Wednesday, 15 February 2012

HEAD-TO-HEAD #3: Pure UBU (Purity Brewing Co.) vs. Harvest Pale (Castle Rock Brewery)


A battle of the English bitters! This review is done from memory as I had these back-to-back two nights ago...

Pure UBU is a beer I've had many times for two reasons: Firstly, it is ubiquitous in this part of the country, hailing from just down the road in the village of Great Alne, not far from Stratford-upon-Avon. Secondly its one of the best bitters I've had the pleasure of drinking. For an English bitter, it really is bitter! Hops ring loud and clear from the start. The melding of cascade and challenger varieties is wonderful; these are long established American and English cultivars, respectively. However, in true English bitter style, behind the aromatic hop veneer lies a robust malt presence. On top of this, diacetyl can be detected. This is registered as delicious buttery or butterscotch flavours and occurs as a by-product of yeast fermentation (varies with yeast strain and length of time fermentation is carried out for). The clarity with which diacetyl can be detected exemplifies how hops and malts are not the only flavour components in beer; yeast has a vital role to play and not just in ethanol production.

Enough waxing lyrical about UBU and onto Harvest Pale, brewed in Nottingham. I must admit to having found this rather tame at first, in comparison to UBU. However its character soon came out the further down the glass I progressed. It has a subtler hop presence up front, yet in the finish the hops combine elegantly to impart sherbert like, green apple and bramble flavours. Malt is also reassuringly present. The beer lacked UBU's buttery notes but the elegant, mildly bitter and sumptuously aromatic finish meant I didn't miss them. Harvest Pale has been a deserved Champion Beer of Britain winner on two occasions!

I couldn't possibly pick a 'winner' out of these two as they are both nuanced versions of an English bitter. Both are highly recommended.

  • IBU: UBU = ? / HP = ?
  • ABV: UBU = 4.5% / HP = 3.8%
* a Suggested home brew recipe in 'the nottingham drinker' publication.

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