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Classic Beer of the Month May 2016: Castle Rock Harvest Pale

Castle Rock Harvest Pale, 3.8%

A recent report by SIBA (the Society of Independent Brewers) revealed that 94.7% of the UK’s breweries now produce a golden ale, while only 83.4% produce traditional brown bitter. Blonde beer, it seems, is now our favourite tipple.

Castle Rock Harvest PaleThis didn’t come as a surprise to me as it seems to be getting harder to find a dark(ish) ale on the bar these days and, I confess, I do tire of only being offered light, citrus-flavoured beers.

Perhaps that is because very few are as good as this month’s beer selection.

Where a lot of golden ales fall down, in my opinion, is in regulating their hop character.

Those that manage to achieve a balance between the refreshing citrus sharpness of the hops and the sweetness of the very pale coloured malt stand out and Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale is up there at the top of the list.

Harvest Pale was first brewed for a local beer festival in 2003 but, since becoming CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain in 2010, it has extended its reach way beyond its Nottinghamshire homeland.

This gives drinkers all over the country a chance to appreciate the skilful way the brewers take the most delicate of ingredients and produce something full of flavour that is, crucially, highly quaffable at the same time.

Ray of Sunshine

A ray of sunshine in the glass, this bright straw-coloured creation is crafted from lager malt and low colour Maris Otter malt, with a little torrefied wheat to aid head retention.

The hops are the big three Cs – Cascade, Centennial and Chinook – all bursting with American citrus fruit notes but here carefully blended to ensure that the hop character is never overly aggressive or cloying.

The result is a beer with a honeyed sweetness from the malt and a lemon fruitiness from the hops. There’s a touch of floral perfume in the mix, too, before a dry, bitter finish that rounds things off a treat.

Despite its name and its fair-weather looks, Harvest Pale is available all year round, although it surely comes into its own in the warmer months when a highly quaffable, quenching beer like this – at only 3.8% ABV – is just the job.

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