Bristol brewery Wiper & True opened a huge new taproom on an industrial estate last summer. One year on, it’s become something of a green marvel.
It’s fairly near where we live but we haven’t been all that often because (a) we still prefer pubs; (b) though we have no particular objection to it, we don’t love W&T beer; and (c) this particular taproom was especially vast and sterile.
On Thursday evening this week, though, we happened to have dinner nearby and needed somewhere to continue the conversation.
“This is a weird place to have a taproom,” said one of our companions as we walked through the security gates near the Lawrence Hill roundabout and past the Royal Mail depot.
Perhaps we’ve got used to the idea but, yes, it is odd, when you think about it, that these dusty, deserted spaces have become the default destination for craft beer drinking. Plastic-wrapped pallets, shuttered factory units, seagulls squawking overhead… It’s a long way from the inns of merry old England.
The first sign that W&T is doing something interesting on this site, though, is the carbon capture tank on proud display on the approach to the brewery. It’s evidence of a commitment to sustainability that goes beyond lip service.
Then, rounding the corner to the entrance, we were stunned by the sight of the beer garden.
It used to be a ‘beer garden’ – a bare yard full of tables. It felt like having a pint in the car park of ASDA.
But now it is a Beer Garden, or at least heading well in that direction. Around the perimeter are tall plants providing a green shield. In the garden between tables, there are loaded beds and planters.
Grasses, shrubs and young trees soften edges, dampen sound and create depth.
This is now a pleasant place to be, like a park or botanical exhibition.
And, of course, it’s turned an expanse of concrete and asphalt back over to nature. In the urban heat island of East Bristol, this is a helpful intervention.
We look forward to seeing it develop in years to come. Because, like free range animals, nothing pleases us more than drinking beer under the shelter of trees.