) is $1.99--the large bottle of Newcastle (18.6 fl. oz. / 550 mL) was only $2.69. Though that's more expensive by nearly 60%, I don't feel the Newcastle was a bad bargain, and I didn't exactly shop around; I just went to the nearest corner liquor store.
Would I drink both? Absolutely. Would I make a special trip to Trader Joe's to buy Mission St. Brown Ale over Newcastle Brown Ale, which I can buy from practically any liquor store in the county? No.
Let me close by asking--nay, beseeching--the local Orange County Bräumeister and Bräumeisterinnen to please, please, please make a brown ale. The Bruery's Black Orchard was as close as I've found in OC; if anyone knows any differently, let me know. I'd love to have a local option.