To celebrate Purity Brewing Co 10th anniversary we sat down with our founders Paul Halsey and Jim Minkin and get their take on the last decade.
The story of how Purity was born is well documented. 10 years ago friends Paul and Jim decided to leave their full time jobs and set up roots in rural Warwickshire. Since then Purity has grown from 2 mates and a dog to a team of 35 with a state of the art Brewhouse and a host of awards including World Beer Awards for Pure UBU and Lawless Lager and the award for UK Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year 2015.
To reflect on the past decade we sat down with Paul and Jim to look back the last 10 years and more importantly talk about what the future has in store for Purity.
- Paul, Jim… I guess we should start at the beginning. What inspired you to set up Purity?
PH: “Above all else I am a huge beer fan and always liked the finer things in life. I was bored of the offering from mass produced beers and felt that we could do better. I have spent most of my working career in the brewing industry starting with the Bass Graduate Scheme in 1988. During my time at Bass, I worked within different segments of the sales operation as Sales Development Manager, Sales Training Manager and Sales Manager.
Then in 1994, I became Sales Director for a regional brewer that was part of a management buy-out from Bass. In 1998, I decided I wanted a new challenge and diversified into pubs and restaurants where I was lucky enough to conceive, design, project manage and operate two successful and award-winning restaurants in Yorkshire. Then as you could say the stars aligned and after catching up again with Jim we decided to go for it.”
JM: “Like Paul I too am a big beer fan and after spending 15 years with Bass and M&B have always been lucky enough to make my passion for beer, my job but I always harboured an entrepreneurial desire to be my own boss. What better way than combining these two passions?
Paul and I decided very early on that the heart and soul of Purity should be based on some simple core values, which we would stick vehemently to drive the company forward. The core values we established helped us to find the site we did as the farm we found incorporated everything we wanted in a brewery site. The farm has great infrastructure links to the country despite its rural setting. We didn’t want to be working from an industrial unit in a concrete jungle; we had both been there and done that. Embracing the countryside and being part of the natural environment was a key tenet of the business finding a home, so when we found Upper Spernall Farm we knew we had hit the jackpot.”
What were your initial aspirations for Purity and have they now changed?
JM: “Initially the aspiration was that no matter what, we needed to stick to our core values and truly believe in what we do and maintain that passion. 10 years later those core values still drive the business and motivates us to keep producing great beer whilst maintaining that conscience and respect for our environment.
The scale of what we have achieved over the last 10 years has been the result of a lot of hard work, dedication and most importantly our fantastic Team at the brewery. The journey from that first day when we walked into a disused cattle shed with Tess the dog (UBU) to where we stand now is incredible.”
PH: “Initially we just wanted be able to brew great beer for people to enjoy in a sustainable and responsible way. We believed it was going to be a success and with careful planning and sticking to the core beliefs of Pure Quality and Pure Eco, we felt we could drive a successful business and produce the great beers we knew we could.
Although, if you were to ask me back in 2005 what would happen in the next 10 years I’d never have thought that we would be sat here (in the original office now the visitor centre) with a state of the art brew house, a team of 35 and counting, national listings with the majority of supermarkets, an award winning bar in Birmingham, be the official cask beer of Wasps Rugby at The Ricoh and most importantly have 7 international award winning beers.
It shows what can be done if you stick to your values and principles and constantly innovate with the beer and the brand.”
Did you think that 10 years later you would still be here?
JM: “It has been hard work but immensely rewarding and Purity as a business almost has its own personality and it is now about how we manage it and control the beast!
When we started we did put in a lot of research (drinking in pubs mainly) and we truly believed we had something that was different and marketable as a brand – the beer isn’t bad either! It was a calculated yet massive risk but like I said hugely rewarding.”
Any stand out memories?
