Purity is flying the flag for the Midlands in the market of food and drink.
Launched in 2005 by Paul Halsey and Jim Minkin, the brewery’s first decade has been an undeniable success story. Entering the market at a time when real ale began to see a swell in popularity, Purity grew steadily in its first three years before hitting a capacity limit in 2008 when it started planning an expansion.
Last September saw the launch of a new £1.5 million brewery at its farm base in Great Alne, tripling production capacity and allowing the owners to start experimenting with new brews.
The expansion comes as the popularity of craft beer (keg beer as opposed to cask) is soaring and head of brand and off-trade sales Darryl Hinksman says the brewery is set for rapid growth.
Darryl, who worked for Heineken before moving to Purity, describes it as a “brewer with a conscience”.
Brewing has a hefty water footprint, with the process requiring five to eight pints of water to brew one pint of beer.
But Purity’s location, out in the Warwickshire countryside, means it can naturally process thousands of gallons of water every day, running through a series of reed beds that purify the waste water before allowing it to flow back into the River Avon.
It champions the locality, selling 80 per cent of its stock within 50 miles of the brewery, and is throwing its support behind local events, such as Moseley’s annual jazz and folk festivals.
The local pubs selling more Purity ales than anywhere else are the Wellington on Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham, the Plough in Harborne and the Prince of Wales in Moseley.
But the beers are now doing well in London and going as far as Edinburgh, with a pint ranging from £2.10 to £3.90 depending on the location.
Darryl says the business hinges on taste – and they want that taste experience to happen in the pub.
“Most brewers on and off trade is split 50/50 in volume,” he says, “But we’re about 85 per cent on trade [beer sold in a pub] and absolutely convinced that is where you get the best experience of our product.
“It has to be served in the right glass at the right temperature and it has to taste great.
“Every single one of our stockists gets the chance to come here to be trained in how to stock our beer properly.
“If you’re expecting someone to go into a pub and pay four times what they could in the supermarket it has got to be worth paying for and we can only maintain our reputation by maintaining quality in our beer.”
If a pub is found consistently to have problems with the quality of the beer, Purity will stop supplying it.
Coming from a relatively small base, all Purity’s brands are in significant growth.
Joining the three mainstays - Gold, Ubu and Mad Goose - a full flavoured dark beer, Saddle Black, was launched in November.
And next, drinkers should look out for Longhorn IPA, named after the cows that graze behind the brewery and feed on the spent grain.
It’s an American style-keg beer with citrus and tropical fruit notes to be served in a sleek stein glass.
Brewery founder Paul Halsey is a chef by training and Purity is keen to market these new brews, like their predecessors, as an accompaniment to food, with Darryl saying the pairing of food with beer is “the holy grail” of the brewing industry.
He says: “Brewers, partly through arrogance, partly through lack of imagination, have sat back and let the wine industry take the high ground on this, toasting them with their own products.”
So drinkers might select Purity Gold with fish, Mad Goose with pork or chicken and UBU with game or strong cheeses, while Saddle Black might make a good match for a chocolate pudding.
Last year, Purity teamed up with top Birmingham restaurants Simpsons and Carters of Moseley for a fine dining experience at the Birmingham Beer Bash.
Two five-course menus were devised matching each dish with a different beer.
This year the brewery is going a step further, opening Pure Bar and Kitchen, a new eatery in Waterloo Street, off Victoria Square, in Birmingham, where food paired with beer will be the key focus.
Before the expansion it could produce around 50,000 pints of beer a week, but the new £1.5m brewery, with four extra employees, can produce three times that.
It’s also more energy efficient and gives the brewers more flexibility with the style of beers it is producing, allowing head brewer Florent Vialan to be a little more experimental, with the aim of launching at least one new beer each year.
Florent, who came to Purity eight years ago from Lyon, says: “I think the customer has changed. Five years ago the customer wanted the same beer and consistency.
“Now they want more and more different things so we are adapting.”
Craft beers are seeing more than 50 per cent growth year-on-year in an industry where sales in pubs is, at best, flat.
Darryl says he doesn’t care what name the beer comes under, real ale or craft beer, as long as it adhere’s to Purity’s core values.
“It’s about brewing with a conscience,” he says.
“It’s relatively small scale, having a point of difference and appealing to a particular type of consumer over a broad age range.”
Aaron Taubman agrees.
He took over as brewery manager in July, having travelled from California where he was brewing for Miller Coors.
Cask beer is a new way of brewing and one Aaron seems to like.
“English ales are completely different,” he says, inhaling the beery smell from the reed bed beside the brewery’s offices.
“The cask conditioning process is unique to Britain and there’s nothing quite like that in the States.
“Other countries can’t do cask conditioned beer as easily as Britain because they don’t have the right climate or the infrastructure, with the pubs.”
As a card-carrying CAMRA member Aaron is a supporter of cask conditioned ales, but also espouses the joy of keg beer, saying its the best way to serve stronger brews that don’t shift as quickly and is crucial for variety.
He adds: “I was working for a really big brewery and I wanted to get back to craft beer, making beer I respect and enjoy and being on the ground floor of a business I think will really grow.
“The point of the craft beer movement is that the beer is handmade with the best possible ingredients, only caring about how good it tastes and not trying to sell as much as possible.
“There’s a huge change here with people turning towards more tasty, flavourful beers with higher alcohol content and drinking less of them.
“People don’t have as much time as they used to so when they do get to relax they want to drink something really, really good.”
With a degree in biochemistry Aaron approaches brewing as a scientific experiment but has a clear, genuine enthusiasm for the taste of the product.
He says: “There were days when all I could get was Guinness - that was the craft beer!
“Now there’s lots of choice and people have got bored of lagers because they all taste the same.”