Warwickshire's purest beers..

21st Nov 2013

I'll confess, beer isn't normally the first drink I think about when I go out. I think of myself as rather simple, cut me down the centre and you will find I have wine going through me in a fairly consistent supply. But like me, more and more women are being excited in what is a very traditional male pursuit. The rise of the trendy Gastro pub I'm sure, has had a lot to do with more people drinking craft beers, taking an interest in CAMRA and in general taking the mysticism out of this ancient male past time. You will see the local bar person taking about the merits of this beer or that beer, where it is brewed, awards it has one and this trend is spilling over into restaurants. Slowly but surely, generic bottled beer from, lets say Belgium, is being replaced by small micro brewery beers in the UK and quirky samples from further afield like America. When we opened and owned for a couple of years a pub in Warwickshire, it was just at the time that a small brewery in Warwickshire was just opening. One of the owners (then and now) Paul Holsey came bounding into us one day, it wasn't just his height that struck me. Being very small, I am use to looking up to pretty much everyone, but he takes lofty to the extreme. His ideas were as bold and high reaching as he was and you couldn't help but be infected with his enthusiasm. We took on several of his beers and they always sold well. He had a dream, wrapped around a well thought out plan and 8 years on, I was keen to see how things had worked out for him. I had met up with Simon, Head of Sales at a wine event about a month earlier and so arranged to go back to visit the Brewery in Warwickshire in mid November.

The damp misty morning, exactly as one would expect in the Midlands did nothing to curb my enthusiasm to visit Purity and see what if anything had changed. Driving up I was faced with a very shinny new Brewery, lots of buffed silver and polished new wood. The team of 2 now employs 20 people and make 15,000 barrels a year now with the potential now the new equipment is in situ, to make up to 50,000 barrels. I arrived just as Paul was ushering in 2 ladies from a very well known pub company into his office and couldn't help but smile at how things had changed. Years before, Paul cycled around Alcester where he grew up, literally up and down lanes, hunting for his ideal spot to start this project. Today, driving up and down that very lane, some of the biggest names in the industry come to him to talk about stocking his beers.  Purity is now well know across the country and locally, and is probably available in most decent pubs and local restaurants in keg or bottle form. I would personally say, Job well done!

Purity currently make 3 beers, Gold, UBU and Mad Goose in keg, cask and bottle form. This will remain the staple part of the diet, but recently, the idea to make guest beer has been developed. Later this month, Saddle Black will be launched. With 5 years in the making, I asked Simon, why now? Because they can, came the reply! And I guess, having just spent 1.5 million pound on new brewery equipment, this is the perk of having a new toy. Which lead me to the question of why, with all the shining silver now on site which offers options to produce cold bottom fermentation as well as warm top fermentation,  do they still list so many beers from foreign producers, something they have done from the outset, especially now they are right in the throes of developing new beers. At first, he tried to explain it continues to attract new custom to Purity. When people search for beers they list, as many of them can only be sourced through Purity, especially in the Midlands, they happen upon Purity. I wasn't necessarily convinced of the argument at the time, but my experience with Simon lead me to believe that the true answer is very simple. The boys and girls at Purity love beer. So much so that even though they make very good stuff, they love drinking it in all its forms and their passion for the bottled stuff drives them on. By listing the foreign and quirky, they continue to offer true beer lovers pretty much a beer for every occasion. And this will overflow into the new beer bar that is opening in Spring 2014. Set up alongside Andreas Antona from Simpsons, this illustrates that beer drinking has got trendy.

Purity for Simon is about building the brand and protecting its image. Both of which he does fiercely. This man travels the length and breadth of the Midlands promoting the beers and supporting establishments that offer it. One thing we take for granted with wine, we buy a bottle or a glass, it is poured out of the bottle into a glass and then we drink it. If we are really unlucky, occasionally, a bottle might be corked but this is very much the exception. With beer in keg or cask, as Simon explains, you are always one step removed from the process. They make the beer, put in into the relevant container and then it goes off to the pub. At that point, the beer is then very much in the hands of the barman. Some pubs are frequented as much for "their decent beer" as others are sought out for the great food. But from the barrel to the glass, there is much that can go wrong and Simon seems to feel personally responsible for every pint pulled. He tirelessly goes into pubs to train staff not just on the merits of his beer, but in some cases he find it necessary to train the staff on cellar management. The right, or wrong temperature in the cellar can affect the beers as much as filthy lines. Imagine storing your wine in the boot of car for a hot week in August, then when you pour it, using glasses that haven’t been washed properly the last 10 times they were used. It hardly bears thinking about in both taste and cleanliness. And yet, these are things in pubs, that time and time again, people don’t put enough emphasis on. Lines not cleaned regularly will go mouldy. The beer is then flushed through those lines and even if the cellar is pristine and beer stored at the optimum temperature, you are on to a looser the moment the first drop is poured into the glass. Simon's care for Purity is an inspiration. It is very clear that with people like that involved in Purity, it deserves to go global.



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