THERE ARE few images more synonymous with the Tyne Bridge and Geordieland than the ubiquitous Newcastle Brown Ale bottle.

For the past 12 years, in draught form, its fame has spread even further, with more than 23m pints sold a year in the United States alone.

Now, for the first time, Britain's best-selling bottled beer is being produced in draught form in the city where the ale was created in 1927.

The initiative, which heralds a new era for the brand, is geared to appeal to younger drinkers and visitors to the city, which is home to Newcastle Breweries, where the ale is produced.

Newcastle Breweries' sales and marketing director, Willie Crawshay, said: "We regularly receive calls to our offices from people who have tried Newcastle Brown draught in bars as far afield as Australia and America.

"They always ask the same question: 'Why can't we enjoy it on tap in the UK?'

"Now we are acting on demand, and where else could we launch it but in Newcastle, the beer's natural home?"

The draught Newcastle Brown ale will be identical to the bottled version of the brew, except for its temperature.

After extensive research, Newcastle Brown Draught will be served at three degrees centigrade, which is typically three degrees colder than the temperature of the bottled variety.

Mr Crawshay said: "We want to attract a whole new generation of drinkers to Newcastle Brown, and we are confident this new product will appeal right across the board.

"It is time Newcastle returned to its rightful place as the star of the Geordie bar."

Yesterday's launch comes at the peak of heightened interest in the brand.

The beer is only brewed in Newcastle, and this year it was awarded protected geographic status by the European Union.

The ruling closely followed a Government-backed tourism honour, which was awarded to Newcastle Brown for its support of city events and universal promotion of the region.

The city's tourism officials say visitors often ask where they can find draught Newcastle Brown.

City tourism manager Simon Brooks said: "A lot of tourists come here looking for a traditional pub, which the city has plenty of.

"But being from countries such as Australia and America, which enjoy cooler beer, they are disappointed that they can't get Newcastle Brown on draught.

"This launch will help us promote the city and add to its images as a top party location.