JM: “There have been many! A lot of the standout memories for me came from the early days but the last two years since we opened the new brewery have also provided some great moments. I guess brewing and then tasting our first brew was very special as it made everything real then and since the second brew of UBU we have hardly changed the recipe. Other moments include our first bulk delivery of casks. The lorry arrived full of casks probably about 800 or so and at that time we didn’t have a logistics team so no fork lift truck it was taking the casks off by hand and then stacking by hand. We well and truly earned a beer after that day!
Another stand out moment, not just for me but for Purity was Flo’s interview. People may not know that before Flo I was the brewer. The interview process was a brew day, Flo arrived in his huge white wellies and as soon as the topic of rugby came up we hit it off. Paul and I felt he was the best fit and we haven’t looked back since!
Perhaps in recent times the stand out moment was the install of the new brew kit – 13 trucks from Germany driving through Great Alne we had to send someone to check all the overhead cables were not going to be damaged. We then had some problems with problems with some missing documentation – it went to Amsterdam instead of Munich! But that is now a distant memory and was the best thing we could have done.”
PH: “Now I’ll have to think! The first sale Purity made was momentous, what a buzz! We had business and a product that people wanted. Another highlight was when Mad Goose won champion bitter category at the SIBA awards in 2009 in the 1st year it was brewed. To have a winning beer judged by industry experts was real testament to how far we’d come.
Recurring highlights have come from the festivals we do in Birmingham, Moseley Folk, Mostly Soul and Funk and Lunar. Seeing people enjoying the great music and our beer is something I am always proud of. We also host an annual cricket match in the summer between some of our customers, staff and suppliers, which I umpire. To say the ability is mixed is a bit of an understatement but it is great that we can bring all these people together and share in great beer and great company.”
What are the immediate plans for Purity?
JM: “Well we have just reported our results for the last year and something that we are very proud about, as we are with winning two world beer awards and being named the most sustainable manufacturer in the UK. For the next few years I would like to see us win some more international accolades and continue to invest and develop new products and new formats. There are some exciting projects planned so stay tuned!”
PH: “Well we are not long into the New Year and as Jim said our EOY results for 2015 were outstanding and I have to thank our whole team for their effort and commitment to achieving the record breaking results. 2016 we’re looking to grow even more with new account managers to allow us to share Purity to even more markets, there is a new brew in the offing and we’re just starting to export – watch out Sweden and North America!
We are also joining forces once again with Martin Hilton and Andreas Antona to open another Purecraft Bar and Kitchen, this time in Nottingham. After the success of the bar in Birmingham which was named the Morning Advertiser’s Beer Pub of the Year we decided to open a second site which we are hoping to open in the March this year.”
I guess it is a bit like choosing your favourite child but do you have a favourite Purity beer?
PH: “Well yes it is a bit. I have affection for all our beers but I think Saddle Black just pips it. As a beer I think there are very few that come close to that style and Flo and his team have developed this and there is nothing finer than a tough mountain bike ride at the weekend finished with a pint of Saddle Black. The whole brand story behind Saddle Black is something that I was very hands on with and keen to pay homage to the West Midlands cycling industry. Biking is something I enjoy and is probably one of the best ways I escape from beer – although the team don’t think I ever switch off even on holiday!”
Finally how do you keep a friendship going when so much professional activity is going on?
JM: “Well they say opposites attract or something along those lines! We are great friends and have been for a long time and know each other very well so we know what makes each other tick. We are very different in personalities but that’s what makes it work. We let each other maximise their strengths and the pair of us can bounce ideas of each other to determine what is best for Purity.”
PH: “If anything I think Purity has developed our friendship and enhanced it. To go through the growth and rapid development that we have been through often brings its problems but the rewards are worthwhile and to be able to do this with a friend has been even better.
However with the new Purecraft bar opening and the export journey taking shape I am hardly in the office, which probably is a blessing.”
We hope you enjoyed reading our reflections with Paul and Jim and were able to find out more on how your favorite brewery was set up and continues to go from strength to strength. If you have any standout Purity related memories from the last 10 years we would love you to share them with us.
Also if you are yet to get your hands on our celebration brew X then make sure you check out www.bottleshack.uk as we only have a limited amount left!