WIPER and TRUE
DISTANCE TO TABLE: 0.7 MILES
My confession is that I never drank beer until I moved to Canada. Shortly after arriving there, I discovered that unlike the west country, it’s really challenging to find good cider there. Fortunately their burgeoning craft beer scene converted me to the joys of hop and malt based beverages, and spent the next few years exploring the finest tipples from microbreweries in the Pacific Northwest.
Upon returning to Bristol, I was delighted to find that the craft beer scene had grown here, and there was a rather splendid brewery just down the road from where I live. Wiper and True kindly invited me to come for a tour, so who am I to turn down such an offer.
There’s no big sign announcing the Wiper and True brewery, but it’s difficult to miss the delicious smell emanating from the front of their space in St Werburghs. “I’ll never get bored of that smell,” Vicky, their sales and marketing assistant jokes as she offers me a glass of beer in welcome. After a hilariously long search for a bottle opener, we were eventually rescued by the head brewer Will who demonstrated his ability to open a bottle of beer with just about anything to hand. Beer in hand, we settle down for a chat about beer, collaborating and branding.
Starting in 2012, Wiper and True began as a home brewing operation with Michael Wiper giving the results to friends and family. A positive reaction, especially from people who didn’t usually like beer, led to an expansion in the operation. “People have preconceptions about what beer is going to taste like, and you can completely change them,” Vicky points out. “There’s so many combinations and endless possibilities, and it’s fun to explore those to see how far you can go and what you can create.”
Operating as a ‘cuckoo brewery’ for the first three years, they brewed in whatever space they could find. This nomadic existence and lack of consistent equipment helped them develop their technique of brewing by style. Rather than trying to replicate the exact beer with each brew, they embrace the variances that come with the different equipment and the changing seasons. “We adjust the ingredients so they fit with the palette and style of food that people will be eating in the season,” she explains. “In the summer you’d want a pale ale to be quite tropical, whereas in the autumn you’d want more autumnal fruit flavours or some resinous pine in there.” She pauses for a moment, sipping her beer. “Our beer may be constantly changing, but it’s consistently good.”
And it is good. Really good. We’re drinking the Simcoe Steam, unusual because it’s brewed using just one hop. Showing me the bottle, Vicky explains the different images on the bottles. “Each symbol relates to the idea of humans harnessing nature and making something extraordinary; it’s similar at heart to what we do in the brewing process.”
Will joins the conversation to explain the bird image on their small beer. “It’s a honey bird, which finds underground bee hives in certain parts of Africa,” he tells me. “The honey badger hears the specific call of the honey bird and go to that sound, find the hive and dig it out. They eat quite a lot of the honey but leave some for the honey bird. And humans living in those areas have learnt to track the honey bird too, but they will always leave a bit of honey for the bird. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the bird and human or badger.” He heads off to continue with the brewing of the small beer that’s in the copper, and Vicky carries on the conversation. “Michael’s motivation behind the beer and branding is introducing beer to new customer bases and to be non-gender specific in the branding; it’s deliberately designed to appeal to everyone.”
We head into the main part of the brewery, where Vicky explains the process to me. She points out the masher, where the malts and hot water are mixed for a few hours, extracting the sugars. The solution is then passed into the copper where Will is busy adding the hops that will give the beer its aroma. After an hour of boiling, the mixtures is transferred into the fermenting vessel, where they add further to the flavour by dry hopping their beer during the few weeks the beer spends in these vessels (which essentially involves adding hops into the beer when it’s already fermenting). The eight fermenting vessels dominate the room, each with a white board on the front that documents the hops and other important information.
From here we head into the so called ‘Brewers Corner’, where the precise measurements and checks such as ABV measurements are made. Will is busy weighing out the next batch of hops to add, and as we inspect some of the different hops, I’m amazed by the different smells emanating from each bag. The Amarillo hops are vibrant and abright green, the smell floral and citrusy. “A lot of breweries don’t put the hops and malts on the label,” Vicky points out. “But we think that’s really important and interesting to people in the craft brewery scene who do have a specific knowledge of beer.”
We discuss the saison beer that’s in the fermenting vessel right now, brewed with rye. Will draws off a jug to taste, and it’s a beautiful flavour full of pepperiness. Brewed a few weeks ago, it’ll be bottled in the next couple of days, then left to be bottle conditioned for 3 weeks before being distributed across the country. Half of their space is full of crates of beer; thousands of bottles of pale ale, ’milkshake’ shout, amber ale and the special plum pudding porter they’ve brewed for Christmas.
One of their other strengths as a brewery is their collaborative series of beers. “It’s about finding inspiration in things that other people do, and finding things in beer that we wouldn't have necessarily come up with ourselves,” Vicky explains. A summer collaboration with local food restaurant Poco led to an Elderflower saison with all English hops and malts. With 3,500 elderflower heads all picked in and around St Werburghs, it gave a fresh and bright beer perfect for summer drinking. Next up was an IPA using coffee beans from Extract Coffee. “They have a detailed understanding of the flavours in coffee, so working with them, we were able to say, ‘This is what the flavour characteristic of this hop is, do you think it would work?’”.
As I leave, Vicky presses a bunch of bottles into my willing hands. I’m amazed by their creativity and constant striving to explore the possibilities of beer. I for one am excited to see what comes next.
Find out more: http://wiperandtrue.com