Friday, 28 August 2009

Purity Brewing Co.

If there's one thing I like about Twitter, it's that it connects people who might otherwise never have connected. And in this case, a connection to the Purity Brewing Co. in Warwickshire, or @PurityAle on Twitter, gave me a chance to sample their three ales. Purity are a micro brewery, importer and distributor of beer rolled into one, which I can only imagine is a distinct advantage in terms of getting their beers out there. Well, that and the fact that they've already won several CAMRA and SIBA awards for their beers. I was clearly very happy when the courier called with a box of their beer and popped them open that same evening.

Before I get to the beers themselves, I must congratulate Purity on their labelling information. Each label tells you exactly what grains and hops are used in creating their beers. As a consumer this is educational. As a beer fan this is wonderful information to have, and makes tasting them more fun as you try to pick out what hops added what flavours. As a home brewer I wish they put on the quantities, but that's probably going too far. So, let's jump straight in.

Pure Gold in the bottle is 4.3%, compared to the lighter 3.8 on cask, and is made with Maris Otter and Cara Gold malts and includes Northern Brewer, Fuggles, Hereford Golding and Styrian Golding Hops. Clearly a lot going on in the hop department. Pouring a definite golden hue with a fluffy white head, it appears reasonably well carbonated with a steady stream of bubble keeping the head going. The aroma is fruity with hints of apple, a citric twist and a light touch of spice. The flavour delivers a subtle malt sweetness with a slightly grainy undertone. But it is the hops that come to the fore. It has just enough bitterness to counterpoint the malt, but really delivers on the hop flavours with apples, grass and a suggestion of cinnamon-like spiciness. The finish is long, dry and reminiscent of pine with a slight herbal note. This is a fairly light-bodied beer, and I suspect it is this that allows the subtleties of the hops to shine. Certainly a nice summer thirst quencher.

Pure Ubu is apparently named after the brewery dog. We probably all know the "Sit Ubu, sit" closing tag from TV, so it's good to know the owners have immersed themselves in popular culture. Let's try not to remember Family Ties though! Ubu is described as an amber ale and the label says it is made with 100% Maris Otter Malt. I have to wonder if something is missing though, as surely something like a cara- or crystal malt is needed to get that lovely bright, amber colour. With Challenger and Cascade hops I was looking forward to this, as they are two of my favourites. The aroma is subtle, with almonds and hints of a raspberry-like fruitiness on a soft caramel base. On the first sip I thought it felt a bit thin, but like its sister Pure Gold, Ubu is all about subtle flavours that catch up on you. While initially seeming like a straightforward caramel-driven amber ale, a swish in the mouth reveals a spicy pepper-like undertone. The cascade hops come out and provide a pithy balance to the toffee malt undertones. Although only 4.5%, it has a comforting warmth, suggestive of ginger, of all things. Again, a lightish beer but charming in a way that would keep you looking for more.

The name suggests something extreme, but in actual fact, Mad Goose is another exercise is subtlety. Sure, the aroma is proud of the Cascade hoppy goodness contained therein, but the use of Hallertau hops for bittering may explain why I didn't get the big hop bitterness and flavours I expected. To be clear though, this didn't really detract from the overall experience. Juicy malts (Maris Otter, Caragold and Wheat Malt) combined with a slightly fruity middle-ground that reminded me of fresh strawberries, a soft toffee base and, again, a suggestion of gingery spiciness, laid a good foundation. The use of Cascade and Willamette hops was clear with a clean, zesty, citric dry finish. Quite a moreish pale ale.

This is a set of beers that provide a welcome counterpoint to the apparent trend of extreme everything. Each is an act of
subtle flavours and, on balance, while I like beers that give instant gratification for whatever you might desire, if there's one thing living in Germany has taught me, it's that there's an art in playing the flavours of the hop and malt off one another to create balances that just work. I reckon Purity have created a range of beer that, while seeming unchallenging at first sip, are very rewarding in the nuances of flavour they provide, and if nothing else, they're damn refreshing. They certainly work.


Ed said...

I have also pondered the 100% Maris otter claim on Ubu. Perhaps some of the MO barley is made into crytal or cara malt before brewing! It's a good beer anyway.

dancave said...

I think we have had a similar experience in reviewing these beers. Out of the 3 i would have gold and mad goose again regularly. In-fact I bought some in tesco yesterday!

They are good drinking, and i remember waking up without a headache the next day too, good stuff.

Darren T said...

I enjoyed the Pure Ubu a while back myself - been meaning to stock up on a few more as a fall-back session beer for those odd occasions when I don't want to try something new and unusual. I'll have to track down the other two as well, give them a go.

Mark said...

Great write-up. I quite fancy trying these now, although I'm sure I've had one or two before. I'd like to try them cask-fresh too.

I'm with you on liking breweries which put grain and hops on their labels. I wish more would do it or that it was a requirement for all labels to include that info!

Saruman said...

I like the Purity beers myself after they sent me some a few months back. Ubu was my favourite but all were excellent. Unfortunately I have yet to find some over here.

BarryM (Adeptus) said...

Thanks for the comments all. Just back from a few days down at the parents-in-law's place, so only catching up now.

Ed, good point! I always think of MO being a pale ale type of malt, but of course it could be kilned!

Dan, it's seldom I wake with a headache after beer these days. Although I tend to get a headache just about every weekend around lunchtime, so maybe I just don't notice if it's the beer or not. I could try not drinking to see! Nahhh... :D These beers are certainly good drinking, and I'm glad I have a few left in the cellar.

Darren, I also liked the Ubu. Would make a good session beer, as they all would I think.

Thanks Mark. I would love to try these on cask. My experience with cask beer is pretty limited, and I have to admit it hasn't exactly positive. Still, I'll always try if I have the opportunity! I'll have to make it to the GBBF at least next year. Definitely wish more breweries would put those details on!

Saruman, at least you have a chance of getting them in some places there. Maybe ask Geoff in the B&C :oD I can always order over the web I guess.

Laurent Mousson said...

"[...]if there's one thing living in Germany has taught me, it's that there's an art in playing the flavours of the hop and malt off one another to create balances that just work"

Hear hear !! A hell of a point about German beer it is. I've been for example very impressed by beers such as Weihenstephan Dunkel (the dark lager, not the dark weizen), which manages to be both easy-drinking for the casual drinker on one hand, and rich, complex enough for the seasoned beer buff to enjoy on the other hand. Unspectacular indeed, if not understated, but impressive all the same.

BarryM (Adeptus) said...

Thanks Laurent. That statement could have been interpreted a number of ways, but you got my meaning. Clearly I don't mean to say that all German beers work but, if I may be permitted a gross generalisation, they mostly seem to aim for the middle ground, so as a result, I think I've begun to appreciate subtleties and balance more than I did before I moved here. Finding those beers that really work, as you describe with the Weihenstephaner Dunkel (which I am shamed to say I have not yet tried!), is quite rewarding in it's own little way.

I still love a big hop hit though! :)