Wiper & True’s Bristol taproom is an urban oasis

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.

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Beer Review: Wiper and True

Beer from Wiper and True Brewing Company.

Wiper and True are a new ‘brewing company’ based in Bristol, and, for now, making their beer on the premises of various friendly breweries. Their first three beers are unashamedly and self-consciously ‘craft’ — talk of evangelism on the website, rye and blackberries in an amber ale and porter respectively, beer label copy in the style of sleeve notes by Andrew Loog Oldham c.1966, and so on.

We started with the lightest and weakest (or, rather, least strong) — ‘The Summer’ pale ale at 5.4% ABV. On cracking the bottle, we were hit with a very Moor-like bloom of hop aroma, not unlike the effect of dropping sliced oranges into steaming hot mulled wine. With effort, we coaxed a head from it — a touch more carbonation wouldn’t hurt — and tucked in, smacking our lips. Very generous hopping with varieties we don’t know well (Galaxy and Summer) hit us with apricot jam aroma up front, followed by a bitterness which developed like chilli burn, building in the mouth and throat.

We decided, finally, despite the colour and the talk of tropical fruit on the label, that it reminded us of blackcurrants or elderberries. We also thought of the syrup from a jar of stem ginger.

There was, somewhere in the middle of all that lusciousness, a touch of something stale and woody, but that we can forgive in Batch #1. (We’ve had worse from much longer established and well respected ‘craft’ breweries.)

Winter Rye amber (5.6%) as, in all honesty, less successful, with some nail-polish remover going on in the aroma; and, without a ton of hops, a plasticky tang had nowhere to hide.

Blackberry porter (6%) was rough around the edges but ultimately very likeable. With a malt bill including pale, brown, munich, crystal and black, cut across with a touch of tannic fruit dryness, it brought to mind dark chocolate with cherry liqueur, and puckering red wine. Again, though, a hint of something ‘off’, coming and going, kept us on our toes.

We’d like to try The Summer from cask at some point and look forward to trying later batches, perhaps when the lingering imperfections have been smoothed out. All in all, they go into the ‘ones to watch’ file.

A quick note on transparency: their website is very clear about where each beer was brewed and what is in them (hooray!), and they’re not shy, exactly, but, still, we’re not one hundred per cent sure who is behind W&T, or its relationship, if any, with Ashley Down.

These beers were free (gasp!) because Bailey’s little brother got them for us for Christmas. He said the people on the stall were ‘really, really nice’. If you can unpick how that might have influenced our review, let us know…